Indonesia Expat
Featured Observations

Greetings on Cakes are Inappropriate?

Cake as a special gift

Finding a gift for that special person as an act of compassion, to congratulate them on a life achievement, to celebrate a religious day, or simply to welcome another year in their lives can get troublesome.

Hence, getting a cake made with a personalised message and sincere blessings can be the next best thing. After all, food is where the heart is – so food and warm greetings pair well together.

A recent viral tweet circulating Indonesian Twitter contradicts that innocent and well-intentioned thought that almost everyone understands. Tous Les Jours, an Asian-French, South Korean bakery franchise owned by CJ Foodville, has courted controversy with regards to establishing regulations that prohibit cake orders with greetings that are inappropriate under Islamic Law, written on a cake. These regulations went as follows:

“This store cannot write on a cake, a greeting or something that contradicts Islamic Law, such as:
1. Greetings of religious days: Christmas, Lunar New Year, and others.
2. Celebrations that do not match Islamic Law: Valentine, Hallowe’en, and others.

This store is allowed to write the following cake greetings:
1. Congratulations on weddings, promotions at work, etc.
2. Words that do not contradict Islamic Law: “I Love You, You’re The Best, etc.”

Responding to this, Tous Les Jours’ management has denied these regulations were officially published by them. According to the management, Tous Les Jours always promotes the tolerance of diversity between religious tribes and cultures in carrying out their business activities. The management has also issued an apology for the inconvenience that occurred and said they were grateful for the support and trust of all parties towards Tous les Jours during this time.

Marketing Communications at Tous les Jours, Diko Setiawan Putra told Kompas that there was a miscommunication between the management and the store in Pacific Place shopping centre, Jakarta. Unfortunately, related parties didn’t confirm with the management and published it anyway. As for now, these rules have been taken down and the manager of this chain pastry shop in SCBD is being investigated.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has spoken about this controversy since the institution is responsible for issuing halal certifications in Indonesia and Tous Les Jours is aiming to get halal certified. Chairman of the Da’wah Commission and Community Development of MUI Central, KH Cholil Nafis, said to Kompas, “the institution does not make such a rule, because it does not comply with the provisions of the MUI. In fact, it is excessive.” Getting a halal certification correlates to the manufacturing materials and the way a product is produced, not relating to “congratulations” a buyer wants to profess.

How have Indonesians and expats responded to this? Indonesia Expat has spoken with several Muslims and non-Muslims regarding this controversy.

1. Do you buy Tous Les Jours products?
Daniel Richardson: Yes, I love Tous Les Jours.
Giles Taarland: Yes, I regularly buy from them.
Frah Khan: No.
Hafsatou Nawal Loua: Yes, I buy Tous Les Jours products.
Agny Nureza: Nope, I prefer getting rice and Tous Les Jours doesn’t have any rice options.
Candra Rosdianto: Nope.
Lestari Sibuea: No, I don’t.
Zulkarnain Adnan: No, I don’t.
Putri Kamaril: Yes.

2. What do you think of the pastry shop establishing those regulations?
Daniel Richardson: Not really triggered by it but I just think Tous Les Jours wasn’t thinking straight and didn’t get the proper approvals about the new rules they made.

Giles Taarland: This is a ridiculous regulation. Prohibiting people from greeting people a certain way is just their way of controlling anything that is not Islamic. Meaning, they are repressing other religions which are technically illegal in Indonesia.

Frah Khan: It was quite famous in Malaysia, but back in 2017 they closed down all four outlets without any reason, as far as I could see.

Hafsatou Nawal Loua: Maybe they wanted to use it as a branding strategy in a Muslim country but it cancels the purpose of the shop. Even in Islam, there are celebrations (naming, wedding, etc) so it doesn’t make any correlation. I would want the names of the couple on the cake but if it is not possible, what’s the point?

Agny Nureza: The store will get free marketing because bad news is good news.

Candra Rosdianto: Stupid and hypocritical.

Lestari Sibuea: Maybe they just need attention.

Zulkarnain Adnan: Regulations like that are idiotic because it gives an impression of racism.

Putri Kamaril: They’re just too innocent yet ignorant at the same time.

3. Indonesia has been struggling with ethnic, religious, racial, and intergroup issues lately. How would a controversy like this help this country’s aim of unity in diversity?
Daniel Richardson: I’m not so sure what to do about that, but Indonesians, in general, are just too nosy.

Giles Taarland: This does not help the country. Only if it is not upheld. People need to be understanding of everyone, else this country will just be a repressed state, and will only look bad to other more modern and understanding countries.

Frah Khan: Indonesia consists of a variety of ethnicities and religions. Cake messages such as Merry Christmas being against Islamic Law aren’t mentioned in the Islamic book; meanwhile, Islam does teach its followers to respect other religions and people’s beliefs. This is just an attack on Islam, making it look as if Islam is restricting us from many things. It’s the 21st century; people are more educated and can learn new things from the internet, diversity of friendships, and travelling to a different country. But let’s look at the halal cert, yes, Islam has rules in how we eat and how is our food prepared. That being said, ingredients and ways of making halal products such as cake should not consist of something haram, but a word written is not haram.

Hafsatou Nawal Loua: Writing is labelling, and labelling is for the sole purpose of information to the public on the origin of the product, nothing to do with halal certification. On the other side, a product that is non-halal in a Muslim country has the obligation to notify the customers via labelling. Looking deeper, the components of a bakery are flour, corn, wheat, etc. Halal is for proper feeding and slaughter of animals and alcohol, not flour. Unless they use alcohol to prepare some icing for cakes or alcohol to ferment something for the cake, there is no connection.

Agny Nureza: Just respect each other; Indonesia’s cultures are very different and we live amongst people with different beliefs. Don’t cross boundaries but live what you believe in.

Candra Rosdianto: By being smart enough to ignore that stupid reason to hate each other. Educated people and “ignorance” are the keys to stop using religion as a political weapon.

Lestari Sibuea: Be tolerant towards every difference portrayed, and respect each other because this world is beautiful. Similarities do not define beauty, but uniqueness does.

Zulkarnain Adnan: Love… love… and love each other.

Putri Kamaril: This controversy will trigger people to notice diversity in Indonesia, and for some, it will grow awareness of the importance of unity in diversity, of how sensitive and crucial is this kind of issue. In a way, people will be more aware of what they say or do to each other.

See: Festive Candyland at Mandarin Oriental Jakarta

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