Malaysia Muslims warned off 'non-alcoholic' beer

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian minister and a top cleric have warned Muslims not to drink flavoured beer billed as non-alcoholic after it was found to have some alcohol content.

The minister for Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, said at the weekend tests had found flavoured beer from the Middle East advertised as non-alcoholic contained 0.5 per cent alcohol and thus should not be drunk by Muslims.

Regulations stipulate that anything that contains more than 0.01 per cent alcohol is non-halal, or not suitable for Muslims.

An official from Jamil's department said Tuesday that Muslim consumers were advised to check whether products carried the official logo from Malaysian authorities to certify they were halal, or permissible under Islamic law.

"In sharia law, there is no halal beer. Any beverage that contains any alcohol is considered not halal," the official said.

Harussani Zakaria, head cleric of northern Perak state, also condemned the beverage.

"It is very simple; basically beer is alcohol," he was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying.

"Alcohol is an intoxicant... There shouldn't be any doubt about that."

Morality debates are frequent in Malaysia, where the majority Muslim population must follow Islamic rules that forbid such conduct as drinking alcohol or sex outside marriage.

Muslims make up some 60 per cent of the Southeast Asian country's 28 million people.

The country made headlines in 2009 when a sharia court ordered a Muslim woman to be caned for drinking alcohol at a bar. Following an outcry over the punishment, her sentence was eventually commuted to community service.