Bar employees in Indonesia accused of blasphemy over new drink scheme

Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, photo by Kayak.

Indonesia’s religious blasphemy law is growing “more dangerous” according to rights groups. Police have charged 6 bar employees in the country with blasphemy over a new drink promotion. Under the PR stunt, bar-goers get free drinks if their names are Mohammad or Maria. Mohammad is the name of the prophet of Islam, although it’s also a common men’s name in Muslim-majority countries.

The bar and restaurant chain, ironically named Holywings, offered a free bottle of gin every Thursday for men named Mohammed, and women named Maria. But after religious party-pooper groups complained about the new promotion, police investigated the chain. On Tuesday, authorities sealed off 12 Holywings outlets in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta and took away the chain’s operating permit.

Holywings has now apologised for the promotion and says it was created without its management team knowing. The chain has also deleted social media posts about the promotion. Police said the employees created the promotion in an attempt to meet sales targets.

Indonesia’s blasphemy law prohibits “defaming a religion, persuading someone to be a non-believer, disturbing a religious ritual or making noise near a house of worship, and insulting a cleric while leading a ritual”. In the past, Indonesian authorities have persecuted religious minorities, such as Christians, by accusing them of violating blasphemy laws.

A researcher at Human Rights Watch says Indonesia’s blasphemy law and a law regulating online activity are becoming “increasingly dangerous.” The researcher, Andreas Harsono, said…

“These six individuals just made an alcohol promotion, maybe ridiculous in this increasingly Islamic country, but no crime at all according to international standards.”

SOURCE: Reuters | Human Rights Watch

World News

Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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