Indonesia’s advancing Sharia: Ban on alcohol sales nationwide
by Mathias Hariyadi
Shops, malls and stalls cannot sell alcoholic beverages. For the Minister of Trade the measure is to protect young people, the biggest consumers of alcohol. The hole in the state coffers (over 460 million) covered by a tax increase on alcohol served in bars and restaurants. Moderate and Islamist parties united in the fight against alcohol.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – As of tomorrow, April 16, the display and sale of beer to the public will be prohibited on the Indonesian archipelago; a ban that applies to all commercial sales activities, including shops, malls and street stalls.

The Minister for Trade (and in the electronics magnate) Rachmat Gobel, explains that the ban was voted on 16 January and that it has taken four months for the phased implementation of the new norm. Now, there will be no more "changes" or exceptions: offenders will be punished according to law.

For decades, the Indonesians have been consumers of discrete quantities of alcohol, both traditional and imported or  "Western" drinks, such as beer, champagne, vodka and wine. While for some drinking alcohol is part of socializing in their free time, in certain areas (Kalimantan and other regions) the consumption of homemade alcohol has cultural and traditional roots. However, there are those, as in other parts of the world, whose idea of drinking "for fun" means getting "drunk".

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world where in some areas such as Aceh province sharia (Islamic law), is in force the public sale of beer and drinks with less than 5% of content alcohol has been allowed for over three decades. Young people are the target audience of these products and the largest consumers of beer and soft drinks, as opposed to the older population who are the closest observers of Islamic morals and consume only tea and mineral water.

According to some observers, the new law will deal a severe blow to the state coffers, since 6 trillion Indonesian rupiahs per year (over 460 million dollars) come from revenue on alcohol sales. The minister replied, however, that the government prefers to  "save the future of our young generation." Rachmat Gobel adds that the loss caused by the lost revenue would be offset by an increase in taxation from 10 to 11% in the consumption of alcoholic beverages in cafes, restaurants and hotels.

The story concerning the ban on sale of alcohol is not only significant from the economic or social, point of view but there are also elements of a religious nature because it is a long-running battle that has united parties that are more or less pro-Islamists.

Moreover, last week the two Muslim inspired parties - the moderate United Development Party (PPP), and the more radical Justice and Prosperous Party (PKS), - signed the bill aimed at prohibiting the sale of alcohol. For offenders there is a sentence between three months and two years in prison and the message of the legislators is clear: the ban on the sale of alcohol is nationwide, because "58% of the crimes occur due to consumption of alcohol and drugs".

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