Indonesian Islamic parties propose alcohol ban


Indonesian Islamic parties have proposed legislation banning alcohol consumption that could see offenders jailed for up to two years, lawmakers said on Tuesday, the latest bid to crack down on drinking in the Muslim-majority nation.
News of the move came as socially conservative groups increasingly voice concerns about rising consumption in the booming economy, particularly among the young, and emerged just days before a ban on small retailers selling alcohol comes into force.
It is not the first time that Islamic parties in Indonesia – home to the world's biggest Muslim population – have sought to ban alcohol. Previous attempts have not succeeded, and have been viewed as an attempt to pander to conservative voters.
Under the bill currently before parliament, the consumption, sale, production and distribution of all drinks containing more than one percent alcohol would be prohibited. Lawmakers claimed the move was aimed at protecting people's health and was not being pushed purely on religious grounds. Drinking alcohol is against Islamic law. "Alcohol consumption is increasing, especially among young people and it threatens their future because it causes addiction and potentially damages their health," said lawmaker Muhammad Arwani Thomafi, from the United Development Party, one of the parties pushing for the ban. 
The bill, which could become law by the end of the year, proposes a jail term of between three months and two years for anyone caught drinking alcohol, while anyone caught producing or distributing alcoholic drinks could face between two and 10 years in jail. 
Thomafi said there could be some exemptions, such as for religious rituals and tourism sites – meaning drinking may still be allowed in holiday hotspots, such as the Hindu-majority island Bali. 
However, the proposal drew swift condemnation from the Indonesian Brewers Association, which said a total alcohol ban could lead to the loss of up to 190,000 jobs. "It would be quite huge," said Charles Poluan, head of the association that represents beer distributors in Indonesia. "It will give a negative message to the international market, the effect on the tourism industry will also be quite substantial." (AFP)