Muslim Lawmakers Propose Banning Alcohol in Indonesia

AP Photo/Erik Schelzig
AP Photo/Erik Schelzig

Lawmakers are proposing a ban on alcohol sales and consumption throughout Indonesia, which may negatively affect the island of Bali’s booming tourist economy.

The ban would include production, sale, and consumption of alcohol across the entire country, but would have profound effects on the island of Bali. For anyone found violating this law, a prison sentence of as many as ten years is in place.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Two hundred and sixty million people live in Indonesia, with a majority of those people being Muslim. While much of Indonesia adheres to strict Islamic moral codes, Bali is home to a high Hindu population, attracts tourists from all over the world, and is seen as more liberal in its views. Nearly four million tourists visit the island of Bali every year. The majority of those tourists come from the United Kingdom and Australia. Nearly 100,000 UK residents visit each year, while the largest tourist group to the island is made up of Australians.

Just the rumor of the proposed ban has convinced many Australians to change their holiday plans if the ban goes into full effect.

The head of Indonesia’s Hotel and Restaurant Association, Hariyadi Sukamdani, is particularly concerned with the adverse effects that the ban on alcohol would have on Bali. “No matter how beautiful the country is, if they can’t find alcohol, they [tourists] won’t want to come here,” Sukamdani said.

Rudolf Dethu, a Balinese musician, is one of the major figures who is heading the efforts to stop this ban from taking effect. Dethu believes that this ban would havea tremendous effect on the country of Indonesia, but especially Bali. According to The Telegraph, Dethu fears that the ban is just another way for fundamentalist Islam to work its way into the Indonesian government– “fearing like many others that the curb is a sign of creeping Islamisation in the sprawling island nation, where there has been a recent push to impose more extreme forms of Sharia.” Dethu went on to say, “For me this is not as simple as banning alcohol. There is a hidden agenda behind it. It’s a radicalisation,” he said.

Indonesia is going through rapid social change and growing increasingly Islamist, particularly regarding local attitudes towards unorthodox lifestyles. Early last week, Breitbart News reported, “The head of Indonesia’s anti-drug agency says he is hoping to boost police capabilities and wage a war on drug traffickers similar to the controversial work President Rodrigo Duterte has begun in the Philippines, adding that the life of a drug dealer was ‘meaningless.’” In August, Indonesia rebuffed criticisms from Human Rights Watch that the country does not protect the rights of LGBT Indonesians, with officials claiming to support human rights while insisting there is “no room” for LGBT people in Indonesia.