Indonesian, Malaysian Muslim Groups Call for Starbucks Boycott over Support for LGBT Rights

A Muslim woman walks past a Starbucks Coffee shop in Rawang outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 6, 2017. Daniel Chan / AP
Daniel Chan / AP

Muslim groups in Malaysia and Indonesia are calling for a boycott of Starbucks over the company’s support for LGBT rights in the region.

The ultra-conservative Malaysian group Perkasa urged its over 500,000 members to boycott the company, while leaders of Indonesia’s second largest mainstream Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, which has 29 million followers, also condemned the chain.

The groups were reportedly reacting to comments former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made in 2013, where he told one of his leading shareholders who was opposed to same-sex marriage the company would stick by its progressive principals, even if it was not in its financial interest.

“Not every decision is an economic decision,” Schultz said. “The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people.”

In a statement, Perkasa urged Malaysian authorities to revoke Starbucks’s trading license across the country, as well as other companies that take a stance of activist-level support for gay marriage, such as Microsoft and Apple.

“Perkasa urges Muslims in this country to boycott Starbucks because this United States-based international coffee chain supports LGBT and same-sex marriage,” the group’s Islamic affairs bureau chief Amini Amir Abdullah said in a statement. “Perkasa also urges the government to reevaluate the trading license given to companies that support same-sex marriages and LGBT.”

“Our objection is because they are promoting something that is against the human instinct, against human behavior and against religion. That’s why we are against it,” Amini told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Responding to the boycott, a Starbucks spokesperson said:

Though we are founded in the United States, we are a global company with over 300,000 partners and 26,000 stores in 75 markets around the world. In all countries where we do business, we are proud to be a part of the fabric of the local community, and we strive to be respectful of local customs and traditions while staying true to Starbucks long-standing values and purpose.

However, a spokesperson for Starbucks Indonesia, a subsidiary of PT Sari Coffee, later clarified the company’s position, stating that they did not have any political allegiances:

PT Sari Coffee would like to clarify that it does not affiliate itself with any political or ideological groups. We are grateful and proud to have been a part of local communities in Indonesia for 15 years, always maintaining the deepest respect for and adherence to Indonesia’s local laws, culture and beliefs.

In February, the Starbucks’s brand recognition took a major hit after it announced plans to hire 10,000 Muslim migrants in response to President Donald Trump’s original temporary travel in January.

The company’s announcement sparked a #BoycottStarbucks movement on Twitter and brought condemnation across America, as people suggested the company should prioritize veterans over migrants. The company then issued another statement claiming they already did hire veterans.

Both countries, which are Muslim-majority, maintain ultra-conservative values towards homosexuality. In Malaysia, homosexuality remains punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while a case currently before the Indonesia’s Constitutional Court seeks to criminalize all forms of sodomy.

Muslim mobs in Malaysia and Indonesia have also become increasingly bold in denouncing Western food and culture. Last year, the Malaysian government ruled that no food items contain the word “dog” in them, as dogs are forbidden as both food and pets under Islamic sharia law. In 2014, chocolate producers Cadbury were also cleared by Malaysian authorities after reports claiming that pork products were used in the halal-certified confectionaries sparked outrage across Muslim communities.

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