Bar Faces ‘Blasphemy’ Charge for Using ‘Muhammad’ in Promo

An Indonesian nightlife venue called Holywings apologized on Thursday for offending religious sentiments in the Muslim-majority country after it offered men named Muhammad free alcohol in a promo, the Malay Mail reported on Friday, noting the venue was accused of “blasphemy” over the incident, which is a crime punishable by prison time in Indonesia.

In a since-deleted social media post, Holywings offered “a bottle of Gordon’s dry gin for men named Muhammad and a bottle of Gordon’s Pink Gin for women named Maria every Thursday. To claim the freebies, eligible patrons only had to present their ID cards at the venue,” the news website Coconuts Jakarta reported on June 24.

“Though Maria is an important figure in both the Bible and the Quran [Islamic holy book], the outrage mostly centered on the use of the name Muhammad, the last of the prophets in Islam,” the news website noted.

“We have taken action against the promotions team, who made the promo without the management’s prior knowledge, with heavy sanctions,” Holywings wrote in a statement posted to its social media accounts on June 23.

“It is not in our heart’s intent to associate elements of religion with our promo, so we express our deepest apology to all the people of Indonesia,” the statement read.

“This marketing brand is an insult to the Islamic faith,” a social media user with the online handle “suandharu” wrote beneath Holywings’ “Muhammad” promotion before its removal, according to the Malay Mail.

G.P. Ansor, which is the youth section of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization (Nahdlatul Ulama), announced on June 24 plans to stage demonstrations outside various Holywings locations in Jakarta to protest the advertising campaign.

“The group also plans to file a formal blasphemy complaint against Holywings with the Jakarta Metro Police. Under Indonesian law, religious blasphemy is punishable by up to five years in prison,” Coconuts Jakarta reported on Friday.

Indonesia, located in Southeast Asia, boasts the largest Islamic population in the world. A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that Indonesia’s 205 million Muslims accounted for 88 percent of the country’s total population and 13 percent of the global Muslim population.

Indonesia’s constitution guarantees religious freedom “but states citizens must accept restrictions established by law to protect the rights of others and […] to satisfy ‘just demands based upon considerations of morality, religious values, security, and public order in a democratic society,’” according to the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Report on Religious Freedom in Indonesia.

“Some local governments imposed local laws and regulations restricting religious observance, such as regulations banning Shia or Ahmadi Islamic practice,” the report noted.

“In Aceh Province, authorities continued to carry out public canings for sharia [Islamic law] violations, such as selling alcohol, gambling, and extramarital affairs. Individuals continued to be detained and received prison sentences for violations of blasphemy laws,” the U.S. State Department reported.