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Indonesian bar sparks uproar with gin promotion for those named Muhammad

JAKARTA (AFP) - A popular Indonesian bar chain is being investigated for blasphemy over a free alcohol promotion for patrons named Muhammad, police said on Friday (June 24), after it sparked an uproar in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Alcohol is considered forbidden under Islamic law, and while drinking is not prohibited for those of any religion in the secular country's bars, it is frowned upon by conservative Muslims.

In a now-deleted post, the Holywings bar offered a free bottle of gin for men named Muhammad and women named Maria every Thursday if they presented their ID cards.

At least two youth organisations have reported the chain for religious blasphemy, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison under Indonesian law, Jakarta police said.

The authorities have launched an investigation into the bar's promotion and warned the public not to raid any of the chain's premises, police spokesman Endra Zulpan said at a press conference on Friday.

The business was forced to issue an apology and claimed management was unaware of the promotion.

"We have no intention to associate religion with our promotion and therefore we deeply apologise to the public," the bar said in a statement posted on social media on Thursday.

The post also triggered a backlash online and from conservative Islamic groups, with Indonesians accusing the management of disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad.

Mr Dadang Kahmad, a senior official of Islamic group Muhammadiyah, slammed the "unethical" promotion.

"It is regrettable when religious symbols are being toyed with, not only Islamic religious symbols but other religions' as well," he said.

"Why use Muhammad? Why not use other names that are not linked with any religion?"

Others called for the owners of the bars to be punished, even if they were unaware of the drinks deal.

"Just an apology will not be enough and there should be a logical consequence, (they) must be investigated and given a strict sanction," conservative lawmaker Fahira Idris tweeted to her 650,000 followers.

indonesiaBARS AND CLUBSreligionalcohol