Indonesian Islamic parties propose alcohol ban

AFP , Tuesday 14 Apr 2015

Indonesia's Islamic parties have proposed legislation banning alcohol consumption that could see offenders jailed for up to two years, lawmakers said

Tuesday, the latest bid to crack down on drinking in the Muslim-majority nation.

Under the bill currently being discussed in parliament, the consumption, sale, production and distribution of all drinks containing more than one percent alcohol would be prohibited.

"Alcohol consumption is increasing, especially among young people and it threatens their future because it causes addiction and potentially damages their health," lawmaker Muhammad Arwani Thomafi, from the United Development Party, one of the parties pushing for the ban, told AFP.

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 and win support.

On Thursday a ban on the sale of alcohol at small retailers comes into force across the country, although supermarkets, bars and restaurants will not be affected.

The new bill put forward by Islamic parties, 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.

The bill has been proposed by the United Development Party and the Prosperous Justice Party.

The majority of Indonesian's 250 million people practice a moderate form of Islam, and most do not drink. Drinking alcohol is forbidden under Islamic law.

However, in big cities such as the capital Jakarta and areas popular with tourists, drinking is more common and alcohol is widely available.

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