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A group of Conservative Muslim politicians are seeking a total ban on the production, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Indonesia.

Muslim parties control less than a third of the legislative seats in the country, however Conservative groups have become more assertive in recent years.

In 2015, the Government banned the sale of beer in small grocery shops, leading to a 13 per cent decline in sales, according to research firm Euromonitor.

Now, work is being done to limit the production of “home-brews”, known as Oplosan, responsible for the majority of alcohol-related deaths in the country, according to the Economist.

However, many would oppose increased regulation as an affront to the diversity of the country, with its rich, multi faith culture made up of large Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities.

Despite its reputation for being a liberal Muslim country, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, some are concerned about increasing fundamentalism.

The state-backed council of clerics, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), has in recent years condemned numerous practices, including homosexual partnerships.

The country’s Parliament has also passed strict anti-pornography laws, and some Conservative Muslim groups are calling for the courts to criminalise extramarital sex.

Under a potential new ban of alcohol, drinkers could face two years in jail.

However, many brewers argue that alcohol consumption is a long-standing tradition in the country and not something to be vilified as a Western decadence.

“It is part of the culture of Indonesia,” Michael Chin, chief executive of Multi Bintang, the country’s biggest brewer, told the Economist.

Since 2014, there has been an alcohol ban enforced in Aceh, an autonomous province where Sharia law is applied. Anyone found in breach of the strict codes of conduct, including visitors, could face between six and nine cane lashes.

According to the World Health Organisation, Indonesians consume less than one litre of alcohol per head each year.

2017.02.13 / 09:48
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