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Buddha Bar in Indonesia Faces Closure

by Rathi Manohar on July 29, 2010 at 10:59 AM
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Buddha Bar in Indonesia Faces Closure

The local branch of the Buddha Bar chain in Jakarta faces closure as hundreds of people protested against it on Wednesday for its threat to interfaith relations.

About 300 people from a group calling itself "People's Alliance to Close Buddha Bar" gathered in white shirts outside the bar, shouting "Close Buddha Bar right now".

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The plush lounge bar and restaurant, a franchise of the French-based chain, faced a series of demonstrations last year from enraged members of Indonesia's Buddhist minority who considered the name an insult to their religion.

It adjusted its name to "Buddhabar" but that failed to quell the protests.

"We're worried the existence of Buddha Bar can damage relations between people from different religions, and can also threaten the nation's unity," rally spokesman Karya Elly said.
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Elly said the group demanded that the government immediately close the bar -- known for its trademark lounge music and Oriental design -- because it had been mired in religious controversy since it opened in late 2008.

"Although I'm a Christian, I feel that the name of the bar has defamed Buddhism as a religion. The government should close the bar, then change its name if they want to re-open it," he said.

Elly said they had also protested outside the French embassy, urging the French government to pressure the chain, which is owned by the George V Eatertainment group, to revoke the licence of the Indonesian franchise holder.

"The bar has tarnished the good name of Buddha. There are prostitutes hanging out there, and that cannot be forgiven," university student Catur Setiawan said.

Setiawan, a 22-year-old Buddhist, said the presence of Buddhist statues in the bar insulted his religion. A five-metre (15-foot) statue of a golden sitting Buddha gazes over its main dining area.

"What's next? Christ Bar, Islam Bar, Hindu Bar?" Buddhist protester Yani, 70, said while holding a banner filled with supporting signatures.

The bar's management could not immediately be reached for comment.

Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of Indonesia's 234 million-strong population, but the constitution also recognises the country's Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.

Source: AFP
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