Bar charged with blasphemy for offering free drinks to ‘Mohammads and Marias’

A drinks promotion targeted at 'Mohammads and Marias' has seen six employees of a bar charged with blasphemy.

The Indonesian bar chain, Holywings, sparked massive outrage for its promotion offering free drinks to people named Mohammad and Maria, with authorities shutting its 12 outlets in the capital Jakarta after stripping it of its operating permit on Tuesday.

Its bar staff could now face up to 10 years in prison after running a promotional offer to give a free bottle of gin to men named Mohammad and women named Maria every Thursday.

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The social media post, that has been now deleted, prompted outrage among religious groups in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, which led to the investigation of the bar.

Dozens of police swooped onto the 12 outlets, sealing the buildings and sticking banners outside the premises, announcing the shutdown of business activities.

According to Voice of Indonesia the banners read: “Anyone who destroys and violates this announcement will be prosecuted in accordance with the applicable law.

"Thus, it must be fully observed and obeyed."

The Jakarta government said in a statement on its website that the restaurant chain did not have licences to serve alcohol.

Almost 88% of the population in Indonesia is Muslim, and consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

Six people, including Holywings’ creative director and the head of its promotional team, were charged under the country’s stringent blasphemy law, which carries a maximum 10-year jail term, and other charges.

Holywings Indonesia issued an apology for the promotion, stating that it was created without the knowledge of the management.

The authority's actions on the bar chain has drawn attention to Indonesia’s blasphemy law, which critics say is being used to erode the country’s long-standing reputation for tolerance and diversity.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the blasphemy law and a law regulating online activity in the country were becoming "increasingly dangerous".

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He added that in spite of the questionable location, in light of the alcohol laws, no crime had been committed according to international standards.

The blasphemy law has mostly been used against those who are deemed to have insulted Islam.

Since the law was passed in 1965 more than 150 people have been jailed, mostly from religious minorities, according to data collected by HRW.

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