Indonesian Islamic parties seek total ban of alcoholic products

(Photo: REUTERS / Beawiharta)Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (L) poses beside Indonesia's President Joko Widodo after his swearing-in at the Presidential palace in Jakarta, November 19, 2014. Jakarta's first Christian governor in nearly 50 years was sworn in on Wednesday, despite protests from religious hardliners opposing a non-Muslim taking over one of Indonesia's most powerful political jobs.

Two Islamic parties have filed proposed legislation in Indonesia's parliament seeking to ban all consumption of alcoholic drinks in the archipelago, home to the world's largest national Muslim population.

One of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill - which could come into law by the end of this year if it gains support in the legislature - insisted the proposed measure stems from concerns for the health of its people.

"This is not a religious or ideological issue," explained Abdul Hakim of the Prosperous Justice Party in an interview with Reuters news agency. "This is purely for the protection of the children of the nation."

The bill seeks to ban the "the sale, production, distribution and consumption of beverages" having alcohol content over one percent.

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The ban covers local brews such as the popular rice wine which is the drink of choice in many parts of the archipelago.

The bill must be signed by President Joko Widodo to become a law.

Since taking office last October, Widodo has taken a tough stance against drug offenders, with inmates facing capital punishment over such crimes getting no reprieve.

Government officials have yet to issue their stance on the bill, but a senior minister explained that such a blanket ban could affect the country's important tourism industry.

"We must not let the regulation be excessive because it could kill tourism potential," said Chief Economics Minister Sofyan Djalil. "For some people from the West, alcohol is a part of their lifestyle."

A portion of the bill puts an exemption on five-star hotels and the resort island of Bali.

Sales in Indonesia's alcohol industry have leapt s in the past decade, especially brands such as the Bintang beer of PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk, which is majority owned by Heineken.

The Indonesian archipelago is Asia's 10th largest beer consumer as sales of the drink jumped 54 percent in the last 10 years.

On April 16, the government began regulating the sale of alcoholic drinks at convenience stores and other small-scale shops. Alcoholic drinks, however, are still to be sold at supermarkets, hotels, bars and restaurants.

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