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Indonesian Muslims see planned liquor curb insufficient

Kyodo - February 13, 1997

Jakarta – Militant Muslim leaders in Indonesia have attacked as insufficient a planned government decree which will limit sales of alcoholic drinks, a newspaper said Thursday.

The Jakarta Post quoted Muslim preacher Dadang Hawari as saying the drafting of the decree, which will restrict sales to authorized places only, has not taken into consideration the Muslim community's aspirations.

"Medically speaking, drinking alcohol triggers violent behavior among people," Dadang told the English-language daily. "Supported by Islamic teaching that prohibits alcohol, the government should have just banned it."

The Home Affairs Ministry announced Tuesday it will issue a decree which will form the basis of a presidential decree on the control of alcohol.

It will mean alcoholic drinks may only be sold under license at places such as hotels, bars, restaurants and other places appointed by the local regent, mayor or governor.

Those other places will have to be located "far enough" from places of worship, schools and hospitals, ruling out most roadside food stalls.

Ahmad Sumargono, whose Indonesian Committee for World Muslim Solidarity organized protests against liquor sales in the past, said regulations do not matter much.

"As long as there are opportunities, consumers will still try to get it," Ahmad was quoted as saying.

He blamed the government's reluctance to ban alcohol on the fact that most regional and local administrations regard sales of liquor as a lucrative source of revenue.

"The government should allow only foreigners to buy alcohol," Ahmad suggested. "It should also restrict sales to exclusive stores that could neither be afforded nor reached by most Indonesians."

The government has come under heavy pressure from Muslim groups who want alcohol totally banned. They argue that liquor is responsible for the rising crime rate and loose morality of many people in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.