Indonesian Muslim group calls for Starbucks boycott due to LGBT support

JAKARTA, 1 July 2017: 

A leader of Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation has called for a boycott of Starbucks, saying the international coffee chain’s pro-gay stand risks ruining the “religious and cultured” core of the Southeast Asian nation.

With the exception of the ultra-conservative Aceh province, homosexuality is legal in Indonesia. But police raids on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have risen in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Anwar Abbas of Muhammadiyah, an organisation that has around 30 million members, said the government should revoke Starbucks’ operating licence as the company’s support for the LGBT community is “not in line” with the nation’s ideology.

“If Starbucks only does business, then fine. But don’t bring ideology here,” Abbas said by phone today.

PT Sari Coffee Indonesia, which holds the licence to run the Starbucks chain, is a legal entity that “always obeys the prevailing regulations and appreciates the cultural values in Indonesia”, an executive at its parent company said.

“We also value the religious background of our customers and employees,” Fetty Kwartati, a director at PT MAP Boga Adiperkasa Tbk, said in a text message.

Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance and pluralism is already under scrutiny after Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian, was sentenced in May to two years in prison for blasphemy in a trial that came after mass Islamist-led rallies last year.

Asked why he had taken a stand against Starbucks, Abbas said he was informed in a chat group about a pro-LGBT comment made by the company’s senior executive Howard Schultz.

Schultz is now chairman of Starbucks after stepping down from his previous role as chief executive.

Forbes reported that when a Starbucks shareholder complained in 2013 that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage, Schultz said it embraces diversity and that “not every decision is an economic decision”.

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company,” Schultz was reported as saying at that time.

A video of the comment was also posted on YouTube.

Starbucks customer Annisa Meidiana, who is a Muslim, said she would not stop buying coffee there because of the call for the boycott.

“Islam condemns LGBT. It’s a sin,” the 22-year-old university student said outside Jakarta. “But it doesn’t matter to me. For me, being an LGBT is a human right.”

Meanwhile, Singapore’s annual Pink Dot gay pride rally drew thousands of people today despite new restrictions aimed at keeping foreigners out of domestic politics and barricades put up around the rally site.

The rally has been held since 2009 under stringent public assembly laws at Speakers’ Corner, an area set aside for demonstrations, performances and exhibitions.

But this year, Speakers’ Corner was barricaded and participants had to show ID to prove they were citizens or permanent residents before they could enter, with a set maximum taking part.

Under Singapore law, sex between men is punishable by up to two years in jail, though prosecutions are rare. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong told the BBC earlier this year than he was “prepared to live with (the law) until social attitudes change”.

Foreigners have never been legally allowed to join rallies in the city-state, but many have got around the restriction by “observing” such events.

Changes to the law announced in October remove the distinction between “participants” and “observers”, the Pink Dot organisers said.

They would not disclose the turnout or what the maximum capacity was today, but participants said the number was below the 28,000 who took part last year.

“The crowd is less dense this year, but I think we’re getting new people,” said participant Atiq Lukman. “Every year, I hear of people making this their first Pink Dot.”

The level of security also tripled this year, organisers said, with metal detectors and barricades under a law that requires police to monitor events with a crowd of more than 5,000 people.

The government said the move was in response to a growing threat of terrorism.

This year, Taiwan became the first territory in Asia to legalise same sex marriage. In the same week in Indonesia, two men were publicly caned for engaging in gay sex and police have set up a special force to investigate LGBT activity.

– Reuters

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