JAKARTA (Reuters) – About 200 Buddhist students held a rally outside an outlet of the international franchise Buddha Bar in the Indonesian capital on Thursday, accusing it of defaming their religion.
Jakarta is the first city in Southeast Asia to host a Buddha Bar, the hip Paris-based franchise of restaurant/lounges. “It is impossible to put the exalted name (Buddha) side by side with the word ‘bar’, which is associated with a place for alcohol. That is defamation of religion,” said Eko Nugroho, a protester from a group calling itself the Students Alliance to Reject Buddha Bar.
Avoiding alcohol and other intoxicants is the fifth of the “Five Precepts” that form the basic moral code of Buddhism.
During the peaceful protest, the group prayed with flowers and incense outside the bar that opened late last year in the plush Menteng area of Jakarta and which houses a giant gold Buddha statue on the upper restaurant floor of the bar.
In the past, supporters of hardline Muslim groups have smashed up bars and nightclubs for opening during the Ramadan fasting month.
JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian Buddhists symbolically “sealed” the upmarket Buddha Bar in Jakarta on Thursday, urging authorities to immediately close the Paris-based entertainment franchise for blasphemy.
About 150 mainly student protesters carrying joss sticks and flowers gathered outside the bar in a wealthy neighbourhood of the capital and denounced its decorative use of sacred symbols and statues.
They chanted Buddhist prayers and carried banners reading “Remove all Buddhist symbols from the bar” and “Change your name or close forever”.
A handful of police watched calmly as the protesters then “sealed” the main entrance with fake yellow crime scene tape. The bar was closed at the time.
“For us, Buddha is our revered teacher. But for them, Buddha is a decoration and the worst thing is the statues are in such an indecent place,” protest coordinator Eko Nugroho said.
Seven protestors were invited to present their objections to the bar’s managers, who did not comment to the media.
Another group of Buddhists is planning to sue the government for granting the bar an operating licence, and is not deterred by the high-profile owners of the franchise, a spokesman said.
Buddhist organizations deemed the sealing off Thursday of the Buddha Bar in Menteng, Central Jakarta, by Buddhist students as an expression of disappointment, and “not a Buddhist act”.
Alim Sudio, secretary-general of the Indonesian Pandita Sabha Buddha Dharma Foundation, said sealing off the bar was not the Buddhist way of seeking a solution.
“Our way is never to force anything. A dialogue is needed,” he said.
Alim said an open dialogue between representatives of Buddhist groups, the government and the bar’s owners had to be arranged.
“The Buddha Bar management also has to be given a chance to have a say,” said the Buddhist priest.
“Sealing off the bar was a move by our friends who wanted the Buddha positioned appropriately,” said Gatot Sukarno Adi, deputy secretary-general of Walubi, the Indonesian federation of Buddhist organizations.
He added the important thing was to arrange a dialogue where both parties did not lose anything.
The management of the bar told beritajakarta.com they had secured approval from three different Buddhist groups.
The franchisor of the Buddha Bar is the Paris-based George V Entertainment, which owns a global chain of hotels, spas, restaurants and boutiques. The group uses various names of the Buddha in its Buddha Bar, Siddharta Cafe, Little Buddha Cafe, and Buddhattitude Spa. (iwp)
Jakarta Tourism Agency head Arie Budiman said the administration was asking Buddhists to be patient, because the bar management was still considering changing the name of the bar.
Buddha Bar is situated in a building once used as the Central Jakarta Immigration Office, which had subsequently been set up as a center for the arts.
At present, Buddha Bar is run by the daughter of former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso, who initially approved the purchase and renovations.