Thursday, 9 September 2010

Indonesia and the Buddha Bar

The global bar and restaurant chain opened in Indonesia's capital city just over 2 years ago - and was the first opening in Asia move into Asia. However a district court has just ruled that the club offends Buddhists ordered its closure and made it pay pay $111,000 in fines.

“We’re going to keep operating while waiting for the response from the French owner,” the popular venue’s manager said. The bar is considering an appeal, which could last for years in Indonesia’s notoriously slow and corrupt courts.

The bar is situated in a beautifully renovated colonial building in the high-end Menteng neighbourhood, Buddha-Bar draws affluent Jakartans to its upmarket plush sofas and cocktails. the issue however is its centrepiece icon, a giant statue of the Buddha , and of course its name and has drawn protests from Indonesian student groups who believe such use of religious symbols is offensive.

The Buddha Bar chain has never been publically targeted elsewhere by Buddhist groups and it’s interesting that the suit has been lodged in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation - where the followers of Buddhism are minuscule. The lawyer for the bar said the suit should not even have been filed in a civil court, but rather in a trade court.

“We’re satisfied with the verdict”, Sukman, who led the campaign for the bar’s closure and is part of the Anti-Buddha Bar group behind the lawsuit quoted as saying “We demand that the operating license be revoked, even before the court ruling is legally binding. ”

That said the bar could remain open for years as the verdict will not be enforced until all legal options have completed and this could take years. In the meantime, the controversy doesn’t seem to have hurt the Buddha-Bar’s business and the publicity has ensured the bar has never been more popular.

This is part of the Buddha's Face 101 Project

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