Indonesian police arrest six people for ‘blasphemy’ over marketing ploy

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian police have arrested six people on blasphemy charges for promoting a chain’s free alcohol to customers named “Mohammed”, officials said on Friday, in a case that has sparked outrage in the Muslim-majority country.

In a now-deleted social media post, the Holywings offered men named Mohammed and women named Maria a free bottle of alcohol every Thursday if they showed their IDs.

Alcohol is prohibited by Islamic law and although the consumption of alcohol is not prohibited for any religion in the secular country, the act itself is frowned upon by conservative Muslims.

The post caused furor online and several youth organizations reported the management to the police for allegedly committing blasphemy, while other groups threatened to raid the premises of the bar chain.

Late Friday, police presented six suspects, including Holywings’ creative director and the head of its promotional team, at a televised press conference.

“Six people have been named as suspects and they all work for the company,” South Jakarta police chief Budhi Herdi Susianto said.

All six were dressed in the orange shirt usually worn by criminal offenders in Indonesia, with their faces covered.

“The suspects created the content to attract customers to their outlets, particularly those who are achieving less than 60% of their sales targets,” Susianto said.

The group have been charged with multiple offenses including blasphemy and spreading religious hatred, police said, and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

After the outrage, Holywings issued a public apology and claimed that management was unaware of the promotion.