JAKARTA ~ 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 neighborhood 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 reverend 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.
The trendy bar opened its first franchise in Asia here late last year, renovating a historic former immigration building in the plush Menteng part of town and decorating it with large Buddha statues and images.
It is believed to be part-owned by Puan Maharani, daughter of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, and former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso’s daughter, Renny Sutiyoso.
“This franchise could never open in Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand. Its opening in Jakarta is really an insensitive decision by the government,” Nugroho said.
“Imagine if they did that with other religions. There would be very big protests,” he added.
Seven protesters were invited to present their objections to the bar’s management, which did not comment to the media.
One of protesters identified as Meta said she would continue to fight until Jakarta’s administration closed the bar or removed the Buddhist symbols.
“Buddhism is a religion and I can’t accept that they treat our religion this way,” she said.
Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people, which also contains Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian minorities.