A protest in Jakarta, Indonesia, against a local branch of the French-owned chain restaurant Buddha Bar became chaotic today when protesters damaged the restaurant and nearby public facilities. Over 300 Indonesian Buddhists showed up for the protest, which was organized by the Anti-Buddha Bar Forum (FABB). The crowd gathered in white t-shirts to protest the name of the restaurant which they feel insults their religion. From an AFP report:

“We’re worried the existence of Buddha Bar can damage relations between people from different religions, and can also threaten the nation’s unity,” rally spokesman Karya Elly said. Elly said the group demanded that the government immediately close the bar—known for its trademark lounge music and Oriental design—because it had been mired in religious controversy since it opened in late 2008. Elly said they had also protested outside the French embassy, urging the French government to pressure the chain, which is owned by the George V Eatertainment group, to revoke the licence of the Indonesian franchise holder. “The bar has tarnished the good name of Buddha. There are prostitutes hanging out there, and that cannot be forgiven,” university student Catur Setiawan said. Setiawan, a 22-year-old Buddhist, said the presence of Buddhist statues in the bar insulted his religion. A [15-foot] statue of a golden sitting Buddha gazes over its main dining area. “What’s next? Christ Bar, Islam Bar, Hindu Bar?” Buddhist protester Yani, 70, said while holding a banner filled with supporting signatures.

Other Buddhist organizations in the area criticized FABB for allowing the demonstrating to become destructive. Lieus Sungkharisma, the Chairman of the Gemabuddhi Trustees Board (also known as the Indonesian Young Generation of Buddhists) spoke out against the protesters:

“The demonstration held by FABB was quite deplorable. I reiterate that I condemn the way they did the action which has damaged the image and characteristics of Buddhists,” said Lieus. Lieus assessed the action of carrying posters of certain people and accusing them corrupt was an act that can not be justified. Such an action was beyond the teachings values of Buddhism.

What do you think about the Buddha’s name and figure being used in restaurants and bars? Share your thoughts with Tricycle readers.

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