Nightlife Halted in Some Muslim CountriesAugust 19, 2009 By: Bryan Bass
Last month we covered a story that emanated from Iraq that indicated nightlife and Western-style entertainment was on the rise in the war-torn nation, with club-goers eager to break free of the post-war lockdown and Iraqi youth clamoring for jobs in a growth sector. Apparently, it’s not a trend being followed in other Islamic nations, according to recent reports from Algeria, once known as “The Paris of Africa” for its bubbling nightlife scene, and to a lesser extent from Jakarta, Indonesia, where the government-run Tourism Agency has ordered the closure of more than 1,000 nightclubs, bars and entertainment facilities over the month-long holiday of Ramadan.
In Algeria, the government has shut down as many as 40 bars, nightclubs and restaurants within the last year, including the historic Hanani Bar & Restaurant, which famously stayed open throughout the strife of Algeria’s countrywide militant attacks in the ’90s. Hanani owner Achour Ait Oussaid is reported to have said that he kept the club open in the ’90s as an “act of resistance,” but sees his now-shuttered doors as a sign that the local government is now doing what the violent militant attacks were unable to accomplish. "This same state has done what the Islamists never managed to do," he told a reporter from the Associated Press, while one of his regulars added that Hanani’s closure was a victim of “the ostentatious Islamization of Algerian society." Government officials deny that religion is involved, stating that the closures are due to safety and hygiene reasons.
While international hotels are still pouring alcohol and Algerian elite are enjoying pricey private clubs, watering holes in lower-income neighborhoods are coming under attack. In the nearby province of Boumerdes, local official Brahim Merad has taken a staunch stance, pledging not to approve a single liquor license, telling the local El Watan newspaper, “I won't miss a single opportunity to close the existing establishments.” It is widely thought that Islamic conservative pressure of the enforcement of the Muslim prohibition of alcohol is the genesis of the movement to close these venues.
In Jakarta, the holy fasting of Ramadan has prompted the closure of all nightclubs and bars but billiard halls are permitted to remain open from 10 p.m. – 12 a.m. and karaoke venues from 8:30 p.m. -1:30 a.m. exclusively.
“The operators should close their places one day before Ramadan [begins] next week until one day after Idul Fitri,” Arie Budhiman, head of the agency announced last week, according to The Jakarta Post. He also added that billiard and karaoke venues located in the same room of the temporarily closed businesses would be forced to close.
Venues operating inside hotels are allowed to stay open but must operate under modified hours. Budhiman also added that any venues violating the regulation will risk the possibility of being closed down by local authorities.
And all of this arrives less than a month after a Malaysian model was sentenced to six cane lashes and a fine of $1,400 for consuming alcohol in a nightclub. The 32-year-old was busted when Islamic authorities raided a hotel nightclub in August of last year and discovered Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno drinking a beer. While consuming alcohol is a religious offense for Muslims in Malaysia, venues are not legally required to check if customers are Muslim before serving them. Offenses are prosecuted in Shariah courts, which typically govern family and moral issues. At the time of the nightclub raid, Shukarno was the only Muslim arrested and faced as many as three years in jail for the offense, according to an Associated Press report.