A prominent Muslim group in Malaysia has joined calls by Islamic conservatives in Indonesia for a boycott of Starbucks to protest against the international coffee chain’s support of gay rights. Activists say intolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has spiked in recent years in Indonesia and Malaysia, both majority Muslim, multi-ethnic Southeast Asian countries.
Perkasa, a group with about 700,000 members that campaigns for the rights of ethnic Malay Muslims, said it agreed with calls this week by Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim group, for a boycott of Starbucks over its pro-gay stand.
Perkasa also agreed with the Indonesian group’s call for Starbucks’ operating license to be revoked, it said.
Amini Amir Abdullah, who heads Perkasa’s Islamic affairs bureau, said Starbucks’ position challenged Malaysia’s constitution, which recognised Islam as the country’s official religion.
“Our objection is because they are promoting something that is against the human instinct, against human behaviour and against religion. That’s why we are against it,” Amini told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
Muhammadiyah’s call for a boycott has gained support from the Indonesian Ulema Council, its top clerical body.
The religious groups’ opposition to against Starbucks came after a video from 2013 circulated online of pro-LGBT comments made by the company’s chairman and former chief executive, Howard Schultz.
In the video, Schultz said Starbucks embraced diversity and “not every decision is an economic decision”, in response to a shareholder who complained that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage.
Starbucks Malaysia could not be reached for comment.
PT Sari Coffee, which holds the licence to run the Starbucks chain in Indonesia, said last week it “always obeys the prevailing regulations and appreciates the cultural values in Indonesia”.
Some Muslims in Indonesia, however, said the boycott call would not stop them from buying Starbucks coffee.
“I love their products, not their CEO,” said Jakarta resident Kornelius Kamajaya.
The boycott call got a similar response from some in Malaysia.
“Don’t make it such an issue that we have to boycott a company because of one small statement,” said Muhammad Azril Maridzuan, an assistant bank manager in Kuala Lumpur.
Muslim groups should not “be so extremist” even though gay rights was against their religious beliefs, he said.