Earth to Reza Aslan: Muslims in “liberal” Islamic countries call for boycotting Starbucks because it supports LBGT rights

Reza Aslan has repeatedly touted Malaysia and Indonesia as examples of “liberal” and enlightened Muslim-majority countries. When arguing that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim practice, for instance, Aslan says it’s limited to Central Africa, is a cultural rather than a religiously based mutilation, and isn’t practiced in Muslim lands like Malaysia and Indonesia.  It’s all part of his shtick to exculpate any religion for anything bad—especially the Religion of Peace.

Well, those claims about Malaysia and Indonesia were pretty much demolished by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider (the co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America) in a 2014 post at The Friendly Atheist called “Reza Aslan is wrong about Islam and here’s why. ” Remember that the next time you hear these Aslan-ian apologetics.

If you need more evidence, today’s Los Angeles Times reports that Muslim groups in both countries are calling for a boycott of Starbucks. The reasons don’t do credit to either Islam or to Aslan:

Malaysian group Perkasa, which supports a hard-line form of Islam and nationalism, this week called on its more than 500,000 members to stay away from Starbucks coffee shops. This week and last, leaders of Indonesia’s second largest mainstream Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, with an estimated 29 million members, denounced the chain.

The groups were apparently reacting to comments made several years ago by former CEO Howard Schultz in support of gay rights that drew renewed attention amid an increasingly anti-LGBT climate in both of the predominantly Muslim countries.

Perkasa said in a statement that the Malaysian government should revoke the trading license given to Starbucks and other companies such as Microsoft and Apple that support LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

More illiberalism:

Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but a case before the Constitutional Court is seeking to criminalize gay sex and sex outside of marriage.

The article quotes one Malaysian risk analyst as saying the boycott “won’t amount to much,” and I hope that’s true. But it’s still indicative of a worrying growth of Islamism in previously “moderate” Muslim countries.

Once again, here are the data on acceptance of gays from the 2013 Pew Survey of the World’s Muslims. Malaysia and Indonesia (and Thailand) are right up there with the most homophobic lands:


h/t: Grania


  1. Dan Graur
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Are Christians more enlightened? I doubt the results among Russian-.Orthodox would be different.

    • bob
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      HAven’t heard of a Russian Orthodox Starbuck’s ban..

    • BJ
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      You’re comparing on specific sect of Christianity in one country to hundreds of millions of Muslims from all Islamic sects throughout the world. Doesn’t exactly seem like a fair comparison.

      • somer
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink


      • somer
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        Plus vile as Russian orthodox are to gays they don’t arrange throwing them off buildings (Isis) or hanging them (Iran) by state authority

  2. Posted July 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Starbucks are inveterate virtue signallers so I can’t wait to see how they respond to being hit in the pocket.

    • Craw
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I boycott them because I object to bad coffee. Hasn’t changed their behaviour at all 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Like burnt poo…

        • Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          Shouldn’t ethically sourced coffee also play a role in deciding where you drink, make a choice or purchase your coffee?
          This is not a smug remark but rather, we need to be paying more attention.
          As a first world country where i live i am given the choice, so i take it.
          The distribution of wealth, better education are key points.
          Hopefully we can surmount the ubiquitous human folly of greed while we’re are at it, you can only but hope.

          • Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            “Shouldn’t ethically sourced coffee also play a role in deciding where you drink, make a choice or purchase your coffee?”

            Ethically sourced? The label is more about marketing than it is about sustainability. Anyway, I opt for it only secondarily. What matters most to me is cost/taste. I want the best price and a coffee I like. Since almost no coffee maker uses unethically sourced coffee this isn’t hard to do.

            • Posted July 6, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

              hmm… disappointing to say the least if true, but I will follow it up with an inquiry to my ‘choice’ of coffee brand and see what they have to say for themselves.
              Off coffee but i know of a clothing design company here that have to go 3 times a year to India to make sure they are paying their workers and adhering to their principles of ethically sourced cotton. They have built a internationally recognised company around it and if they knew what was involved at the beginning they may have not done it. Re: it was very hard going.
              Tea is another rabbit hole but the pressure is coming to bear on them as well. Sorry about going off topic.

              • BJ
                Posted July 6, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Lest my other response to you seem dismissive of your concerns, I applaud those of us who do what they can to ensure they buy ethically made products. Unfortunately, the options for even those of us who try hardest are severely limited.

          • BJ
            Posted July 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            First, as mikeyc said, most of the coffees that have such labels have them for marketing purposes and haven’t actually changed much with regard to their process of obtaining coffee. One has to do significant research on every brand that carries the label to see if it in, in fact, truly fair in how it’s sourced.

            Second, if we chose every product based on your descriptions, we wouldn’t be using the computers we have right now, nor most of the other things we use in our everyday lives. At least some parts (if not most or all) in every piece of technology you use come from a third world country with horrendous pay, working, and living conditions.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Soaked in stomach acid.

  3. dabertini
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, at least on this site, we know that being religious does not equate to being enlightened. If you don’t support lgbqt you are on the margins of society.

  4. colnago80
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that an undertone for the boycott is not unrelated to the fact that CEO Schultz is Jewish.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I guess they really dislike Apple with their openly gay CEO and their gay pride 🏳️‍🌈 Apple Watch Band. I guess don’t wear that in Indonesia.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Indonesia is getting worse all the time. In Aceh province, there is already Sharia. Legal punishment there includes stoning to death. Aceh has become significantly more conservative since the Boxing Day tsunami c. ten years ago. Many believe it came because of immoral behaviour.

    The conservatism in Aceh is spreading through the country. Although homosexuality isn’t illegal, police are going to places like private gay clubs and charging people under pornography distribution laws.

    There is one good thing to come out of that – a well known conservative firebrand imam who advocates stoning to death for all sexual offences has just been charged under the pornography laws after being caught sexting. Hoisted by his own petard. This guy drives through the streets yelling his message through a loudspeaker with one hand pointed up to Paradise.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Of course, I don’t really think anyone should be arrested for sexting as long as both parties consent to it. It’s just the exposure of a hypocrite I like.

    • BJ
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Aceh is also where, recently, the extremely popular governor of the region (the most popular of any governor in all of Indonesia) was subject to a fabricated smear campaign that resulted in a completely unfounded blasphemy charge, mass demonstrations by Muslims, and his eventual loss of reelection. And Aceh is one of the more liberal regions in Indonesia.

      Here’s an article about that and many other recent developments in Indonesia that demonstrate the pivot toward Islamism that is sweeping the country. Developments like their very own roaming brigades of Sharia enforcers, establishment of Sharia law in many places, and even the Supreme Court of the country allowing the government to use discriminatory religious laws.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the link. Interesting.

  7. biz
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that Uganda of all places has the most tolerance toward gays among Muslims. Because among Christians there it is abysmal.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Shame the Muslims aren’t boycotting Starbucks for making overpriced coffee with ridiculous names; I’d be down with that.

    Hell, I wouldn’t say “half-caf macchiatto frappaccino” if I had a mouthful.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 6, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      That’s because you’d spill it.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 1:55 am | Permalink

      Overpriced, bad coffee, tasting like chemically flavoured water, and served in cardboard buckets. Plenty of good reasons for boycot.

  9. nwalsh
    Posted July 6, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    If I controlled a company, any company, I’d stay away from the Muslim world.

    • Posted July 11, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Good idea. At least, it should not occupy a significant proportion of your sales, because the market there is unpredictable. Remember the boycott of Danish dairy products.

  10. Posted July 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I do wonder how much Reza Aslan even knows about Islam and its culture. I saw an article that said he knew nothing about Islam before he investigated it in college (link at the bottom). His father was an atheist and the family fled after the Iranian revolution when Reza was 7 years old. He grew up in California.

    When he talked with Oprah about his beliefs they sounded more like New Age California beliefs than anything resembling traditional Islam. I doubt there are many other New Age Muslims like him.

  11. Posted July 7, 2017 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure if you specifically chose overwhelmingly catholic countries and asked the exact same question about homosexual behaviour, you’d get a similar response.

    • Sigmund
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      “I’m pretty sure if you specifically chose overwhelmingly catholic countries and asked the exact same question about homosexual behaviour, you’d get a similar response.”

      Republic of Ireland? Spain? Portugal?
      All of those countries have legalized same sex marriage.
      Of the countries on the western periphery of Europe only Northern Ireland holds out against legalizing marriage equality – and in that case it is the fundamentalist protestants rather than mainstream Catholics who are the roadblock.
      I do think it is an interesting point, however, that there is such a disconnect between catholic doctrinal values and those values held by the local populations of these nations. I grew up in Ireland in the 70s and 80s when homosexuality was illegal – as was contraception, divorce and abortion. Only the latter remains against the law and I suspect it will, like the others, fall to the wishes of the new generation of Irish people.

  12. Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    At lunchtime today I visited Starbucks in Jalan Sudirman in Jakarta (Indonesia) in the hope of getting a sandwich and coffee.

    No such luck. The queue was so long that I gave up and went back to my office.

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