'Allah' vodka stirs anger in Kazakhstan
Vodka branded with the Arabic word Allah has caused uproar in Kazakhstan, a predominantly Muslim country with a taste for alcohol picked up during the Soviet Union.
Allah, which means God, is written on the front of Baiterek vodka bottle caps. The bottles’ labels also suggest the vodka packs a sizeable kick with the slogan: “Allah’s strength is enough for everybody.”
While alcohol has generally played an important role in Christianity, it is forbidden in Islam and the bottles, which appeared in the eastern city of Semey, have angered religious Kazakhs.
“The only salvation for those who did this is to repent,” Bekzat Boranbai uly, an Imam in Semey, told the KTK television station.
“Allah is against alcohol and this is mockery.”
Although many Kazakhs drink vodka, a habit they acquired when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, religion has become increasingly important over the past decade.
Officials moved to dampen the furore over the vodka by calling on Geom, the local company which produces the Baiterek brand, to withdraw stocks from shops.
A spokesman for Geom said ignorance was the root cause of the error.
She said that the labelling had been produced in neighbouring Russia and that because nobody in the company speaks Arabic, they didn’t realise the word Allah was on the front of the bottle.
Like the other four Central Asian states, Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Russian and Kazakh are the state languages. Most Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims but, although religion is growing in popularity, the majority treat it lightly.