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God Hits The Bottle: 'Allah' Inscription On Vodka Angers Kazakh Muslims


At less than $5 a pop, Baiterek vodka has been selling well, despite a reference to Allah on the bottle.

At less than $5 a pop, Baiterek vodka has been selling well, despite a reference to Allah on the bottle.

Religious leaders in Kazakhstan have been calling for calm after a liquor company sparked outrage by launching a new vodka that uses the word "Allah" on its bottles.

Baiterek vodka seems to be telling consumers that the drink packs a punch by carrying an inscription on the bottle that says "Allah's Strength Is Enough For Everybody."

But many Kazakhs are scandalized by the sale of such a product in the mainly Muslim country because Islam strictly forbids the consumption of alcohol.

Nonetheless, several imams have been telling their flocks not to take any action over the affront.

"I call on all Muslims in Kazakhstan to stay calm and not to succumb to their emotions over the inscription on the bottle," said imam Abdimutalip Daurenbekov from the Aqtobe region in the northwest of the country, where the vodka is produced. "Our Prophet himself forgave even those who said there is no God."

GEOM, the company that produces the vodka, reacted quickly to the furor by issuing an apology and promising to withdraw the product as soon as possible.

It claimed the bottle's design had been done by a Russian company and that it had no idea what the inscription said because it was in Arabic.

The uproar caused by Baiterek has even prompted some Kazakhs to question the sale of alcohol in the country in general.

Despite its Muslim heritage, Kazakhstan has a strong drinking culture, which has been "imported" from Russia.

In fact, the consumption of alcohol is so widespread that GEOM may have a hard time fulfilling its promise to take the vodka off the market as many shops have already sold all their stock.

"When the scandal started up, all the Baiterek vodka in my shop had been sold out," shopkeeper Quralai Yrysmaghambetova told RFE/RL.

Like the vodka's manufacturer, she also claimed she had no idea what was written on the bottles.

"If I had known about the problem beforehand and if I had some bottles left, I would have gotten rid of them as soon as possible," she said. "I am not someone who sells God's name."

With contributions from Merkhat Sharipzhanov

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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