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McDonald's adapts to anti-U.S. protests in Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia
Protesters to the strikes in Afghanistan march past a McDonald's in Jakarta, Indonesia, en route to the U.S. embassy.  

By Atika Shubert

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- When protesters to U.S. strikes in Afghanistan recently marched past a McDonald's en route to the U.S. embassy, many shook their fists at the Golden Arches, which are synonymous with American capitalism.

U.S. franchises are facing threats in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. Police suspect radical Islamic youth groups in the recent bombing of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.

But McDonald's has learned to adapt to the public mood. If employees at one McDonald's in Indonesia see protesters headed their way, they unfurl a green banner that says, "This store is owned by a Muslim, Bambang Rachmadi."

Rachmadi is the owner of the national franchise for McDonalds's, and his managers are instructed to present a picture of him and his wife in full Muslim dress.

"Somebody has to stand up and say, explaining to these demonstrators that we are not an American company," Rachmadi said. "But we are the most visible and the most known by our marketing. We have to work harder to make McDonald's as Indonesian. Period. Not as American."

Bambang Rachmadi and his wife
McDonald's franchise owner Bambang Rachmadi, left, has instructed managers to show potential protesters a picture of him with his wife in full Muslim dress.  

That's why on Fridays, the Islamic day of prayer, McDonald's gets a Muslim makeover. Arabic music floats in from the speaker system. Workers dress in Muslim clothes. At noon, they file out for Friday prayers.

Arabic writing tells customers the food is halal, cooked according to Islamic dietary laws. And the Golden Arches point the way to prayer rooms.

But religious groups say American fast-food giants are a corrupting influence and want the Indonesian government to break off all ties with the United States.

But this condemnation hasn't stopped the demand for Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets.


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