Indonesia Islam leaders stir row over 'Buddhist' Chinese New Year
As Indonesia and other countries with Chinese diasporas welcome the Year of the Snake, some Islamic leaders have ignited a religious row by declaring the celebrations “haram” and off limits for Muslims. After decades of repression under the dictatorship of Suharto, who rose to power after a bloody purge of communists and Chinese in the late 1960s, Chinese-Indonesians are now accepted in mainstream society of the largely Muslim nation.
Lunar New Year is also now a public holiday in Indonesia, where it is known as “Imlek”.
But a local leader of the country’s top Muslim clerical body has declared the celebration “haram” (forbidden), saying its rituals are tied up with Buddhist practices, particularly those that take place in temples.
“We cannot separate religion from culture, so we’re being cautious,” Zainal Arifin, head of the Indonesian Ulema Council in the city of Solo, told news agency AFP. “And if it’s part of a religious ritual, we must not celebrate it. It’s the same case with Christmas and other religious celebrations.”
The hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said clerics would spread the message to Muslims through mosque loudspeakers, and warn Chinese-Indonesians not to invite Muslims to celebrations.
Posted on 02/10/2013 6:08 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax