Indonesian Islamists issue stern warning to Muslims not to participate in Christmas celebrations

(Photo: Wikimedia/Gunawan Kartapranata)Thousands of Indonesian Muslims congregrate during the Eid ul Fitr mass prayer in Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, located in Central Jakarta, Indonesia.

While Indonesia's Christian community is preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Islamic fundamentalists are forbidding Muslims not to wear Christmas symbols or even exchange Christmas greetings with friends or colleagues.

The controversy has been a point of conflict even among Muslims in the country. Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's foremost moderate Muslim organisation, argues that there is nothing unlawful in greeting Christians 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.'

But Islamic hardliners in Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim nation, beg to differ. According to AsiaNews.it, "[after] the province of Aceh, the only one in which Sharia law is implemented, a radical vision of faith is on the increase in other parts of Indonesia ... as is the intention to introduce legislation or regulations relating to customs derived from Islamic law."

Just this month, dozens of Islamic extremists in the Sukaharjo District attacked three shopping centres in Solo because the shops were selling and promoting Christmas-related items.

The group forced the shop owners and managers not to allow Muslim employees to wear clothing or items related to the Christian celebration, AsiaNews reports. Moreover, the Islamic fundamentalists prohibited the display of any Christian item, even for commercial purposes, by the retailers.

Extremist movements also staged a protest in response to the decision of Jakarta's new governor, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, to put up a Christmas tree in the city hall.

Meanwhile, a Muslim leader has called on Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo not to take part in any Christian festivities and to ensure that "celebrations be low-key to not disturb the sensibility of Muslims." Widodo had previously announced that he would travel to Papua to take part in the province's national Christmas celebration.

In the province of Aceh, prohibitions to celebrate Christmas are law. The mayor of Banda Aceh has issued a municipal regulation that expressly forbids Muslims to participate in any event and Christmas service in the area.

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