Indonesian Muslim cleric warns against over-the-top Christmas
(Photo: Two Indonesian women — the one on the left wearing a Muslim headscarf — pose for a photo in front of a Christmas tree in a shopping mall in Jakarta December 23, 2010/Dadang Tri)
Opulent Christmas decorations at shopping malls in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, could incite anger among non-Christians, the country’s highest Islamic authority said on Thursday. Although 90 percent of the country’s 240 million people are Muslim, the capital’s myriad glitzy malls have been decorated with Christmas lights and bunting — including faux snow, Santas and nativity scenes.
“Christmas describes a certain religion, and if the religion advertises it too overtly — even though they have only a small number of followers — it will cause jealousy and anger from other groups,” said Ma’ruf Amin, of Indonesia’s Ulema Council.
Retailers say the giant Christmas trees, paper mache reindeers and carols serve no religious purpose and are there to attract more shoppers during the holiday seasons. But Amin said over-the-top festivities could hurt existing tolerance.
Debate between moderates and Islamists is growing on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and topics range from whether Muslims can even greet Christians by saying “Merry Christmas,” to the establishment of new places of worship and religious symbols.
Officially secular, Indonesia nevertheless marks Friday as a Christmas public holiday.