Islamic Group Issues Fatwa Against Christmas Decorations in Indonesia

Fireworks explode next to a 38 metre Christmas tree on Christmas day at a shopping center in Jakarta on December 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY / AFP / ADEK BERRY (Photo credit should read ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a religious decree (fatwa) prohibiting the use of Christmas-themed attire or accessories that recall a tradition foreign to Islam.

The fatwa 56/2016 harshly criticized the Christmas atmosphere invading public areas of the country, calling it “a foreign culture with which we must not mingle.”

“Religious images and accessories are used intentionally to show the identity of a certain religion, and represent its tradition and rituals,” said Hasanuddin, the head of the Council that drafted the fatwa. “For this reason, the use of non-Islamic accessories is against the law, as it is asking Muslims to wear them.”

The Islamic leader added that the fatwa had been issued in response to the Christmassy atmosphere spreading all over Indonesia, noting that such an overtly Christian environment “hurts people’s faith very much.”

The ban on Christmas apparel and adornments extends beyond Christian religious symbols such as crèche scenes or depictions of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. According to the new ruling, it is also “haram” (forbidden) to dress up as Santa Claus or to expose other external signs traditionally associated with Christmas.

According to International Christian Concern, an anti-persecution advocacy group, Indonesia is presently suffering from an “increasingly emboldened radical Islamic sub-group that is applying public pressure to adhere to conservative Islamic law.” The group warned that fatwas like this may be used as a reason to attack or discriminate against non-Muslims during Christmas.

On December 15th, a group from the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a car dealership whose employees had been asked to wear Christmas-themed outfits, threatening the owner. The FPI instigates for the imposition of sharia law in the country.

Last month, a mob of 150,000 Muslim protesters staged a major march in the capital city of Jakarta, calling for the death penalty for the capital’s Christian governor.

Along with the Jakarta rally, which resulted in at least one death and multiple injuries, the FPI organized similar large demonstrations in a number of other Indonesian cities on the same day.

The government has mobilized some 155,000 security personnel throughout the country to help protect Christians during the Christmas season.

The MUI has asked the Muslim community not to “mix” foreign, Christian traditions with the Islamic faith. They have barred the faithful from selling or buying Christmas items, or wearing any sort of Christmas apparel.

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