For another year running, Islamic clerics have raised a ruckus about the question of whether Muslims can wish others a “Merry Christmas” or celebrate the holiday.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), ostensibly the country’s highest Islamic authority, said on Wednesday that the question was “still up for debate,” and urged Muslims to refrain from making any mention of Christmas.
“It’s better if they don’t [say ‘Merry Christmas’],” Ma’ruf Amin, the MUI chairman, said in Jakarta.
“It’s still up for debate whether it’s halal or haram , so better steer clear of it. But you can say ‘Happy New Year.’ ”
He also called on Muslims not to attend any Christmas parties or celebrations, saying that such a move would certainly be considered haram, or forbidden in Islam.
“The MUI has issued an edict forbidding Muslims from attending such rituals, because they are religious in nature. It would be haram for any Muslims to take part,” Ma’ruf said.
The MUI’s edicts carry no legal authority whatsoever.
The MUI and conservative clerics have made it their own December tradition to raise the matter each year, and have in the past even taken issue with Christmas decorations being put up at shopping malls.
Other more authoritative figures, however, say the conservatives are making much ado about nothing.
Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-biggest Islamic organization, previously said that he routinely wished his Christian friends a merry Christmas.
“If it’s just a matter of the greeting, that’s not forbidden,” he said.
Ma’ruf said that while he would still recommend that Muslims not say “Merry Christmas,” they should still respect the holiday and the right of Christians to celebrate it, in the spirit of religious tolerance.
“We hope that all Muslims will respect the celebration of Christmas and help to keep the peace [at churches] during the occasion,” he said.
However, one Christian congregation that will almost likely celebrate the holiday outside its rightful church for yet another year running is the GKI Yasmin congregation in Bogor.
The group has been locked out of its church since 2010, when the Bogor administration claimed that church officials had falsified the signatures on the petition required to get a building permit.
Despite a Supreme Court ruling ordering the city to reopen the church, the authorities have refused to allow the congregation to worship.