12/24/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA - ISLAM

Banda Aceh, Islamic extremists prohibit New Year celebrations

Mathias Hariyadi
A popular hotel in the province of Aceh has canceled a special evening of dance and concerts because of fundamentalist threats. Governor and police responsible for enforcing Islamic norms, including a ban on drinking alcohol. Concerts and dances "on any other day of the year", but not a "Christian holiday".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Due to the massive protest campaign launched by extremist Islamic groups in recent days, the management of Hermes Palace - a multi-starred hotels in Banda Aceh - have canceled plans for New Year's Eve. The celebrations for the last day of the year were planned some time ago, but the pressure from fundamentalist movements in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia where Shariah , or Islamic law is in vigor, has led to the evening's cancellation for safety reasons and public order. Moreover, the Ulema Advisory Council of Banda Aceh (MPU) has called on the Muslim community not to "celebrate" Christmas and New Year because "they are not Islamic holidays".

Octowandi , general manager of the hotel, confirmed the suspension of the dances and the concert scheduled for the evening, despite the event being a showcase for local entertainers, according to organizers, so that they could take advantage of free publicity and gain a wider and international audience.

The decision came after a meeting with Islamic leaders, who have proclaimed themselves the "guardians of Sharia law in Aceh ." The hotel managers were forced to publish a written document confirming the cancellation of all the events planned for the evening, including music and dance. The hotel, however, can organize similar events in any one evening in 2014 , but not New Year's Eve because it "does not come from the Islamic calendar , but comes from the Christian tradition".

The fundamentalist movements also promise raids and punishment for those who organize parties or celebrations for the last night of the year. The governor of Aceh and the police chief have been placed in charge of enforcing Islamic norms , such as the ban on alcohol, the explosion of fireworks and other things that are not inherent to the Muslim culture

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Increasingly however, it has become the scene of attacks or episodes of intolerance against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or belong to other faiths.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province where Sharia (Islamic law) is enforced, following a peace agreement between the central government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Yet, in many other areas of the country, a more radical and extreme vision of Islam is spreading among ordinary Indonesians.

Certain rules such as the infamous building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian) have been used to prevent the construction of Christian places of worship or stop construction already underway, as was the case for the Yasmin Church in West Java.

Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful represent 3.6 per cent of the population.

Catholics are nevertheless an active component of society and have contributed to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last January's devastating flood.

Although the country's constitution recognises religious freedom, Catholics have been the victims of violence and abuse.

 

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