Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Dozens of Islamic extremists in the Sukaharjo District have attacked three shopping centers in Solo, better known as Surakarta in Central Java, because they were selling and promoting items, clothing and events related to Christmas. The group has told the owners and managers of commercial activities, not to "force" Muslim employees to wear or use clothing or other items related to the Christian festivity in this high-season shopping period. 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 well, as is the intention to introduce legislation or regulations relating to customs derived from Islamic law.
There are five local hard-line groups behind the raids which took place on the evening of 15 December against the Solo shops that exhibited items relating to Christmas. They are Surakarta's Sharia Council (DSKS), The Islamic Warrior Group of Surakarta (LUIS), Al Ishlah Brigade, the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid and the Jemaah Ansarus Sharia. The Solo Paragon Lifestlye Mall, the Solo Grand Mall and the Luwes Shop in Kartasura were the targets of the "attention" of the promoters of the Islamic morals.
After bursting into the shops, they imposed a ban on the retailers prohibiting them to wear or display any Christmas item, even if for mere commercial reasons.
In recent years it has become common practice in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, to put up Christmas and New Year symbols, also amongst the shopkeepers. The group's spokesman, Endro Sudarsono, said that the three retail business groups have pledged to revue and evaluate their sales policy.
However intimidation on the part of the Islamic hard-liners are not limited to retailers: last week a Muslim leader in Jakarta calling on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo not to take part in any Christmas celebration sponsored by Catholics or Christians. He asks that celebrations be low-key to not disturb the sensibility of Muslims. Meanwhile in Aceh, prohibitions to celebrate Christmas are law: last week the Mayor of Banda Aceh, Illiza Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, issued a municipal regulation that forbids Muslims to join and participate in any event and Christmas service which may be organized in Aceh.