06/17/2015, 00.00
INDONESIA - ISLAM
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Indonesian Ulema against sale of food and drink on the street during Ramadan

by Mathias Hariyadi
For radical Islamists shops should must be left closed in the holy month of fasting and prayer. Non-Muslims, warns Mui leader, should respect the feelings and the dictates of Islam. Minister for Religious Affairs, believes "there is no reason" to close shops.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A new battle is underway between moderate Muslims and the powerful Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), regarding whether to keep open - or close – street food vendors during Ramadan.

The Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer has always been a source of conflict and tension in the archipelago, with the opposing factions - moderate and radical - at odds on whether to extend that the rules imposed by religion to non-Muslims.

Those involved in the dispute include the Minister for Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, in favor of opening kiosks; on the other the president of Mui Din Syamsuddin, enraged by the minister’s statement that non-Muslims do not have to observe fasting, so  "there is no reason" to close the stalls from dawn to dusk.

When the majority of people (Muslims) observe the fast, warns the Mui leader, even minorities "should show respect" and conform to the practice. "And if food retailers operate with impunity while the majority is fasting - he adds - that means a lack of respect."

Among the many, there is the example given by the Mayor of Banda Aceh Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal who maintains that food vendors have decided to stop the activity during Ramadan, and this "makes Aceh different from other cities of ' Indonesia ". The provincial government of Aceh has also issued a ban, which prohibits the exhibition of food and beverages from 6 am to 4 pm to "respect Muslims' fasting.

The Minister's counters that Muslims must respect the freedom of the faithful of other religions that are not subject to the practice of fasting. And this form of respect and freedom, he adds, should be even stronger and more pronounced in a holy month such as Ramadan which begins June 18 and ends on 30 July.

For now the governorship of Jakarta, according to spokesman Djarot Syaiful Hidayat, excludes the closure of restaurant business and street kiosks, reviving the image of multicultural and diverse Indonesian capital, home to millions of people from all over the world .

In recent years, the Indonesian authorities have repeatedly succumbed to pressure from the MUI, which plays a role of "observer" of manners and morals in the archipelago. In Aceh region where the radical Islamic rule, women can not wear tight jeans or skirts. In March 2011, the MUI lashed out at the flag-raising "because Muhammad never did it", and previously even launched anathemas against the popular social network Facebook as "amoral", against yoga, smoking and the right to vote, for women in particular.

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