20 March 2018
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  • > South East Asia
  •    - Brunei
  •    - Cambodia
  •    - East Timor
  •    - Indonesia
  •    - Laos
  •    - Malaysia
  •    - Myanmar
  •    - Philippines
  •    - Singapore
  •    - Thailand
  •    - Vietnam
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • » 02/06/2013, 00.00


    Moderate Muslims and Islamists clash over Chinese New Year

    Mathias Hariyadi

    Controversy surrounds the celebration. For extremists, it is a non-Islamic, Buddhist celebration, and should therefore not be observed. For moderates, it is part of the country's tradition and culture. President Yudhoyono is criticised for failing to protect minorities and stopping fundamentalism.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A few days before Chinese New Year, known as 'Imlek' in Indonesia, moderate and extremist Muslims are embroiled in a row over the celebration. For the former, there is nothing more natural than to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which begins this Friday and marks the start of the Year of the Snake. For the latter, the event can only lead people astray, and as a Buddhist celebration, it is un-Islamic and should be banned. For most Indonesians however, it is a "great celebration," a family affair when schools, offices and businesses are closed.

    The controversy began when some radical Muslim clerics in Solo and Surakarta, central Java, made public statements against the observance, first among them, Zainal Arifin, head of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in Surakarta. In his view, Imlek is unworthy of celebration because "it is not Islamic, but Buddhist." Many other radical Muslim clerics share his view, and are planning a campaign against feast days that are not part of the Islamic tradition.

    Moderate Muslim leaders disagree. For them, it is "both legitimate and understandable" that Muslims may want to mark the start of the Year of the Snake. In Indonesia at least, the event does not have only religious connotations but is a major cultural event with dances, songs and shows, like 'barongsai', the dragon dance. In fact, for Kiai Hajj Abdul Muhaimin, president of Yogyakarta's Interfaith Forum, Muslims can celebrate Imlek.

    Conversely, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under criticism for failing to protect minority cultures as part of the country's heritage. For many years in fact, Indonesia's Chinese community had not been allowed to celebrate their New Year.

    In 1967, General Suharto issued a decree banning all Chinese cultural practices in the country following the death of seven top military officers on 30 September 1965, which was pinned the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). For decades thereafter, anything that was Chinese (objects, celebrations or events) was outlawed, including Imlek (AKA Sin Cia, Chinese day in Indonesian).

    In 2000, the late reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid (AKA Gus Dur) lifted the ban and allowed Chinese-Indonesians to celebrate openly their traditions.

    Since then, many Indonesians began studying traditional Chinese dances, like the dragon dance, as well as Mandarin.

    For the past three years, Imlek has been a national holiday.

    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    05/03/2018 17:57:00 INDONESIA
    Chinese community celebrates Cap Go Meh in Singkawang (photos)

    Every year, during the festival, the city hosts lively and colourful parades, famous throughout the country. On the celebration’s eve a great parade of red lanterns takes place. The next day, the Tatung parade is held, with people possessed by gods or supernatural spirits called Lauya.

    25/01/2017 13:47:00 INDONESIA
    In Central Java, the Solo Imlek Festival or Chinese New Year promotes "unity in diversity"

    Unlike the city of Semarang, the Solo Imlek Festival in Surakarta has not sparked criticism from radical Muslim groups. It includes dance performances, food stands, fashion shows and exhibits.

    23/01/2017 13:26:00 INDONESIA
    Semarang: after Muslim protests, pork festival changes name

    The traditional event held in the city by the Chinese community was renamed "Imlek Festival", the local nickname for the Lunar New Year. The agreement is the result of a meeting between the Islamic forum, which originally wanted to cancel the event, and its coordinator.

    09/03/2010 INDONESIA
    Three die in anti-terror raid, one masterminded Bali massacre
    Security forces carry out an operation in the Pamulang area, on the outskirts of the capital. Dulmatin, a terrorist nicknamed “The Genius”, is thought to be among them. Trained in Afghanistan, he was active throughout South-East Asia. The Indonesian government toughens its anti-terror campaign a few days before an official visit by Barak Obama. Hard-line Muslims attack the US leader, not a true friend of Islam.

    29/11/2011 INDONESIA
    Java: Muslims and Catholics marching together to promote good "jihad"
    A national demonstration from Surabaya to Jakarta organized by the Islamic movement Nahdlatul Ulama has crossed the country to combat radicalization of Islam and revive pluralism.

    Editor's choices

    Syrian Trappist nuns say Western powers and factional media fuel war propaganda

    In a written appeal, the religious systematically take apart the version of the conflict touted by governments, NGOs and international news organizations. In Ghouta east, jihadists attack the capital and use civilians as human shields. The Syrian government and people have a duty to defend themselves from external attacks. The conflict alone has undermined the coexistence between Christians and Muslims in the country.

    Xinjiang, crosses, domes, statues destroyed: the new 'Sinicized' Cultural Revolution

    Bernardo Cervellera

    Crosses removed from the domes and the tympanum of Yining Church as well as external decorations and crosses, and the Way of the Cross within the church. The same happened at the churches of Manas and Hutubi. The Cross represents "a foreign religious infiltration ". Prayer services forbidden even in private houses under the threat of arrests and re-education. Children and young people forbidden to enter churches. Religious revival frightens the Party.


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSSRSS channel 


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®