» 02/06/2013, 00.00
Moderate Muslims and Islamists clash over Chinese New Year
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jakarta, moderate Muslims against 300 Islamic extremist websites: block them
Nahdlatul Ulama leaders support the government struggle, which last year blocked jihadist and fundamentalist sites. They promote "false teachings" of Islam and incite attacks in the country. Criticism from activists: block is not the "best solution" to halt the extremist drift.
Liu Xiaobo: a torch that enlightens human civilization
The testimony of the great nonviolent dissident is the highest contribution to humanity in the last (sterile) 500 years of Chinese history. A priest from North China offers an elegy in memory of Liu (and his wife).
AsiaNews IS ALSO A MONTHLY!
AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.