Muslims against Chinese pig food festival in Semarang because it is haram
by Mathias Hariyadi

Muslim student groups and Islamic organisations slam the event, want its cancellation. They demand respect for the "religious" feelings of the Muslim community. However, the event has been celebrated for years by the city’s large Chinese community without causing any problems.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Muslim student groups and members of moderate Indonesia Islamic organisations are protesting against a "pig food festival", the only one in the country, in Semarang, Central Java.

The culinary event is associated with the Lunar New Year and is promoted by local Chinese, who represent one of the city’s important communities.

Local Muslim movements mobilised today, calling for the cancellation of the festival dedicated to the pig, an animal deemed impure and haram (prohibited) in Islam. They claim that the initiative, even if it is gastronomical in nature, ends up "promoting" intolerance.

The groups leading the protest, which include the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, and the Indonesian Islamic Students (HMI), went to police headquarters in Semarang to express their displeasure and demand the festival’s cancellation. 

The representatives of the Muslim groups asked police, which have the power to stop the event, to:

- cancel the pig food festival because it could spark intolerance since eating pork is banned among Muslims;

- remind city residents to respect the "religious" feelings of its Muslim residents;

- stop issuing permits for events that can potentially promote intolerance in the city.

Local sources point out that the festival, dedicated to the pig, has been celebrated on the eve of Chinese New Year in shopping malls in Semarang for several years without causing incidents or protests.

Protest broke out only this year as part of a rising tide of intolerance and persecution against non-Muslim Indonesians. Some recent controversial episodes evince this trend.

In one case, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja ‘Ahok’ Purnama, a Christian, has been put on trial for alleged blasphemy.

Another involves a public servant in Bantul, forcibly reassigned from his job because some Muslim extremists did not like the idea of a Catholic holding office in a predominantly Muslim district.

More recently, indigenous Dayak in West Kalimantan prevented a radical Islamic leader with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) from getting off the plane that had flown him to the district.

Festival coordinator Firdaus Ali Nugroho noted that this year’s festival is set to last longer, from 23 to 29 January, and that everyone is invited to taste pork dishes, except Muslims who should stay away to avoid confrontations and protests.