Semarang: after Muslim protests, pork festival changes name
by Mathias Hariyadi

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.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Organisers of the ‘Pork festival’ have decided to change the event’s name to placate radical and non-radical Muslim groups who had lodged a complaint with police demanding its cancellation.

The famous festival, which is held every year in Semarang (Central Java), will no longer use the name of the animal, which is considered unclean in Islam, but will be called ‘Imlek Festival’, the popular local nickname for the Chinese New Year.

This year's Lunar New Year falls on 28 January. The festival dedicated to the pig, a quaint and traditional event in Semarang, home to an important Chinese community, opened today and will end on 29 January.

Recently, members of Muslim student groups and moderate Islamic organisations protested calling for the event’s cancellation.

Although the festival is about food, protesters see it as "promoting" intolerance between people and as offensive to Muslims who consider pigs as ‘haram’, prohibited.

In reality, the pork festival has been taking place in Semarang for quite some time in conjunction with the Chinese New Year in the city’s shopping malls. Local sources add that it "has never caused an incident or protest."

Festival coordinator Firdaus Adinegoro confirmed the change of name following pressures from FUIS, a forum of Semarang Islamic groups.

In an official statement, he said that the event had a new name, thus avoiding its cancellation. "During the meeting with FUIS, pressure was exerted to cancel the event,” he said. “After some discussion, we agreed to change the name."