Report – By Nurdin Hasan in Banda Aceh
Muslim residents of the capital of Indonesia’s province of Aceh may have to roll back their New Year’s festivities this year.
“Christmas greetings by Muslim are clearly haram, because they’re a kind of acknowledgment,” says Abdul Karim Syeikh, head of Banda Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council (MPU), an official body that advises the local government on Islamic affairs.
The council issued a fatwa on November 12 banning both Christmas and New Year’s greetings and celebrations for Muslims in the provincial capital. The council’s rulings are not legally binding but they do hold a strong sway in the conservative province — the only in Indonesia to enforce Shariah law.
The edict, like those issued by other Islamic authorities in Indonesia, is not legally biding and acts to serve as a suggestion for Indonesian Muslims.
Nationwide, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) issued a fatwa against Christmas celebrations in 1981. The issue has attracted controversy in pluralistic Indonesia, where select religious holidays from all six recognised religions are public holidays.
In Banda Aceh, New Year’s is typically a time of celebration. Residents take to the streets, blowing trumpets and setting off fireworks before the start of the next year.
But this year, the streets may look different. The MPU has called for the government to shut down public New Year’s parties, including those held in cafes, hotels and entertainment venues.
“[Christian] New Year celebrations are not in Islamic teachings, as we have our own new year to celebrate: Hijriyah new year, which is celebrated on the first day of Muharram,” Karim said.
The Christian world began recognising January 1 as the first day of the year several centuries ago, but it has since become a worldwide day of secular festivities.
Karim said non-Muslims could celebrate Christmas and New Year, but that they should do so in a way that maintained good relations with the Muslim residents of Banda Aceh.
“This is matter of Islamic teaching, not about tolerance,” he told the Jakarta Globe.
“We say, ‘oakum dinukum waliyadin’ [for you, your religion; for me, my religion].”
He said Muslims and non-Muslims get along well in the semi-autonomous province.
Nurdin Hasan is a Jakarta Globe reporter. This article was first published in the Globe.