By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (ANS) -- Indonesia's top Islamic clerical body has warned the country's 200 million-plus Muslims not to attend Christmas celebrations or even wish Christians a "Merry Christmas', maintaining that to do so remains forbidden under local Islamic law.
Indonesian children singing Christmas carols wearing Santa costumes in Jakarta
Mohabat News (www.mohabatnews.com) says that according to a news report by UCA News, Ma'ruf Amin, head of the Fatwa Division of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), a government funded organization, has reminded Muslims of a ban on celebrating Christmas imposed under a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1981.
"Wishing a 'Merry Christmas' is still not right," he said. "It would be better if (Muslims) say 'Happy New Year. It is sufficient for Muslims to show their tolerance towards Christmas by allowing Christians to celebrate peacefully.
He added, "(Muslims) must maintain tolerance and harmony."
Zuhairi Misrawi, a Muslim leader from Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization which falls under the umbrella of MUI, said that not all Muslims would accept this blanket ban on Christmas.
"Islam is like a wide and deep blue sea, and MUI's religious edict is only a flow of water. There are many other flows of water," he said.
Theopilus Bela, secretary general of the Indonesian Committee of Religions for Peace, said that MUI had a history of issuing fatwas which demonstrate a lack of religious tolerance.
"I hope Muslims, the majority group, won't be affected by MUI's remarks," he said.