Last year, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest Muslim clerical body, released a fatwa saying it was forbidden for any Muslims to wear “attributes” of any non-Muslim holidays or for business to force their Muslim employees to wear them (the “attributes” the fatwa refers to are, in reality, almost always the Santa Claus hats that become ubiquitous in Indonesian malls and shops around Christmas).
Predictably, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) took it upon themselves to enforce the non-legally binding fatwa by conducting raids (or sweeps as they’re often referred to in the local press) on stores. In some instance they were even escorted by the police in their sweeps while other times they were blocked by law enforcers:
Government officials ranging from Tito Karnavian, the head of the National Police, to Wiranto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, have warned that no sweeping by vigilante groups would be tolerated this year.
Of course, FPI is ignoring those warning and said they’re going to go sweeping once again this year should the need arise.
“If (there are cases of Muslims being forced to use Christmas attributes) that have been reported but not followed up, then yes (we would sweep) we would not want Muslims to be forced,” said FPI Jakarta leader Muhsin Alatas in an SMS to CNN Indonesia today.
Specifically, Muhsin said they would act if there were reports of employees complaining about being forced to use Christmas attributes that were then ignored by the police.
Muhsin said that FPI along with other Islamic organizations would then meet with any swept company’s owner to make them sign a statement pledging not to force their Muslim employees to use the non-Muslim holiday attributes.
The Jakarta FPI head was careful to say that while they would accept complaints from the public, they would not act on them directly but would instead direct them to the police to take action. If the police didn’t act on that information, then he said FPI along with other Islamic organizations would take the matter into their own hands.
“So the police must follow up on community reports so that the people are happy and proud,” Muhsin said.
MUI did remind the public about its anti-Christmas attributes fatwa this year and reminded employers not to make their employees wear them. But it had also issued warnings to moral vigilante groups like FPI not to conduct sweeps. We’ll see if they follow MUI’s warning, or if they will disobey it to enforce their fatwa.