Islamic group gets Independence Day banner pulled over ‘cross’ design

An Indonesian Independence Day banner in Karanganyar Regency, Central Java. Photo: Instagram
An Indonesian Independence Day banner in Karanganyar Regency, Central Java. Photo: Instagram

In yet another episode of Indonesians getting needlessly triggered over religious symbols, an Islamic group in Karanganyar regency, Central Java filed a complaint to the local administration over its dubious claim that a banner celebrating Indonesia’s upcoming Independence Day featured a cross-like design element.

The design of the banner was released nationally by the central government to celebrate Indonesia’s 75th anniversary on Aug. 17. The design features white abstract boxes, which represent nationalistic values, that were stacked on one side of the banner against the red backdrop.

A conservative Islamic group named the Karanganyar Islamic People Alliance (AUIK) protested the fact that some of the stacked boxes may resemble a Christian cross and demanded the local administration to take down banners with the design.

You really gotta squint to see the cross, so let us help you out here:

“The people of Islam must be vigilant towards covert attempts at Christianization through symbols of the cross in public places,” AUIK leader Fadhlun Ali said. 

The local administration reportedly caved in to the group’s demand and has instructed for all banners with the so-called cross to be replaced with ones featuring alternate designs.

Similarly, an Islamic group in nearby Solo also protested the design, but the city administration said that it did not use the design in banners and other decorative elements for Independence Day to begin with.

The central government has denied that it was trying to turn people into Christians through subliminal means with the design. Presidential spokesperson Ali Mochtar Ngabalin — himself associated with Islamist movements in Indonesia before he joined the administration — did not mince his words when criticizing the backlash against the design.

“So if there’s a road crossing near your home, are you going to say that’s a cross too? Then don’t walk on it if you think it’s a cross,” Ngabalin said today on a live YouTube video.

Well, he’s not wrong there. Last year, an Islamic group in Solo made a huge fuss over decorative road pavings, which they said resembled a cross. It was later revealed that the paving design was inspired by Islamic philosophy.

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