Chinese Indonesians were not allowed to celebrate Chinese New Year during the reign of Suharto, just one part of his regime’s attempt to repress Chinese culture to force assimilation. But, since CNY was declared a national holiday in 2002 by then President Megawati Soekarnoputri, celebrations have become widely accepted (as anybody who has been to a Jakarta mall decked out in red and gold during CNY can attest).
However, there are those who still think that CNY should not be celebrated by all – such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) of Bogor.
The city’s local chapter of the nation’s highest clerical body officially urged Muslims not to attend the “Cap Go Meh 2017” festival (Cap Go Meh being a celebration of the 15th and last day of the CNY season) being held in Bogor this Saturday.
MUI Bogor head Adam Ibrahim, in a statement, explained that the activities of the festival often coincided with the Muslim times of prayer. He said that he would ask the government and organizers of the festival to change the timing of events so that they would not interfere with prayer times.
While Ibrahim said he respected Chinese people and their beliefs, he said they were not meant for Muslims.
“I just appeal to Muslims to not follow activities that are identical to Chinese beliefs,” he said in Bogor today as quoted by BeritaSatu.
Ibrahim said MUI Bogor had not made similar statements about the Cap Go Meh festival in the past, but decided to this year after seeing many Muslims enjoying the festival in the afternoon and evening and forgetting about their prayers.
“It’s my responsibility [to tell this] to the Muslims of Bogor. If there are people who want to participate, go ahead. The most important thing is, I have reminded you, “he said.
Bogor Mayor Bima Arya thanked MUI Bogor for their statement and reiterating the importance of prayer time. He said he was coordinating with the festival’s organizers to change the timing of their events to not interfere with those times.
Bima acknowledged that the festival was cultural and not religious in nature, and said it soon as a symbol of Bogor’s diversity and pluralism.