Lifestyle & Belief

Indonesian clerics vs. Santa Claus


An Indonesian child receives candy from a man dressed as Santa Claus in Jakarta on December 25, 2011.



Another Christmas season, another year of hand wringing for Muslim-majority Indonesia's arbiters of piety.

As the Jakarta Globe reports, Indonesia's top Islamic rule-making body (the Indonesia Ulema Council) is again warning Muslims to forego all Christmas "rituals".

In other words, don't plop your kid down on Santa's lap at the mall. And don't even say "Merry Christmas," the clerics warn -- it's a slippery slope towards religious impurity.

Those who've never experienced Christmas in Asia may wonder why clerics would feel compelled to issue such a warning in the first place.

But in malls across Asia -- in Shanghai, Buddhist Bangkok and even Muslim-majority cities such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur -- shoppers are deluged with cheesy carols piped through intercoms. And Christmas trees. And neon wreaths and, occasionally, a plump Asian dude waving to tots in a Saint Nick suit.

Directly participating in much of that, the clerics say, is "haram" or forbidden for Muslims.

As for "Merry Christmas"?

“It’s still up for debate whether it’s halal or haram, so better steer clear of it," the council's chairman tells the Jakarta Globe. "But you can say ‘Happy New Year.’ ”