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Leaders in Indonesia warn that over advertising Christmas in Indonesia could cause jealousy, and bring forth anger from other groups

12/23/2010 Indonesia
(Reuters) – Opulent Christmas decorations at shopping malls in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, could incite anger among non-Christians, the country’s highest Islamic authority said on Thursday.

Although 90 percent of the country’s 240 million people are Muslim, the capital’s myriad glitzy malls have been decorated with Christmas lights and bunting — including faux snow, Santas and nativity scenes.

“Christmas describes a certain religion, and if the religion advertises it too overtly — even though they have only a small number of followers — it will cause jealousy and anger from other groups,” said Ma’ruf Amin, of Indonesia’s Ulema Council.

Retailers say the giant Christmas trees, paper mache reindeers and carols serve no religious purpose and are there to attract more shoppers during the holiday seasons.

But Amin said over-the-top festivities could hurt existing tolerance.

“You can attract buyers without using religious symbols,” he told Reuters. “Even the majority (Muslims) celebrate their big days modestly. How come a few followers who have plenty of money celebrate it the other way?”

Indonesia’s Muslims are overwhelmingly moderate, but analysts say hardliners are becoming increasingly vocal, creating tensions that if not managed, could spark the sort of religious violence last seen over a decade ago.

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