Religious affairs minister urges people to respect Christmas

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin has urged Indonesians to respect Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, who celebrate Christmas.

"We must respect them with regard to their Christmas celebration. We must respect it as it is their faith. We must respect as other religious followers also respect us when Muslims commemorate their religious feasts," he said here on Monday.

He reminded people that Indonesia was a nation encompassing people of many religions, including Christians who celebrate Christmas on December 25.

This religious diversity must be supported by a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.

Commenting on certain actions by mass organizations against Christmas, Lukman said such action should have been avoided.

He said if people found something inappropriate, they should report the problem to the authorities and not take the law into their own hands.

The Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) recently delivered an edict (fatwa) prohibiting Muslims from wearing non-Muslim attributes.

"Wearing non-Muslim religious attributes is against the religious law," MUIs head of fatwa affairs Hasanuddin said in a fatwa publication received here last Wednesday.

He said that, of late, there has been a phenomenon of hotels, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, and other businesses asking their Muslim employees to wear non-Muslim religious attributes to highlight religious events.

Company managements should assure Muslim employees that they can attire themselves according to their religious convictions and not force them to wear non-Muslim religious attributes, he said.

He said orders or requests for Muslims to wear non-Muslim attributes are also against the Islamic law.

He hoped that the government would protect Muslims to carry out their religious obligations faithfully.

"The government must prevent, supervise, and act against those issuing a regulation forcing Muslims employees to act against their religion, such as forcing them to wear non-Muslim religious attributes," he stated.

He appealed to Muslims to choose businesses that are good and in compliance with their religion and not produce, give, or sell non-Muslim attributes.

At the same time, he called on all Muslims to preserve inter-religious harmony.

Muslims must respect followers of other religions and their freedom to carry out their rites without having to recognize the truth of their theology, he said.(*)