Indonesian police warn Islamists against raids in search of Santa hats

Islamic Defenders Front

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian police appealed on Thursday for tolerance and respect for other people’s religious celebrations after an Islamist group threatened to raid businesses to check for Muslims being forced to wear Santa Claus hats or other Christmas garb.

The hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said this week it would conduct “sweeping operations” in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, and that forcing Muslims to wear Christmas attire was a violation of their human rights.

Indonesia is home to several religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and people who follow traditional beliefs.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion in an officially secular state though tension between followers of different faiths can flare.

“There can be no sweeping operations … members of the public should respect other religions that are carrying out celebrations,” national police chief Tito Karnavian told police during a security exercise in the capital, Jakarta.

The FPI said it aimed to enforce a fatwa, or decree, issued by Indonesia’s Islamic Clerical Council in 2016 prohibiting business owners from forcing employees to wear Christmas clothing.

“We will raid businesses in anticipation of them being stubborn about this and we will be accompanied by police,” said Novel Bakmukmin, head of the FPI’s Jakarta chapter.

Employers forcing staff to wear Christmas clothes were violating their rights.

“Businesses should be aware that there should be no forcing,” he said.

The Islamic Clerical Council’s decrees are not legally binding but serve as guidelines for Indonesian Muslims.

Christmas is widely celebrated across Indonesia and holiday decorations are ubiquitous, especially at shops, restaurants and malls where many enthusiastic workers – even Muslims – don Santa hats or elf costumes.

The FPI built its reputation with raids on restaurants and bars serving alcohol during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

In recent years, it has turned its attention to Christian celebrations.

The group has also said it wants the Jakarta city government to stop sponsoring New Year celebrations, which attract many thousands of people.

About 90,000 police officers will be on duty cross the country during the end-of-year holidays, in an operation largely aimed at preventing militant attacks.

Attacks on churches in Jakarta and elsewhere on Christmas Eve in 2000, killed nearly 20 people. Ever since, authorities have stepped up security at churches and tourist spots for the holiday.

(Reporting by Djohan Widjaya and Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Satanic Temple To Do Holiday Display At Florida Capitol

The Satanic Temple of New York will have a prominent place at the Florida State Capitol building during the Christmas season.

The group will be posting a display for “Festivus”, a fake holiday created on a television sitcom.  The display from the group will be a six foot tall stack of beer cans.

The display had been rejected last year by the Florida Department of Management Services as being “grossly offensive.”  There was no explanation by the group this year why the display was given approval.

A spokesman for the Satanists said the difference was that this year the group showed up with lawyers.

Christian groups say that these outside groups posting displays are not doing it to wish well to residents during the holiday season.

“This is not a religious endorsement by our state government. It’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and we will all be up there,” Pam Olsen of the Florida Prayer Network said. “But are they really putting them up to wish everyone a happy holiday from the atheists and the Satanists, or are they up there to protest baby Jesus?”

Israel On High Alert Over Mutual Holidays

Police and IDF forces across Israel are on high alert Friday because of the possibility of clashes between Jews and Muslims as two major holidays collide on the same day.

Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha overlap for the first time in over 30 years.

Reinforced police units have been deployed in cities that have significant Muslim minorities: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre.  The military has closed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which is usually done during the major Jewish holidays.

Yom Kippur is a major day in Israel where devout Jews ask God to forgive them for their sins.  Almost all businesses close and TV and radio stations usually are off the air.

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha lasts three days and consists of family celebrations and events.

Israeli officials did not say if the increased security will end after Yom Kippur or ocntinue through the end of the Muslim holiday.