From the Sunday Times dated 10 Feb 2013
Indonesia Islam leaders stir row over Chinese New Year
JAKARTA (AFP) - As Indonesia and other countries with Chinese diasporas welcome the Year of the Snake, some Islamic leaders have ignited a religious row by declaring the celebrations “haram” and off limits for Muslims.
Firstly, note the once again "Chinese diaspora" in SE Asia, the all too common term that is highly exaggerated. It is not like that the Chinese were oppressed by an invading force and were forced out of their lands. They came here (to SE Asia) because of the good life the region offered during the 19th Century.
They migrated to seek work, while some others tried to escape the hard life in mainland China itself. If there's any persecution during the "diaspora" period (that is you could call it "diaspora" in the first place), it was the Chinese themselves who persecuted fellow Chinese. Hardly a description of diaspora, unlike many ethnic races driven from their homelands even till today.
Secondly, note that the declaration by some Islamic leaders is for Muslims, not non-Muslims. So why this scaremongering Islamophobic news, as if to continue the imaginary "diaspora" that is being handed down on the Indonesian Chinese.
After decades of repression under the dictatorship of Suharto, who rose to power after a bloody purge of communists and Chinese in the late 1960s, Chinese-Indonesians are now accepted in mainstream society of the largely Muslim nation.
Interesting play of words to mischievously taint Islam. A bloody purge of communists and Chinese? Wait a minute. The Brits did that to the commies in Malaysia too. It wasn't described as a bloody purge. It was given a name. The Malayan Emergency.
So while a Muslim leader (Suharto) did exactly the same as what the Brits did to the commies, the Muslim leader was described to have purged the commies in a bloody fashion, while the Brits handled it as a national emergency. Note the term "bloody purge". Not so cool and a dastardly play of words to spread Islamophobia and hate against Muslims, portraying them as persecuting the Chinese. Right on the first day of the New Year too!
In any case, here's what I wrote about how the Brits tackled the commies in the 1950s and 1960s. (Singapore's history of turbulence nothing compared to Malaysia's - The Malayan Emergency)
The Islamophobic article continues....
Lunar New Year is also now a public holiday in Indonesia, where it is known as “Imlek”.
But a local leader of the country’s top Muslim clerical body has declared the celebration “haram” (forbidden), saying its rituals are tied up with Buddhist practices, particularly those that take place in temples.
“We cannot separate religion from culture, so we’re being cautious,” Zainal Arifin, head of the Indonesian Ulema Council in the city of Solo, told AFP.
“And if it’s part of a religious ritual, we must not celebrate it. It’s the same case with Christmas and other religious celebrations.”
The hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said clerics would spread the message to Muslims through mosque loudspeakers, and warn Chinese-Indonesians not to invite Muslims to celebrations.
But ethnic Chinese leaders say such comments about a traditional festival are illogical and a sign of outdated thinking in some Islamic organisations.
“Chinese New Year is not a religious celebration and it’s especially not a Buddhist celebration,” said Andrew Susanto, president of the Chinese-Indonesian Youth Association.
He said marking the Lunar New Year was no different to celebrating the new year in other cultures.
“I don’t think that’s what most Indonesians think,” he said, adding the festivities have over time become an Indonesian tradition.
Despite the cleric’s comments, a Javanese-style Lunar New Year celebration was held in Solo last week, with thousands joining a procession akin to those commemorating Islamic holidays.
Local monks released 888 songbirds and catfish – eight being a lucky Chinese number – and distributed cakes to the jovial crowd.
Chinese-Indonesians make up around nine million of the nation’s 240 million people, most practising Christianity, Buddhism or Confucianism.
Suharto, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for more than three decades until 1998, banned Chinese languages and symbols, and forced Chinese-Indonesians to change their names.
His rule began after an anti-Communist purge in 1965-1966, in which at least 500,000 people considered communists or sympathisers – many Chinese – were killed and others tortured. Rights activists say two million perished.
Again, note the stress many Chinese were killed. The issue was COMMUNISM. Communists were targeted. It so happens that most of the commies were Chinese.
As for the 2 million figure, it is about time that honest and logical reporting replaces emotive and false claims. 2 million is not a small number. So where are the mass graves and bodies of these 2 million Chinese who were killed?
This scaremongering episode of trying to paint that Indonesia is out to kill Chinese is played over and over. It was also reported in the 1990s that Chinese girls were allegedly raped by men of the indigenous races during the Indonesian riots. The riots were due to the high rising prices of staple food. Villagers who could not afford the rising costs attacked shops and businesses. It was an economic social issue.
But the dishonest press, filled with Islamophobia up to the brim, portrayed it as a race riot where Indonesians of the indigenous races attacked the Chinese because they were Chinese. Furthermore, fake rape photos of dark skinned men raping fair skinned Chinese girls were posted in the internet to inflame the situation further. It turned out that the fake photos were lifted from a Japanese porn site.
Such was (and still is) the vindictiveness of some parties to portray Islam and Muslims in bad light in this region.
Abdurrahman Wahid, an Islamic religious leader and politician who became the first elected president after Suharto stepped down, lifted the ban on Chinese culture in 2000, allowing ethnic Chinese to once again openly celebrate Lunar New Year.
Suharto was stemming communism. It so happens that the commies were mainly Chinese. Granted, he could have lifted the ban around early 1990s, noting the fall of communism and the Eastern bloc. But in the end, it was lifted anyway.
The writer of the article quotes an incident that is more than a decade outdated, then alludes that outdated scenario to a call by a cleric today, which affects Muslims and not non-Muslims. Such a convoluted construction only betrays the Islamophobia the writer tries to inject into readers.
Here is the rest of the Islamophobic article.
In Glodok – Jakarta’s Chinatown which was reduced to rubble in the 1998 riots at the end of Suharto’s rule – two Muslim women wearing headscarves soaked up the atmosphere, as vendors sold traditional red money envelopes and cobra oil to mark the Year of the Snake.
“I’m Muslim, so I don’t myself take part in celebrations,” said one of the women, Widi Astudi, 37, as she visited a Buddhist temple Friday.“But Indonesia is a tolerant country, and the Chinese here are Indonesians, so there’s no harm in visiting the temples and appreciating how they celebrate.”
In a time of festivity, where a major ethnic group, the Chinese, are supposed to be celebrating, this article is mischievously crafted to create a wedge between the ethnic Chinese and indigenous races of Indonesia. At the same time, the article is laced with Islmophobia all over from beginning to end.
Note that the Straits Times swallowed the whole propaganda hook, line and sinker.