Idul Fitri Celebrations

Oct 1st, 2008, in Opinion, by

Ross rails against the minister of religion over dictating what date Eid Al Fitr celebrations should be on.

Dictating Dates

I had barely finished sending seasonal smses to Muslim friends and associates on Idul Fitri morning when my mildly ecumenical impulse was short-circuited. The spark came from the morning news, reporting another piece of abject arrogance on the part of this increasingly authoritarian regime we live under.

It is a rare day indeed when I have any hint of empathy for Hizbut Tahrir, but to learn that they were being threatened, by Maftuh Basyuni, the Minister for Religious Affairs, for “illegally” celebrating idul Fitri on a different day from that which the minister and his clerical cronies had stipulated, was just too much.

Who do these people think they are? Half the Muslim world, so far as I know, held their festivities 24 hours apart from the other half.

Big deal! I imagine God appreciates all devotions offered in good faith by those who believe in Him, and I have a hunch calendars are not much in evidence in Heaven. Why then should a political appointee in Jakarta feel entitled to brow-beat HT (though there are plenty of real reasons to brow-beat that group if anyone here had the guts to do so) for daring to differ from the Islamic establishment? There is in fact no good reason at all, nor did the Minister proffer any, so once again let us try to read between the lines.

This government has hammered religious freedom, both by intent (Ahmadiyah’s suspension) and by neglect ( the continuing blind-eye – with rare exceptions – to FPI terror-gangsterism.)

Is this latest bullying outburst some twisted way of pretending even-handed firmness?— ‘We can freeze a legitimate peaceful sect but we can also talk tough to a well-known band of fanatics.’

Pull the other one, Minister. Or better still do the best thing you could do for Indonesia, and resign, with an appendix to your letter of resignation suggesting that the absurd department you currently head should be wound up and a whole host of time-wasting bureaucrats be redeployed to useful work elsewhere…like maybe formulating a strategy for taking over the company which is still dragging its heels on compensation for the mud-flow victims? Now that would be a spiritually-uplifting move!

15 Comments on “Idul Fitri Celebrations”

  1. Rob says:


    You are not really surprised. This happens pretty much every year. This was just a good excuse for you to vent your frustrations, right? Some might call it a rant 😀

    Nice point on the idea of nationalizing the companies connected to the mudflow in Sidoarjo and ensuring that the victims are properly compensated. Now, that would be spiritually uplifting.

  2. Hedi says:

    Indonesia is quite weird for this religious thing. Government or people who have power in beloved country always seem to handle any religions and faiths as a political tools. What a pity, heh?

  3. Peter says:

    One reason for such an action might have been that debates about the date of Idul Fitri can get a little heated, so having one group celebrate it apart from everyone else might cause some sort of conflict. But you didn’t give enough information about this “incident” in your post for anyone to really comment well on this.

    *Yawn* selamat pagi

  4. djoko says:

    One reason for such an action might have been that debates about the date of Idul Fitri can get a little heated, so having one group celebrate it apart from everyone else might cause some sort of conflict. But you didn’t give enough information about this “incident” in your post for anyone to really comment well on this.

    This is the main reason why the government (through the MUI and Depag, serving their originally intended purpose of providing a central reference point for all Muslims regardless of their organisational affiliations) sets an ‘official’ date for lebaran/idul fitri. The actual Islamic ruling on it is if it is already idul fitri then it is haram to fast, so people who continue fasting on a day which is declared by others as idul fitri are (at least in the minds of the group which are celebrating idul fitri) committing a great sin. Back in the day this is the kind of thing which could have NU and Muhammadiyah physically attacking each other, and even though today it usually just involves a verbal lashing (my wife’s family are split between the two, so the previous two lebarans were quite interesting, with the Muhammadiyah set coming around on the day that Muhammadiyah had declared to be idul fitri and giving the other half a bit of a lecture on how it was haram to be fasting), it still generates tension.

    Ironically the conflict between HT and Depag here is a conflict over precisely the same concept: “ukhwah islamiyyah”, or the unity of the Islamic community. I can wager a guess that HT are probably celebrating idul fitri on the same day as the Saudis, because it being the center of the Islamic world (according to the HT world view), which differs from the day Depag has determined based on its own calculations according to the movements of the moon as visible from the Indonesian archipelago. HT demands that the entire Islamic world, regardless of geographical location, be unified in determining the day of idul fitri and so they follow the Saudis, where as Depag is focusing more on the “ukhwah” of the (extremely fractured) Indonesian Muslim community.

  5. Lairedion says:

    I’m happy this annual display of hypocrisy is over again. Everybody has apologized to each other (some with wiping tears) and now we can get back to normal by committing sins until the next Lebaran. 🙂

    Djoko’s explanation says it all. Within the three desert religions there will be always root for conflict. Too bad they drag the rest of the world into their silly yet destructive arguments.

  6. Andy says:

    This is not the first or last time this will happen. Ironic that in the fourth largest country and the largest islamic country that they cant just get their heads together and work something out mmm maybe a week or two before it all happens. Sounds simple but look at your maps and see where we are talking about.

  7. Ross says:

    My post was simply my reaction to the absurdity of a regime that seeks to tell people how they may observe their religion.
    If the MUI don’t like Muslims celebrating Idul Fitri on a day they don’t approve, then the ulemas concerned can give their local faithful a hard time in the next sermon – a government minister warning of ‘illegality’ is just silly.
    Imagine if I were in the UK or Canada and wanted to celebrate Christmas on the 12th of July! My neighbours might look at me askance, but a reputation for eccentricity would be the worst punishment I’d endure.
    More seriously, don’t Orthodox Christians actually celebrate Christmas a week or two later than the rest, owing to the difference between Gregorian and Julian Calendars? Nobody picks on London’s Greek-Cypriots for that practice, nor do the North American or Antipodean Christian majorities expect their governments to hassle Bulgarian, Romanian or Serb communities for such obervances. it’s a religious thing, up to individuals and their priests and pastors, not some bureaucrat.

    Having said that, as I watched the misery of the trains and buses and other jam-packed mudik journeys, it occurred to me that if, say, 30 or 40% of Muslims here chose to enjoy Eid a week or so later than the rest, like those I saw on TVOne news on Sunday teatime, in Lombok, the congestion would be alleviated immensely, but that is just the musing of a man who was happy to stay in town when the only street that appeared to be busy was good old Jalan Jaksa!

  8. Jeames says:

    What’s “good” about Jalan Jaksa?

  9. Rob says:


    If you are in J-town why don’t you go down and have a look for yourself.

    Then you can give the rest of us a detailed account of your views on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    The good for me is that there is pretty good food at a number of places along the street at very affordable prices. For example there is some really good sate kambing grilled in a pepper sauce.

    It is too bad that the Ya ‘Udah cafe had to up and move, as there was always good food there, including pork (for those who can eat the haram meat).

    Jalan Jaksa has its pluses and minuses just like any other street in the Big Durian.


    The idea of staggered departures and arrivals from and to Jakarta is an interesting thought. Perhaps Idul Fitri can be celebrated on the same day but not every one gets to go home to the kampung at the same time.

    Maybe you should explore that idea in a separate post 😀

  10. timdog says:


    like those I saw on TVOne news on Sunday teatime, in Lombok

    I know those people:
    Afraid to tell you they also celebrate the “Real” Idul Fitri at the same time as everyone else.

    Jeamese – what exactly is “bad” about Jl Jaksa (that being your obvious inference).

    Rob – is Ya Udah still in existence in a new location? (it was a good place). The new Malaysian-style place further up the road is not bad…

  11. Rob says:


    If I am not mistaken, the new incarnation of Ya ‘Udah has opened up in Kelapa Gading. Somewhere on the Boulevard. I think I have the address somewhere. If I track it down I will post it.

  12. Andy says:

    Ya Udah was one of my favourite places. Fantastic food and very cold beer. Was a place I used to stop for lunch before chugging down 8 or so Bintangs. What a shame it had to move but Kelapa Gading is also a good spot albeit a bit far from the heart of the city.

  13. Ross says:

    Well, thank you, Timdog. I’m confused about the Lombok double Id. Please tell us more. Do they prefer their extra date and have the official date activity only because they are required to?
    As you say, Rob, I did need an outlet, having been quiet for a while, and a ‘rant’ is therapeutic now and then, even a ‘rail,’ which was how my post was introduced. Rants and rails might also serve to lure Achmad out of his present festive torpor in Wollongong or wherever….
    Two good possible tangents -about the idea of staggering mudik journeys, and yet another Jaksa debate…that should keep people busy till the current trials (Munir and the FPI) conclude, when I fear I may be induced to rant and rail some more.
    Actually, I went down Jaksa thrice during the holiday week, and Achmad is not entirely wrong; it can be an unpredictable, even dodgy, place after dark, but never boring.

  14. timdog says:

    Whether the Bayan people “prefer” their extra date is something they would never answer. They have, as I explained in the comment piece I linked to, made a very, very distinct separation between their “religion” and their “adat”. What you saw on TV was the second, “adat” ceremony, and if you ask them they will tell you with a straight face that it has nothing to do with religion.
    Although this all might be rather disingenuous, I do think it’s a remarkably cunning way to preserve their traditions. They were forced to become “proper” Muslims (or whatever – a few totally unIslamised Sasaks became Buddhist) during the paranoia post-1965 (they had been wrongly labelled “atheist” – ie potentially Communist). However, they seem very much to have kept many of their pre-existing paractices intact by re-designating them as “adat”…

    To be honest, they are not partcularly devout when it comes to “proper” Islam. There’s not much formal praying; there’s plenty of drinking, and they don’t really fast during Ramadan (though they’ll claim to fast around 9 days of the month). But if you ask they will be adamant that they are Muslims – real Muslims – and as such that all the things real Muslims do are very important to them…

    Incidentally, their “religion” and adat ceremonies are held at seperate mosques: the adat ceremonies that you saw are held at the old mosque. This has never been used for formal prayers, mainly because it stands on a hilltop and had no easily accesible water for washing, so when the people “converted” in the 1960s a new mosque with suitable facilities was built. Ironically, that the old mosque was not coverted, or “tainted” probably played a significant part in allowing the separation and preservation of old ways…

  15. Rob says:


    You have been here long enough to know that Jaksa is unpredictable, sometimes dodgy, and never boring. I don’t know that it makes any difference whether the sun is up or down with regards to the three things mentioned previously.

    Looking forward to the next rant and rail.

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