CAIRO - Chinese New Year celebrations are inviting a new controversy among Muslim scholars in Indonesia, with some opposing the festival as running against Islamic teachings, while others see it a tradition rather than a religious event.
The celebration contains portions of Buddhism spiritual teachings and it is therefore prohibited for any Muslims to participate, Zainal Arifin Adnan, chief of Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) in Surakarta, central Java, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, February 5.
The best attitude for a Muslim toward this event is to ignore it.
In all corners of the world, especially in countries with large Chinese populations, the Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.
In China, it is also known as the 'Spring Festival'
The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions.
The Chinese community in Indonesia will mark the start of the New Year 2564 on Sunday, February 10.
Observed with much joy and happiness, Chinese communities in different Indonesian states routinely hold Chinese Week, where a series of cultural and social events such as Barongsai (lion dance) parades and a Chinese culinary festival take place.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.
Chinese Indonesians, previously known as the Indonesian Chinese, are Indonesian descended from various Chinese ethnic groups, particularly Han.
Indonesia's 2010 census reported more than 8.8 million self-identified ethnic Chinese: 3.7 percent of the country's population.
But other Muslim scholars see the celebrations of the Chinese New Year as traditional rather than a religious event.
The celebration is part of the Chinese people's way of welcoming spring, which is usually perceived as the best time of the year, Mohammad Dian Nafi of the al-Muayyad Islamic boarding school in Kartasura, told The Jakarta Post.
Thus it has nothing to do with religion and of course Muslims can join in the festivities, strengthening social relations with our ethnic Chinese brothers and sisters.
Kiai Haji Masurur Ahmad, a teacher of Islam from Al-Qodir Islamic boarding school, agrees.
Imlek or Chinese New Year is a tradition, he said.
It has become a tradition just as Muslim people celebrate the coming of Hijriah or Islamic New Year; the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad or Isra' Miraj; and the commemoration of Prophet Muhammad's birthday or Maulid Nabi.
Ahmad opines that without compromising their faith or Islamic principles, Indonesian Muslims are free to take part in the celebration.
It is not forbidden for Muslim people to celebrate it as long as the celebration does not compromise on aqidah (basic principles of Islamic teaching) or Shari`ah, he noted.
It's a cultural event in which everyone can participate and celebrate, he said.Imlek is a tradition of Chinese communities and it has nothing to do with religion.