JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said Monday that they will take action against groups that use violence to enforce an edict from the country's leading Islamic body forbidding Muslims from wearing Christmas attire.
National police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said the edict is not a law in Indonesia and that he has reprimanded police who circulated leaflets based on the edict from the Indonesian Ulema Council.
Karnavian's remarks came after reports that members of the Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group, went to shopping malls in Surabaya, East Java province's capital, to remind businesses not to require Muslim employees to wear Christmas attire such as Santa hats. They were accompanied by about 200 police officers.
Surabaya police chief Col. Muhammad Iqbal said they escorted the group in order to prevent any violence.
"Although it is a peaceful action, we keep guard to anticipate undesired things," Iqbal said Sunday. "They are not allowed to go inside because the malls are public areas."
The Ulema Council issued an edict on Wednesday forbidding the use of non-Muslim attire such as Santa hats and called on companies to guarantee the rights of Muslims to practice their religion in accordance with their beliefs.
Muslim-majority Indonesia recognizes six religions and has a large Christian minority. Christmas decorations are commonplace in shopping malls and offices during the festive season.
Karnavian said Islamic groups can use social media to promote understanding of the edict.
The Islamic Defenders Front was behind protests in the past two months against Jakarta's minority Christian governor, who is on trial for blasphemy. A Nov. 4 protest in Jakarta, the capital, that attracted at least 100,000 people turned violent, with one death and dozens of police and protesters injured.