Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Indonesia, Christmas spirit confined to its malls

Malls in Jakarta are decked to the halls this holiday season.

The massive rotunda at one central shopping mall boasts a giant snow globe containing the North Pole. Another has taken an Indonesian twist on Christmas by dressing jolly white-bearded Santas in stripes and conical hats and placing them in rice fields. Yet another Jakarta mall recently captured an award from the Indonesian Museum of Records for building Asia’s largest Lego Santa.

Almost all of the city’s commercial malls, of which there are many, have piped in Christmas music. In the evenings, they have choirs that sing about the birth of Jesus.

But the spirit of Christmas appears confined to Jakarta’s commercial spaces, a reality made all the more stark after hundreds of fanatical Muslims forced a group of Christians from the seven homes where they were worshipping last Sunday.

The mob were mostly supporters of a small group of extremists called the Islamic Defenders Front, which has gained notoriety for its thug-like tactics that include raids on bars and threats to celebrities they accuse of debasing Islam.

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