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Muslim Council Calls Indonesian Christmas Decorations Excessive

Visitors look at Christmas decorations displayed at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia,10 Dec 2010.

Indonesia's highest Islamic authority is urging shopping malls to tone down what it calls "excessive" Christmas decorations, saying they are likely to offend the nation's Muslim majority.

The Indonesia Ulema Council said Thursday it has even received complaints from Muslim mall employees who have been forced against their will to wear Santa Claus suits.

Muhyidiin Junaidi, one of the council's chairmen, said he understood that the malls were motivated by commercial, not religious considerations. Many establishment are festooned with giant Christmas trees, paper mache reindeers and Santa Clauses.

But Junaidi said the excessive displays could hurt the feelings of Muslims, who do not celebrate Christmas. He said the council does not plan to issue an edict, but urged mall managers to be more sensitive.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 234 million people are Muslims, constituting the world's largest Muslim population. Most practice a moderate form of Islam that is tolerant of other religions.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.