Indonesia bakery refuses to write Merry Christmas on cake, triggering religious row

Bakery Chocolicious Indonesia has attracted controversy for refusing to write a Christmas greeting on a customer's cake.
Bakery Chocolicious Indonesia has attracted controversy for refusing to write a Christmas greeting on a customer's cake. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/@CHOCOLICIOUSINDONESIA

JAKARTA - A bakery in the Indonesian city of Makassar has attracted controversy after it refused a customer's request to write a Christmas greeting on a cake citing "religious principles".

The Chocolicious Indonesia bakery located in the South Sulawesi capital issued a statement on its Instagram account apologising for its move but said customers are given greeting cards and "chocolate boards" where they could input their greetings.

The customer, who was not named had wanted the bakery to write "Selamat hari Natal keluargaku" - Merry Christmas my family - on top of a cake she had ordered, according to Indonesia media.

News of the refusal went viral, with netizens praising or condemning Chocolicious Indonesia on its Instragram account. At 4.30pm Singapore time on Sunday, there were just over 3,400 likes on the account and about 10,000 comments.

In its statement in Bahasa Indonesia, the bakery said: "With all due respect and humbleness. First of all, we would like to offer our deepest regret. We from Chocolicious Indonesia are not yet able to write merry Christmas or other similar expressions.

"This does not mean we do not respect your religion. But with all due respect, this is what we have to practice based on our religious principles.

"Again, we sincerely apologise from the bottom of our heart and the feeling of respect and honour as Indonesians.

"We will still provide greeting cards and chocolate boards as additional services for your order. You are welcome to add your own writing. Again, we wish for your understanding."

"We love you, Chocolovers."

Dengan segala kerendahan hati dan segala hormat. Sebelumnya kami mohon maaf yang sebesar-besarnya. Kami dari Chocolicious Indonesia belum bisa memberikan atau menyediakan tulisan ucapan selamat Natal dan semisalnya. ㅤ Bukan berarti kami tidak menghargai agama mas/mba. Akan tetapi dengan segala hormat inilah yang harus kami jalankan dari prinsip agama kami. Sekali lagi kami mohon maaf dari hati kami yang paling tulus dan rasa saling menghormati dan menghargai sebagai anak bangsa Indonesia. ㅤ Kami tetap menyediakan kartu ucapan dan papan cokelat sebagai kelengkapan pesanan mas/mba. Silakan diberikan ucapan sendiri. Sekali lagi, kami mohon perkenaannya. ㅤ We love you, Chocolovers 😊 ㅤ Hormat kami, Chocolicious Indonesia

A comment left by Siwulani said the matter is a concern as it comes at a time when Indonesia's spirit of tolerance "is hanging in the balance" and Chocolicious' statement could "awaken the sleeping lions".

As Indonesia's Muslims become more conservative, some have cautioned against saying "Merry Christmas" or celebrating the festival.

The Setara Institute, a local human rights research outfit, in February noted that acts of religious intolerance nationwide swelled to 270 last year, up from 236 a year earlier.

Earlier this year, there was hope that Christian-Chinese politician Basuki Tjahaja Purnama would make history as the first double-minority to be elected governor of Jakarta.

But he was defeated by Muslim rival Anies Baswedan in a bitter campaign fraught with sectarian discord and jailed in May for insulting Islam during the campaign.

The Indonesia cake controversy recalled a much-debated issue in the United States regarding a baker in Colorado.

 

Conservative Christian baker Jack Phillips in 2012 politely but firmly told Colorado gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig he would not make them a cake to celebrate their wedding, triggering a chain of events that brought the issue to the US Supreme Court this year.

In the Makassar case, some of the comments left on Chocolicious' Instagram rebuked the shop for putting up pictures of its cakes on Instagram, saying social media was invented by non-Muslims.

"Racist cake," said one poster.

Another, Zakiyaa_al, wrote: "The shop owners had explained politely about their reasons. Please have some respect."