An Islamic group named the Surakarta City Sharia Council (DSKS) in the city of Surakarta (also known as Solo) in Central Java says they plan to protest a particular public facility that they argue resembles the symbol of another religion.
Late last year, construction was completed on new pavement in front of Surakarta City Hall, which features some decorative paving elements. Recently, an aerial shot of the new pavement went viral, showing that a part of it resembles a cross (as seen above).
DSKS yesterday announced that they would stage a protest at City Hall today demanding an explanation for the design choice.
"We demand that the construction done [in the city] does not create a polemic," DSKS Spokesperson Endro Sudarsono said yesterday, as quoted by Tempo (likely unaware of the irony of that demand).
The issue became so overblown that the Surakarta city administration held a meeting today with DSKS and other religious authorities in the city, including those from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest clerical body in the country.
It's not yet known if the protest will go ahead after the meeting, but Surakarta's Deputy Mayor Achmad Purnomo didn't even sit through to the end as he said he had "another activity" to attend to.
Previously, MUI urged Muslims not to take part in the protest because they believe the government had no intention to side with any particular religion in their choice of pavement.
"Whoever saw it that way deliberately messed [with the interpretation]. The four points are actually of equal length, it just appears that one side is longer because of the red road median and water barrier. People should look at it from all angles," MUI Surakarta Chairman Subari said at a press conference on Wednesday, as quoted by Solopos.
And then Subari raised a pretty good point: if this was some elaborate conspiracy, then why put the cross – a sacred symbol in Christianity – on the ground? "This is on the road and it's stepped on," he said.
Furthermore, public works officials in Surakarta said the design was actually inspired by Mataram Islamic philosophy. The "cross" is supposed to point in the direction of the four cardinal directions with four more points between them pointing toward the four intercardinal directions, which are supposed to symbolize the many paths in life, while the straight path leading up to the intersection is supposed to represent the one true path of Allah.
At any rate, even if the protest goes ahead today, there are reportedly only going to be around 100 protesters in attendance.