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Playful 'takjil war' showcases tolerance in Indonesia during Ramadan

ABC News - April 9, 2024

Natasya Salim and Erwin Renaldi – This Ramadan felt different for Kusmanadi, who opens a stall each year in Jakarta to sell grilled chicken snacks to those breaking their fast during the holy month.

It wasn't just Muslims who were interested in his offerings.

"This year the crowd is bigger and more diverse," Kusmanadi, who only has one name, told the ABC. "And the non-Muslims are also hunting for takjil."

That hunt grew on social media, and became part of what ended up being known as the "takjil war".

Don't worry – there's no violence or weapons in this conflict. Instead it's a playful competition for the coveted snacks, between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Takjil is a term used by Muslims for food that breaks their fast during Ramadan.

Each country has its own typical takjil, but in Indonesia they are mostly traditional snacks and foods such as kolak (coconut milk compote), agar-agar (jelly), kurma (dates), onde-onde (mung bean sesame balls) and klepon (pandan glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar).

"So even though it's Ramadan at the moment and the ones fasting are Muslims, the non-Muslims are also hunting," Kusmanadi said. "Even the non-Muslims, they also waited and got ready as they were excited about takjil war."

Kusmanadi, a Muslim, said the trend had boosted his sales. "I'm ... also happy that non-Muslims are participating," he said. "I think this is a good thing. It's very Indonesian."

'We didn't feel excluded'

Videos depicting the trend have circulated on social media showing both Muslims and non-Muslims queuing up for traditional snacks.

Parody content of non-Muslims wearing Muslim attire and sellers quizzing them about the foundational six pillars of Islam have also emerged.

Social media content makers Jeanne Natalie Putri and Yoren, who only has one name, posted about hunting for takjil for the first time this year. It led to a flood of positive responses.

"Truly as non-Muslims we didn't feel excluded at all ... They included us very much," Ms Putri said. "And they [the followers] were happy that we helped small traders."

Their followers even encouraged them to hunt suhoor, the pre-fasting meal that Muslims eat before fasting for the day. "We went for our first-ever suhoor, went out at dawn ... which we've never done before," Ms Yoren said.

Ms Putri said the takjil and the food sold during suhoor were good. "It was something – a new discovery," she said.

Trend sparked by sermon

The so-called takjil war started when Pastor Marcel Saerang of Tiberias Church in Jakarta made a joke during a regular Christian sermon about hunting takjil.

It was recorded by a member of his congregation and went viral on TikTok. "Our religion is tolerant, but when it comes to takjil, we have to be first," the pastor joked.

Pastor Saerang, who has more than 271,000 followers on Instagram, is famous for sermons that focus on topics relevant to the young. The clip of the sermon now has about 23.8 million views.

"Thank God the response was beautiful, sweet and amazing," he told the ABC. "Out of millions of comments there, all were supportive ... so many witty comments and very soothing."

Pastor Saerang said the takjil war showed "tolerance on the next level" in Indonesia, where religious freedom has been written into the constitution.

"Many people only understand tolerance as being respectful and letting others [practice]," he said.

"But with the takjil war, we are actually levelling up ... We support and also become a part of a religious ceremony of our brothers and sisters whichever their religion is."

The social media phenomenon had also led to him becoming friends with an Islamic scholar and internet personality, he said.

"I think that's the real Indonesia," he said. "I really hope this relationship lasts because we, the religious leaders, can have a beautiful relationship, let alone the congregation. It will even be more beautiful."

Social media showcases diverse identities

Social media expert Ika Idris said even though it just became a trend this year, many non-Muslims had long enjoyed takjil.

"It's like during Chinese New Year; a lot of Muslims and other believers also watch the lion dance and are excited about it," she said.

"Normally, religious expression is bound by religious rules, but social-media platforms also create a space to express diverse identities."

Ms Idris said Indonesians, especially in the 2019 election, "were polarised" over religion. "People are freer to express themselves [across religious lines] now," she said.

Yoren agreed tolerance had improved. "They [the Muslims] were happy to share Ramadan," she said. "This shows that Ramadan can be celebrated by all religions."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-09/takjil-war-brings-religions-together-during-ramadan-in-indonesia/10368458