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Jakarta Post

Foreign embassies party early to avoid clash with Ramadhan

  • Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, May 31, 2016   /  09:24 am
Foreign embassies party early to avoid clash with Ramadhan US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake (right), Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (left) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker Zulkifli Hasan (second left) cut a cake to mark the anniversary of the 239th US Independence Day at the ambassador's residence in Jakarta on June 4, 2015. The celebration was held a month ahead of July 4 so as not to disrupt the Ramadhan fasting month, starting later this month, when people will be busier with breaking-the-fast events and prayers. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Out of respect for Muslims in the country who are expected to start observing the holy month of Ramadhan next week, a number of foreign embassies in Jakarta have moved forward the dates for the celebration of their national days.

The British and Russian embassies are expected to hold their national holiday celebrations this week, while the US embassy staged a very early Fourth of July celebration last week.

For British embassies across the world, changing the date for celebrating their national day, the Queen’s Birthday, is never a problem as they are given a certain level of flexibility in choosing the most appropriate date, a spokesperson from the embassy said.

Embassy staff who observe the Ramadhan fasting ritual are also given flexible work options, said James Mortimer, the embassy’s head of media and communications.

“In Jakarta we felt that holding it on the date chosen would be most appropriate, as it is close to the official celebrations in the UK, which take place on Saturday, and it was before Ramadhan, which would allow more people to attend,” Mortimer told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The British Ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, is one of many Muslims at the embassy who will observe the fast.

The Queen’s Birthday celebration in Jakarta has been moved to Wednesday, a few days before the official date observed by the Commonwealth, on a Saturday in June, as require by UK customs.

Queen Elizabeth II, the current British monarch, celebrated her real 90th birthday on April 21, more than 63 years since she assumed the Royal crown.

Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy will also celebrate its national day on Wednesday, moving it forward from June 12, a date that falls in the second week of Ramadhan.

Russia also decided to bring forward the celebration for a more practical reason.

“In Ramadhan it will be very difficult to get people [together because] everyone will be gone — as you know, there will be no people in Jakarta,” Russian Embassy spokesman Nikolay Karapetyan said, referring to the annual exodus of Muslims to their hometowns.

The Russian national holiday has been celebrated annually on June 12 since 1992, commemorating the adoption of the declaration of state sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake decided to hold the celebration of this year’s Fourth of July in late May to avoid clashing with the month of fasting.

“It is mainly out of respect for Ramadhan, and we’re one in 18 or 19 countries or more that have moved their July 4 celebrations around because of the holy month of Ramadhan,” the US Embassy’s press attaché for Indonesia, John Johnson, told the Post.

Coincidentally, it will be ambassador Blake’s last Ramadhan in Indonesia, as he is set to return to the US in July to conclude his duty in the country.

Before leaving, Blake is scheduled to attend a number of iftar (breaking-of-the-fast) meals throughout the month, Johnson said.

In Indonesia, iftar meals are a popular social event during Ramadhan.

“This year’s celebration is particularly meaningful to me as it will also be my last as a representative of the US government,” ambassador Blake said in his remarks during the nation’s 240th independence day celebrations last week.      

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