News / Asia

Chinese Indonesians, Muslims Ring in the New Year

Indonesian ethnic Chinese children pray at a temple in the China Town in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 7, 2012.
Indonesian ethnic Chinese children pray at a temple in the China Town in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 7, 2012.
Kate Lamb
For Indonesians of Chinese descent, the freedom to practice their cultural traditions is still relatively new.  However, in the main cities across Indonesia, towns were painted red to mark the Chinese New Year. But not all Chinese Indonesians say they can practice their beliefs openly.

The Islamic call to prayer is not what you would typically associate with Chinese New Year. But for a small population of Chinese Indonesians, the Year of the Snake was celebrated in Islamic style at the mosque.

“This is my first time celebrating Chinese New Year in a mosque," said 27-year-old Cung Li Ha. "Because I just turned mulaaf, or I just declared myself into a Muslim just last year, September this year.”

As part of Indonesia’s Chinese minority, her choice of religion makes her somewhat of an anomaly in the Muslim-majority nation.

Of Indonesia’s population of 240 million, about nine million are diasporic Chinese - most are adherents of Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism.  Very few have converted to Islam.

Cung LiCung Li
x
Cung Li
Cung Li
Cung Li says there are still big challenges. This morning, for example, she had to lie to her family about where she was going. “It’s very difficult because most Chinese families still cannot accept that their children or their families change into a Muslim they are usually more open to Christianity,” Cung stated.

During the three decades of the Suharto dictatorship, the language and cultural traditions of Chinese Indonesians was suppressed.

For the past decade, Chinese Indonesians have freely celebrated Imlek, the local word for Chinese New Year, with elaborate festivities.

In Jakarta, huge Chinese dragons hang suspended from the shopping malls and in the temples dotted around the city, thousands of prayers are whispered over incense sticks.

But the Muslim Chinese are less flamboyant.

Within the Chinese Indonesian community there is a perception that Muslim Chinese have forfeited their heritage and are no longer Chinese.

However, those at Jakarta’s Lautze Mosque beg to differ.

Ali Karim was raised a Chinese Muslim and says it is important to differentiate tradition from religion.

Karim says that most Chinese Indonesians believe that Imlek is not a religious ceremony, but rather something like New Year’s Eve. Culture, he says, is not the same as religion.

Lautze Mosque is the only mosque in the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta that is distinctly Chinese.

Rather than a traditional domed roof skirted by turrets, crimson lanterns hang above the arched entranceway.

Inside, ancient Chinese calligraphy - the words of the Prophet Mohammed - hang on the walls, and the mecca-print prayer rugs are bright red.

Forty Six-year-old Mudhi Astuti says she feels at home at Lautze Mosque, even though she is not Chinese. “When I come to Lautze it is like my home. Frankly speaking this is not only a unique mosque, our heart is here because when many Chinese friends come here and be a mulaaf and everyone has no family anymore, no job, no money," Astuti stated. "Not only do we love together, but we cry together.”

Mudhi says that of the roughly 1,000 Chinese who have converted to Islam at the Lautze mosque, most have been rejected by their families.

Some even leave their partners and children to follow Islam.

But time heals, she says, and sometimes after several years they re-establish good relationships with their families.

It is a delicate challenge that the newly converted Cung Li is still trying to navigate with her family.

She says she worries they might not accept her new religion but, so far, the New Year celebrations are not that different.  “I guess it is the same thing, I just didn’t go and say and prayer and chanting to the table full on the ancestors names. It’s just I didn’t do that and I try not to eat pork," Cung explained. "But I still eat the cake that my mum made and the noodles but the other than that I tried not to touch anything.”

In this new year of the water snake, Cung Li she hopes to build the courage to tell her parents she has converted to Islam.

Even though, she admits, they probably already know.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid