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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid