chapter  10
Cosmopolitan Islam and inclusive Chineseness: Chinese-style Mosques in Indonesia
ByHEW WAI-WENG
Pages 22

As Khan (2008: 52) has pointed out, ‘the mosque is Islam’s most emblematic building, as well as, an expression of collective identity’. Through Chinese-style mosques, Chinese Muslim leaders in Indonesia declare that there can be a Chinese way of being Muslim and that converting to Islam does not mean giving up Chinese cultural traditions. After the collapse of Suharto’s New Order regime (1965-98), at least five Chinese-style mosques have been built across Indonesia, reflecting the return of Chinese cultural symbols into public spaces, as well as the reassertion of tolerance of Indonesian Islam. Such mosques always adopt the architecture of mosques common in mainland China, yet these are also reconfigured within Indonesia’s local contexts. This choice can be seen as a manifestation of ongoing negotiations between transnational imagination and local configuration aimed at creating a distinctive ‘Indonesian Chinese Muslim’ cultural expression. As argued by Appadurai (1996) and Gupta and Ferguson (1992), identity

formation in contemporary societies is not only situated within boundaries of a territorial space, but also configured across and in-between spaces. It is both informed by the interaction between locally specific practices of selfhood and the dynamics of global positioning (Friedman 1994). Studying the Pakistani Muslims in Manchester, UK, Werbner (2002) examines the complex and interconnected relations between transnational flows and local forces; and suggests that there are multiple transnational orientations within such local communities. In this contribution, I explore the spatial dynamics of Chinese Muslim identity practices through three dimensions. First, I investigate the transnational connection to Muslims in mainland China and in the Middle East; second, the translocal linkage of Chinese Muslims from different parts in Indonesia; third, the local adaption of their identities. To a certain extent, through Chinese-style mosques, Chinese Muslim leaders creatively express and claim their connections to the ‘diasporic Chinese’, ‘Islamic ummah’ and Indonesian society, to manifest their unique identity. This chapter also discusses both the symbolic and operational dimensions of

Chinese-style mosques in Indonesia, dedicating particular attention to the Cheng Hoo mosques in Surabaya and Palembang, and thus argue that such mosques are a form of ethno-religious expression, as well as a local cosmopolitan space.1