Indonesia’s Chinese Muslims prepare for Eid

RELIGIONS NEWS AGENCY (REDNA) – Millions of Muslims across Indonesia, including some of its ethnic Chinese minority, are preparing for Lebaran, as Indonesians call Eid, the festival that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Aljazeera reported about 87 percent of Indonesia’s more than 270 million people are Muslim and while most of the nearly 3 million ethnic Chinese – according to its 2010 census – are Buddhist or Christian, others have become Muslim.

Muslims around the world are expected to mark Eid on April 10 this year.

Johanes Herlijanto, the co-founder and chairman of the Indonesian Sinology Forum (FSI), said estimating the number of Chinese Indonesian Muslims was “very difficult” as “the number of ethnic Chinese people as a whole was still a matter of debate”, referring to the differing figures between experts.

Johanes said they were “a diverse community” with varying commitments to their religion.

“We will find people who practise religion strictly, for example, wearing Islamic clothing. There are even religious leaders among them,” he said.

“We will also find people who do not really emphasise their religious identity, so they are not too different from ethnic Chinese society in general.”

Agni Malagina, an independent researcher focusing on the Chinese Indonesian community, said people suspected Chinese who became Muslim often let go of their cultural identity, but she said that was not necessarily true.

“Many still know their roots and do not hesitate to admit their Chinese identity,” she told Al Jazeera.

Agni, who previously taught sinology at Universitas Indonesia, said the community’s acculturation process was “dynamic” and that interethnic marriage was “the most common” way Chinese became Muslim, although Indonesia’s marriage law does not explicitly require non-Muslims to convert to get married.

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