Jakarta (ANTARA) - Mosques in Indonesia generally follow the orthodoxy of Islamic architecture, replete with onion-shaped domes with star-and-crescent pinnacle and towers, but a mosque in Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta, does not follow this pattern.

Lautze Mosque, established in 1991 and officiated by then-Minister of Science and Technology BJ Habibie in 1994, can be considered unusual for Indonesian mosques in terms of the architecture.

The mosque adheres to the Chinese architecture style, complete with Chinese ornaments and lanterns, and a distinctive red and yellow facade welcomes worshippers to the mosque.

On entering the Lautze Mosque, worshippers will find an Arabic calligraphy, measuring 15x20 metres drawn in Chinese calligraphy style, adorning the foyer of the mosque, with its letters written in black ink over a bare white medium.

“Most of (the calligraphies at this mosque) are made by a Chinese Muslim in Shenzhen (China), (which I bought) when I went there,” according to Ali Karim Oei, chairperson of the Haji Karim Oei Foundation, which is the institution managing the mosque.

The mosque is also adorned with bright colours typical of Chinese architecture, with each one having its own meaning.

The red colour for the praying area signifies luck, happiness, and abundance, while yellow at the mosque sides symbolizes loyalty and purity, and green for the mosque’s pillars indicates peace and is also the typical colour of Islam.

The mosque has four stories, with the ground floor used for the men’s praying area. Meanwhile, the second floor is the women’s praying area, which would be opened to male worshippers, who will flock to the mosque for every Friday Prayer.

The mosque’s third floor accommodates a simple kitchen to serve the mosque’s management or for visitors attending the Quran learning session organized at the mosque. The fourth floor is used as the mosque management office, archives room, and religious consultation centre.

Apart from its unusual architecture, the mosque also has unusual operational hours. While mosques are generally expected to open for all five mandatory prayers from early morning to late night, Lautze mosque is open only for two prayers in the afternoon.

With regard to this peculiarity, Ali said that the mosque decided to follow the office hours of most of its worshippers, as no member of the limited mosque management lives at the mosque.

“Moreover, because of its proximity to business centres and offices, most of the congregations are at home (outside office hours),” Ali, who is also known by the Chinese name Oei Tek Lie, stated.

How the mosque got its name

Ali Karim Oei said that the road where the mosque is located is its namesake. The complete address of the mosque is Lautze Road No. 88-89, Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta.

He also explained that it was decided to give it a Chinese rather than an Islamic name in order to invite the Chinese community keen to learn about Islam or just visit the mosque and prevent them from feeling alienated.

“We want to proselytize (our faith) among the Chinese community, as they are our target. If (the mosque) uses Islamic names, how they would be attracted? Finally, we decided to use the Lautze Road name for our mosque,” Ali remarked.

Ali said that Lautze is the name of an ancient Chinese philosopher -- Laozi -- who taught Taoism in ancient times. Laozi taught that “God is one, but it cannot be seen; it has no form, but it exists,” he added.

Considering the particular stance consistent with the Islamic tenet of Tawhid (Oneness of God), the mosque management agreed to use the Lautze name to reflect the Haji Karim Oei Foundation’s vision and mission for the Chinese and Islamic communities.

The foundation's chairperson also said that the mosque’s Chinese architecture style, making it similar to a Chinese worship place, aims to make newly-converted Muslims from the Chinese community feel welcomed, as they could learn the religion that embraced their culture.

Ali also recounted that during the mosque’s early years, he determined to establish the mosque without a dedicated foundation institution for the mosque.

He was reluctant to do so over concerns that others would perceive the mosque and the foundation as family-owned, which is contrary to his resolve to make the mosque open and accessible to all sections of society.

Through encouragement from national Muslim organizations, such as Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, and Al-Washliyah, Ali agreed to establish a foundation to manage the mosque, though his only condition was that representatives of those Muslim organizations participate in the foundation.

How the mosque views Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the day to celebrate the beginning of the new year in the lunisolar Chinese traditional calendar. It has been the most essential cultural celebration for the Chinese community worldwide, including in Indonesia.

Despite Lautze Mosque being founded by members of the Chinese community, the mosque does not organize a particular event to celebrate the day.

“We are keen to prevent the perception that Chinese Muslims have three main holidays,” Naga Kunadi, also known by his Chinese Name Qiu Xuelong, a member of the mosque management, stated.

Kunadi’s “three main holidays” statement referred to the notion that it is enough for Muslims to celebrate only two Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Despite not celebrating the Chinese New Year, the mosque management decided to organize a Quran recitation session to commemorate the day, which this year fell on Sunday (January 22).

The mosque also serves special menus for worshippers coming for the Sunday congregation, he stated.

“We have lontong cap gomeh, noodles, and others. It is different than other days,” Kunadi, who converted to Islam in 2002, stated.

The Quran reading session is also a medium for Chinese Muslims to reunite and interact with family members or colleagues, whom they seldom meet, due to personal business matters and living at different places.

The Chinese Muslims at Lautze Mosque are not celebrating the Chinese New Year in ways that the general Chinese community celebrates it, but they acknowledge the day will hold a significant place in their hearts.

Accepting Islam does not mean that they must relinquish everything that belongs to their culture and customs that they have lived for so long.

They continue to live in peace and harmony with other members of their family and the Chinese community at large despite now following a different faith.

The stance regarding the Chinese New Year adopted by Chinese Muslims at the Lautze Mosque can also teach us about togetherness, affection, and mutual respect.

Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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