Translocal and Cosmopolitan Islam: Chinese-style Mosques in Indonesia and Malaysia

Since 2000, at least ten Chinese-style mosques have been built in Malaysia and Indonesia. What are the translocal connections and local dynamics that make the establishment of Chinese-style mosques possible? To what extent do Chinese-style mosques promote inclusive and cosmopolitan Islam? Informed by the academic debates on vernacular cosmopolitanism and translocal religious network, this research will provide answers to these questions. Chinese-style mosque construction is clearly a translocal phenomenon. Inspired by the architectural design of old mosques in mainland China, different actors have built Chinese-style mosques in various cities in both Malaysia and Indonesia to preach the universality of Islam, as well as to show the compatibility between Islam and Chineseness. Yet, there are also different motivations behind the construction of each mosque. For instance, the Kelantan Beijing Mosque was sponsored by an Islamic party in Malaysia to promote an inclusive image of the party, while the Surabaya Cheng Hoo Mosque was established by Indonesian Chinese Muslim Association to manifest a distinctive representation of Chinese Muslim cultural identity. In addition, the activities in the mosques are localised, the sermons are conducted in Malay or Indonesia, and most of the congregation members are non-Chinese Muslims. To a certain extent, Chinese-style mosques are also a cosmopolitan space where Muslims and non- Muslims converge, as well as where religious and social activities intersect.

Current research project by Dr. Hew Wai Weng, Research Fellow, Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany.