JAKARTA: Like other Chinese Indonesians, Mr Naga Kurniadi looks forward to spending time with his family this Chinese New Year, as well as participating in some of the customs and traditions associated with the celebrations.
While his family gathers for reunion dinner and hands out red packets – monetary gifts given to children and unmarried relatives – there are some rituals and beliefs which he does not participate in. There are also some dishes he avoids.
Mr Kurniadi is a Muslim and is married to a Javanese Muslim woman. But he always brings his wife and their two children along for the Chinese New Year festivities at his parents home in Tangerang, just west of Jakarta.
“For me (Chinese New Year) is a time to strengthen bonds with the family. I want to show that even though I have converted (to Islam), I can still show respect to my family, my tradition and my heritage,” the 44-year-old told CNA.
“There are also values (associated with Chinese New Year) like togetherness, respect for the elders and generosity, which I want to show to my children.”
There are more than 150,000 Chinese Muslims in Indonesia, who mark their tradition and heritage in their own ways.
Another Chinese Muslim, Mr Fauzan Priyanto said he celebrates Chinese New Year with his Catholic parents and two Christian brothers at his parents home in Cipinang, East Jakarta.
“Me, my wife and my children will wear red. We wear Chinese outfits. My wife wears a red hijab. I hand out red money envelopes to my nephews and nieces. My children also receive money envelopes from their grandparents and uncles,” Mr Priyanto told CNA.
“It feels just like lebaran (the Indonesian word for Eid). Thats why people call (Chinese New Year) Chinese lebaran.”
BALANCING FAITH AND TRADITION
How do Chinese Muslims reconcile the differences between Chinese traditional beliefs and Islam?
Mr Kurniadi said it is important to respect the traditions and beliefs observed by other people, even though not all traditions and beliefs are in line with hs religion.
For a start, he doesnt light up firecrackers that are believed to chase away evil spirits, although he and his children like to watch them. However, he likes to help his family put up the decorations.
Traditionally, people pray to their ancestors during Chinese New Year.
"In my family, the prayers are only performed by the senior members of our family. The younger generations dont want to do it,” he said.
“Once, I saw my grandmother performing the ritual all on her own. I felt sorry and decided to accompany her and help her burn joss paper. But I didn't recite any prayer,” he recounted.
Mr Rustiadi Tanoto, 66, who converted to Islam in 1982 said he would patiently wait while his siblings perform prayers and rituals at reunion dinner time.
“Even though my family is Catholic, they still pray and make offerings to ancestors. They summon the spirits of our dead parents and offer our parents their favourite food. We are supposed to wait until the ritual is done before we can start our dinner,” Mr Tanoto said.
“I dont participate and my siblings respect that. Just as I respect them for performing the rituals.”
Under Suharto, Chinese New Year celebrations were confined to temples and private homes.
When Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was in office, he allowed Chinese Indonesians to celebrate their important days and freely express their culture.
ISLAM CELEBRATES DIVERSITY OF CULTURES: CLERIC
Islamic cleric Yusman Iriansyah believes that it is acceptable for Muslims to participate in Chinese New Year celebrations.
“Islam encourages visiting relatives and maintaining close ties with their families even if they are not Muslim,” Mr Iriansyah told CNA.
“Chinese New Year is a product of culture and tradition. Islam celebrates the diversity of cultures as long as they are not in direct conflict with the teachings of Islam.”
Mr Iriansyah is one of the caretakers of the Lautze Mosque, a place of worship for the Chinese Muslim community in the predominantly Chinese neighbourhood of Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta.
And Chinese traditions are observed at the mosque, adorned in the auspicious colours of red and yellow.
The mosques exterior, converted from a four-storeyed shop, bears a slight resemblance to a traditional Read More – Source