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Cheng Hoo Mosque: Assimilating Chinese Culture, Distancing it from the State
Tight state control over Indonesian ethnic Chinese under the New Order (1966-98) resulted in their political exclusion. It also manipulated local perceptions of them, identifying the ethnic Chinese solely with economic activities. With the collapse of the New Order and the lessening of state control over all social groups, attempts have been made to re-establish long-suppressed ethnic Chinese identities in Indonesia. One of the best examples of this is the foundation of the Cheng Hoo Mosque in Surabaya by the PITI, an organisation of ethnic Chinese Muslim groups in East Java. This study examines the relationship between the Cheng Hoo Mosque and the state. It asks whether the mosque is oriented only towards ethnic Chinese Muslims or whether it is open to all, enabling an acculturation between Chinese and local Javanese cultural identities. It also examines whether the mosque fulfils only the spiritual needs of ethnic Chinese Muslims, or whether it also helps to realise their social capital and economic aims. Finally, the paper asks whether ethnic Chinese Muslims have used the establishment of the Cheng Hoo Mosque as a means of protecting themselves from anti-Chinese sentiment.