JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Indonesia might have the world's largest Muslim population. But Chinese Muslims are arguably the smallest of all of the country's ethnic groups which practice Islam, as they are a minority within Indonesia's ethnic Chinese community.
As such, Chinese Muslims do not have many outlets to assert their socio-political interests and identity. But one of a number of rare places where they can do so is the Jami mosque in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta.
Sited on land belonging to a Mr. Tschoa or Kapitan Tamien Dossol Seng, construction of the mosque started in 1780 and lasted 17 years. Since its consecration in 1797, this house of worship has stood as a silent witness to the history of Chinese Muslims in Indonesia.
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Then as now, local Muslims or those passing by go to the mosque to pray. But one would have to look closely to find this house of worship, as it is reduced to a hole in the wall among Jakarta's skyscrapers and urban developmen.
The decorated archways that are a part of any mosque is made up of iron bars with tarpaulin covers. The pyramid-topped Hall of Prayer is supported by a number of gray pillars, its sparse architectural ornaments emphasizing the Islamic content.
Traces of the past
Not many historical traces are left by Mr. Tschoa, who in the Hokkien dialect is called Cai, except a tombstone with the inscription "Xian bi Cai men zhi mu", which means "tomb of the woman of the Cai family."
Sited in the backyard of the mosque, it is the only evidence being the only witness that the mosque was founded by a Chinese Muslim.
Ancient Mandarin inscriptions on the tombstones recount the origins of those buried in the tombs. Among them are a woman from China's Zhong Yang County, who died during the reign of Emperor Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty.