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Cablegate: East Java's Chinese Muslims: In the Mosque, On the Stump And

VZCZCXRO3862
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0065/01 3040913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310913Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0092
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0033
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0084
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0009
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0094
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0012
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0031

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000065

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, IRN/EAP, DRL/PHD, INL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CH ID PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA'S CHINESE MUSLIMS: IN THE MOSQUE, ON THE STUMP AND
IN THREE LANGUAGES


SURABAYA 00000065 001.2 OF 002


PORTIONS OF THIS MESSAGE ARE SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE
PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary: Surabaya Principal Officer and Pol/Econ
officer attended the fifth anniversary ceremony of the
construction of the Cheng Hoo Mosque in downtown Surabaya on 28
October. The event went well beyond simple ceremony and
demonstrated the importance of the audience to business,
politics and religion in East Java. National and local
political figures, the PRC Consul General and key members of the
Sino-Indonesian business community attended the event held at
the symbolic center of Sino-Indonesian Muslim community. The
four-hour event showed the importance of the Chinese community
in Surabaya as political supporters, financiers and champions of
pluralism among Islamic organizations. End Summary

Chinese Muslims Celebrate Community
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) Over 2000 members of the Chinese community attended the
October 28 event, which included musical performances,
recitation of the Quran in Chinese, Indonesian and Arabic, and a
succession of impassioned speeches about the history of the
Sino-Indonesian community and its prospects for the future. The
event was widely covered in the Chinese and Indonesian language
press and showed the variety of ties the Sino-Chinese Muslim
community has forged with the East Java's political and
religious mainstream. One former East Java governor and at
least two prospective gubernatorial candidates gave speeches at
the event. The previous Governor of East Java, Basofi Sudirman;
the current head of Nadlatul Ulama (NU) in East Java, Ali
Maschan Moesa; and the Secretary of East Java province Soekarwo,
added a political campaign atmosphere to the evening.

3. (SBU) The head of the national Jawa Pos news syndicate Hasyim
Muzadi, who had recently returned from China with a transplanted
liver, also attended. Although he did not speak, his presence
itself symbolized the growing significance of China as a
destination for medical treatment by wealthy Indonesians.
Muzadi wrote a series of articles for his paper while undergoing
treatment in China and Jawa Pos readers are well aware of his
experiences. East Java Elder statesman, former Governor
Muhammad Noer, provided his imprimatur on the event by pledging
to buy and distribute a guide for new Muslims published in
Chinese, Arabic, English and Indonesian by the Cheng Hoo
Foundation. Still a potent political force, Noer's brief public
statement served as an iron-clad endorsement of the Mosque's
religious and political bona fides.

A Study in Triangulation--Sino-Indonesian Muslims, Politics and
China
--------------------------------------------- --------------
------------------------------

4. (SBU) Every trip to the podium suggested that the road to
East Java's Governor's mansion might increasingly run through
Chinese Surabaya, and the Cheng Hoo Mosque. A heavily recruited
candidate by several political parties, East Java NU Chairman
Ali Maschan Moesa's performance was nothing less than a stump
speech. Moesa appeared eager to prove his credentials as a
religious moderate and top contender for head of the National
NU. Moesa stressed his opposition to an Islamic state by saying
that the Republic of Indonesia is "the final form" of the
country and that Muslims should not seek an Islamic state.
Moesa continued, "I asked representatives of Hizbut Tahrir to
show me the verse in the Holy Quran that said that there should
be an Islamic State. They could not do it." Moesa repeatedly
described the diversity of Islamic practice as integral to Islam
in Indonesia to much applause.

5. (SBU) On 29 October, local media reported that two factions
within East Java NU would decide Moesa's fate at a November 4 NU
conference. One faction, centered in far eastern East Java,
wants to maintain NU's nominal political neutrality and is
opposed to Moesa. The second group, from western East Java
supports Moesa and the idea of a more politically active
chairmanship. Moesa has told members of the Consulate
privately that he would prefer to serve as the national Chairman
of NU than as the Governor of East Java, but he has not ruled
out a run for the governor's mansion.

6. (SBU) By contrast Soekarwo, a candidate for East Java
Governor from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), exhorted the

SURABAYA 00000065 002.2 OF 002


audience at the Cheng Hoo Mosque to invest in the development of
East Java. (Note: As sitting Secretary of the Province of East
Java, Soekarwo is currently third in line after the Governor and
Vice Governor). By appealing directly to the perceived wealth
of the Sino-Indonesian community, and using the now derogatory
term "Cina" (instead of the preferred "Tionghua" for China), it
appears Soekarwo's understanding of the sensitivities of the
Sino-Indonesian community might need early retooling.
Sensitivity remains high toward mainstream Indonesian
stereotypes of Sino-Indonesians as rich tycoons. Once
persecuted by Soeharto regime as a supposed fifth column for the
Communist Party of China, Sino-Indonesians have now become a
valued bridge to the vast economic markets the PRC.

The Symbolism of Cheng Hoo
-------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The 15th century Chinese navigator Cheng Hoo (also
spelled Zheng He) was sent by the Ming imperial court on a
series of trading missions. His travels continue to be strong
emblems, not just of the arrival of Islam to Indonesia, but also
of the beginning of Chinese trade with Java. Cheng Hoo is a
source of pride and a symbol of the Mosque's role as a bridge
between the two cultures, the head of the Cheng Hoo Mosque
foundation took pains to add nuance to the view of
Sino-Indonesians toward China: "China is our motherland, but
Indonesia is our homeland." The Chinese Consul General, Fu
Shuigen, speaking in Chinese without interpretation, avoided
discussion of Islam altogether and focused on the achievements
of Cheng Hoo and his value as a symbol of peaceful Chinese and
Indonesian trade ties. In discussions with Cheng Hoo foundation
officers, we learned that students from China were studying
Islam at schools associated with the Cheng Hoo Mosque and that
more than one delegation of Islamic leaders from East Java had
traveled to China in order to visit Muslim communities.

8. (SBU) Despite the apparent sense of camaraderie at this
event, tensions between the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Javanese
Muslim communities persists. Relations between both
Sino-Indonesians and other ethnicities and between
Sino-Indonesian Muslims and the non-Muslim majority in their own
ethnic community are easily strained. Abdul Chalim Muhammad
Zein, head advisor to several Islamic boarding schools and
member of the Cheng Hoo Foundation, told us that the design of
the Cheng Hoo Mosque was a source of friction between Surabaya's
conservative Muslim majority and their Sino-Indonesian Muslim
counterparts. Many felt its pagoda structure un-Islamic.
Friction also occurred early on within the surrounding
Sino-Indonesian neighborhood. Many non-Muslim neighbors
complained that the call to prayer broadcast from the
loudspeakers in the Mosque was too loud and the volume was
subsequently lowered. Struggling to maintain credibility and
authenticity in both communities is a persistent challenge to
the Cheng Hoo community.

U.S. ConGen Remarks Well Received
---------------------------------------------

9. (U) In remarks given in Indonesian, Surabaya's Principal
Officer stressed the close relationship enjoyed by the Consulate
and the Muslim community in Surabaya. She highlighted a series
of events hosted by the Consulate during Ramadan and spontaneous
applause greeted several lines of the speech. Reaction was
particularly strong during the Principal Officer's mention of
the importance of religious pluralism to both the United States
and Indonesia. Local Chinese language press reports highlighted
the close relations with the Consulate and noted that Consulate
Surabaya's annual Iftars for the local Muslim community during
Ramadan, "strengthened understanding and recognition between
Muslims of Chinese and other ethnicities and advanced mutual
unity and friendship."
MCCLELLAND

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