Lautze Mosque: The Chinese influenced mosque in Sawah Besar Chinatown

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The atmosphere inside of Lautze Mosque. (photo: IO/Yoga)

IO, Jakarta – A yellow and green building with a dash of red stands out between a row of shophouses in the Chinatown area of Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta. At a glance, the three-floor building, decorated with various Chinese ornaments, looks like a temple or monastery.

However, who would guess that the building located on Jalan Lautze No. 87-89, Karang Anyar, Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta, is a mosque, where Muslims are free to worship? The mosque was donated and built by Indonesia’s third president, Hajj B.J. Habibie.

At first sight, no one would imagine that the building was a mosque, as it has no dome or tower as is usually present on other mosques. To signify that the building is indeed a mosque, there is a large board with the writing “Yayasan Haji Karin OEI” and smaller yellow board with the writing “Lautze Mosque”.

Lautze Mosque is heavily influenced by Chinese culture. On the outside, there are several red lanterns. The mosque door is painted red and has a shape very similar to those on Chinese structures such as temples. On the inside, the Chinese influence is also apparent. The interior is dominated by red and yellow, with several Chinese characters on the podium.

Ali Karim Oei, Chairman of Yayasan Haji Karim Oei (Hajj Karim Oei Foundation), says that the mosque was built in 1991 during the height of anti-Chinese sentiments. The mosque was built by several Islamic organization figures from Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama, ICMI, Al Washliyah, and KAHMI.

Ustad Yusman, from Lautze Mosque’s Public Relations, stated that “At the time we saw that there was an anti-Chinese crisis, so we made a small movement to build a mosque and bring in ulemas from Beijing. There were four ulemas. We invited them to tour Indonesia and give sermons in Arabic. Alhamdulillah at the time the crisis momentarily calmed down until it finally exploded in 1998,” said Ustad Yusman to reporters on Tuesday (14/5/2019).

Through the construction of the mosque, Karim says the foundation wanted to spread the sound of the Islamic call to prayer to the ethnic Chinese. Especially, until then, many ethnic Chinese people had received misinformation regarding Islam. “To date, the image of terrorism is identical with Islam. Our goal is to give information so those who do not know Islam can come and ask directly,” said the Ustad.

According to him, there were many ustads and teachers who could explain true Islamic teachings. From the people who have been curious and have come to the mosque, many have decided to convert to Islam after receiving teachings from the ustads in Lautze Mosque.

Since its construction in 1991 to present day, there have been approximately 2000 people, the majority of whom are ethnically Chinese, recite the two sentences (Shahada) needed to become Muslim. Foreigners and natives have also done the same. “That is hidayah (guidance); we do not know people’s destiny. There are some who need to get married, and there are some who want to learn and deepen their knowledge of Islam,” he said.

Entering the month of Ramadan, the mosque management routinely holds break fasting gatherings and tarawih prayers with converts who have recited the Shahada in Lautze Mosque. “Our congregation is from Greater Jakarta and the surrounding area. For them, we hold it every Saturday. On Saturday night, we break fast together and then continue with tarawih prayers,” said the Ustad.

The tarawih prayers in Lautze Mosque are unique as the imams will change every two rakat. The imams consist of converts who are just learning about Islam. Other than teaching how to read the Quran, their abilities as imams are also trained in Latuze Mosque. “Our salat here is a little strange as it is 11 rakat but every two rakat we change imams. So, the converts who have only memorized two surah can already become imams. Here we train people,” he explained. (Yoga)