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Indonesia: The Changing Face of Islam, Java

October 14, 2015

Islam arrived on the island of Java during the 14th century and spread quickly among its inhabitants.  The Javanese version of the religion has long been a tolerant one, reflecting the gentle values that were influenced in the remote past both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Here is a mosque in the old city of Jakarta, looking both tropical and graceful despite the grinding poverty of Kali Bezar.

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Similarly, on the flanks of Salaamet Volcano in central Java, one finds traditional Islamic architecture. Note the intensive agriculture on the property; there are a lot of people to feed in Java.

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Here are other mosques on Salaamet.

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In case you’re wondering how we got around the island, here is our friend Agus. He hosted one of Diana’s old school friends in Java while she worked on her PhD dissertation and has become like family to her. So she was happy to make introductions on our behalf. Those are pine trees growing at about 4000 ft above sea level. And his van is more rugged than it looks.

java 878Even newer mosques like this one in the town of Purwokerto are not particularly imposing.

java 960One item of information that Diana’s friend told us before we left Seattle was that the Saudis are financing new mosques in the more remote mountain regions, with a view toward proselytizing Wahhabi Islam.  And this is precisely what we found high in the Dieng Plateau.

java 637Impressive and grandiose, complete with a madrassa for the little ones. Agus explained the Saudis finance new mosques by paying for the building materials and labor; cash donations are not made for fear of the inevitable skimming of funds.

In the lowlands one finds new construction, too, albeit more modest.  We noticed this example outside of Purwokerto.

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Partially obscured by the town in the tea-growing region of Salamet are two mosques, with the traditional building on the right and the newer one in the center.

java 750This is what the past looked like in Java.

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It becomes tempting to worry about the future.

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But just when we wonder if all is lost some local high school girls in the Dieng introduce themselves and remind us that we are all friends.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. permalink
    October 15, 2015 1:30 pm

    Neat stuff Kit

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