Javanese Muslims Celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in Suriname
Raymond Chickrie
Born in Guyana, RAYMOND CHICKRIE was a teacher in the New York City public school system, New York, currently teaching in the Middle East.
By Raymond Chickrie
Published on 11/9/2009

Approximately 15% of the population of Suriname are Muslim Javanese. The Javanese Muslims from Indonesia began arriving in Suriname in the 1890s. The Suriname-Javanese community is kejawen, following the syncretic practices and beliefs of Java. In this community the keblat (qibla) expresses a unique diasporic experience and identity. From the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) villagers were recruited from Java as contract workers for the plantations in another Dutch colonial land, Suriname. Most of them were kejawen Muslims. Kejawen Islam, which was dominant in Javanese villages, is a syncretic Islam which incorporated old Javanese beliefs, including Hindu-Buddhist elements.

The Javanese arrived in Suriname without persons learned in religion. It was not until the beginning of the 1930s that partly through contacts with Hindustani Muslims some realized that the Kaaba was not located in the West, but to the northeast of Suriname. Subsequently, a number of Javanese Muslims started praying in that direction. This small group, led by Pak Samsi, encouraged people to change the direction of prayer from west to east. Since then, this small group has been called wong madhep ngetan (East-Keblat people). Later some became very critical of what was seen as the superstition and religious innovation (bidah) among the Javanese Muslims. The moderates do not openly criticize the practice of praying to the west as most of the Javanese Muslims continued to do; hence they are called wong madhep ngulon (West-Keblat people).

Javanese Muslims and Hindustani Muslims pray differently due to fundamental conflicts for interpreting their religion of Islam. The Muslim population of Suriname is predominantly made up of Hindustanis who belong to the Hanafi Madhab, while the Javanese belong to the Shafi theological school of Islam. A small group of Africans are Muslims and they were the first Muslims to set foot in Suriname.

They were at Onafhankelijksplein (Independence Square) at 20th of September 2009 for their holy pray at front of two historical colonial buildings of Suriname “Presidential Palace” (AKA White House locally) and “Clock Tower”.