Photograph by Ertugrul Kilic/DEMOTIX

Paramaribo, Suriname. 20th September 2009 -- Javanese Muslims at the end of Ramadan pray during Eid ul-Fitr at Onafhankelijksplein (Independence Square) in Paramaribo,  Suriname / South America. 

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 are celebrates and prays differently due to fundamental conflicts for commenting their religion of Islam. The Muslim population of Suriname is predominantly made up of Hindustani

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