Chinese Preachers Bridge Indonesia’s Ethnic Gap

In Indonesia’s crowded world of celebrity Muslim preachers, it often pays to have a trademark. For Koko Liem, his ever-present Chinese-style outfits — garish satin tunics paired with matching skullcaps — play the role.

Whether in television appearances or Koran recitals, the approach of Mr. Liem, a 31-year-old convert to Islam from Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority, is undeniably kitschy.

Mr. Liem is one of a small but significant group of ethnic Chinese preachers to emerge over the past decade with a simple message: that being a member of Indonesia’s dominant majority — Muslims — and its historically most maligned minority — Chinese — need not be mutually exclusive.

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This approach represents a powerful break with the past, writes the New York Times, noting that pogroms and prejudice against Chinese have been a constant theme in Indonesian history.

But Mr. Liem is a relative minnow in Indonesia’s booming world of celebrity preachers. Like their Christian counterparts in the West, these men and women often use their personal biographies and charisma, rather than traditional religious knowledge, to win adherents through television appearances and packed tour schedules.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 15, 2010.
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