Not only is the Istiqlal Mosque, which can accommodate 120,000 people at one time, the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia: it is also an important symbol of Indonesian independence. Ideas for the construction of the mosque sprang up in 1949 when the Netherlands acknowledged the independence of Indonesia. It was to be a national mosque that would symbolize the nation’s freedom and at the same time display the people’s gratitude toward the blessings they received as followers of Islam.
The idea was first proposed by KH. Wahid Hasyim, who was the nation’s first Minister for Religious Affairs, and Anwar Cokroaminoto. Then Indonesian president Sukarno was so enamored with the idea that a committee to oversee the mosque’s construction was immediately formed, with Anwar Cokroaminoto as the head. In 1955, a competition was held for the mosque’s design. Sukarno was the chairman of the jury that judged the entries for the competition. The winning design was that of Frederich Silaban who, ironically, was a Christian. Having a Christian design the Istiqlal Mosque was a welcome idea to Sukarno, who promoted religious harmony in Indonesia. [Read more…]