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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: China


China was once considered to be very far away place by the Arabs and that is why once stressing on the need of acquiring education, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said: "Seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China." And Muslims did reach China to enlighten the region with Islam. 

And since 7th century onward, Islam has made inroads to China through maritime and the famous Silk Route. Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas, one of the very elevated companion of the Prophet of Allah, is said to have reached China in 616-18 AD, while  Wahab Abu Kabcha reached Canton by sea in 629 CE. Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas returned to China from Arabia in 637 by the Yunan-Manipur-Chittagong route, then reached Arabia by sea. However, the Islam finally established in some parts of China in 650 AD upon the third sojourn of Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, when he was sent as an official envoy to Emperor Gaozong during Caliph Uthman's reign. 

Islam then spread and there is a long history of its traversing its journey through various Chinese dynasties. The Japanese seem to have taken a heavy toll of Muslims in China. In 1937, during the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin the Chinese government was notified by Muslim General Ma Bufang of the Ma clique that he was prepared to bring the fight to the Japanese in a telegram message. Immediately after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Bufang arranged for a cavalry division under the Muslim General Ma Biao to be sent east to battle the Japanese. Ethnic Turkic Salar Muslims made up the majority of the first cavalry division which was sent by Ma Bufang.
During the Second Sino-Japanese war, the Japanese destroyed 220 mosques and killed countless Hui by April 1941. The Hui Muslim county of Dachang was subjected to slaughter by the Japanese.During the Rape of Nanking the Mosques in Nanjing were flowing with dead bodies after the Japanese slaughters. Japanese smeared Hui Mosques with pork fat, forcing Hui girls to serve as sex slaves and destroyed the cemeteries of the Hui. Many Hui, Turkic Salar, Dongxiang, and Bonan Muslims fought in the war against Japan.
However, the plight of Muslim after Mao's cultural revolution was no better either. During the Cultural Revolution, mosques along with other religious buildings were often defaced, destroyed or closed and copies of the Quran were destroyed along with temples, churches, Buddhist and Daoist monasteries, and cemeteries by the Red Guards.

In 1975, in what would be known as the *Shadian incident, there was a uprising among Hui in what was the only large scale ethnic rebellion during the Cultural Revolution. In crushing the rebellion, the PLA massacred 1,600 Hui with MiG fighter jets used to fire rockets onto the village. Following the fall of the Gang of Four, apologies and reparations were made. During that time, the government also constantly accused Muslims and other religious groups of holding "superstitious beliefs" and promoting "anti-socialist trends". The government began to relax its policies towards Muslims in 1978.

*The Shadian incident was a militarized separatist movement of religious Hui people, who sought to break away from the control of PRC's governance, that occurred in Shadian Town, Gejiu City, Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, People's Republic of China in July 1975, during the Cultural Revolution. It ended with military intervention of the People's Liberation Army.




However, thereafter, there have been concession for the Muslims to show tolerance towards Islam and a large population under the fold of Islam. 
Restriction on religious freedom levied by the government can vary from region to region. In 1989, China banned a book titled "Xing Fengsu" ("Sexual Customs") which insulted Islam and placed its authors under arrest after protests in Lanzhou and Beijing by Chinese Hui Muslims, during which the Chinese police provided protection to the Hui Muslim protestors, and the Chinese government organized public burnings of the book. 
In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with muslim minorities". This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims (to whom pigs are considered "unclean").
Hui Muslims enjoy such freedoms, practicing their religion, building Mosques at which their children attend, while Uyghurs in Xinjiang experienced strict controls. Since the 1980s Islamic private schools (Sino-Arabic schools) have been supported and permitted by the Chinese government among Muslim areas. However restrictions are placed on Muslims in Xinjiang from allowing schools because of separatist sentiment there.
Hui Muslims employed by the state are allowed to fast during Ramadan unlike Uyghurs in the same positions. The number of Hui going on Hajj is expanding, and Hui women are allowed to wear veils, while Uyghur women are discouraged from wearing them and Uyghurs find it difficult to get passports to go on Hajj.
Uyghurs in Turpan are treated leniently and favourably by China with regards to religious policies, while Kashgar is subjected to controls by the government. In Turpan and Hami, religion is viewed more positively by China than religion in Kashgar and Khotan in southern Xinjiang.
Both Uyghur and Han Communist officials in Turpan turn a blind eye to the law and allow religious Islamic education for Uyghur children.

Muslim population in China was estimated as 20.32 million in 2012. It accounts for about 1.64% of China total population, 20% of Chinese ethnic population and 1.7% of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is where the most Chinese muslin population settled. With approximately 13.4 million Muslim population in Xinjiang region, its Muslim population accounts for 58.2% of its total population and nearly accounts for half of the muslin population in China. There are over 24000 great mosques in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. [1]

Muslims in China have over the centuries, developed an indigenous Chinese Islamic culture, often synthesizing elements of Chinese culture with their Islamic forms. Mosques in Western China have traditional minarets and other elements of mosque architecture seen in other parts of the world.  However mosques in Eastern China, resemble pagodas, and represent traditional Chinese architecture with its emphasis on symmetry, as can be seen in the header photo above.

The Uighur ethnicity resembles and overlaps with that of its Central Asian neighbours, such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and other countries populated with predominantly Turkic peoples. The region is still called East Turkistan by Uighur Muslims. In line with this nationalist imagining, Uighur Muslims also have their own language, Uighur, formerly known as Eastern Turki, which is only spoken by the Uighur inhabitants of Xinjiang and populations in the diaspora. [2]

Many Islamic branches in China have traditionally had links to Sufism. These branches had strong links to their founders and the philosophies and ideas embraced by the founders. Sometimes regarded as saints, these founders were not only spiritual leader, but also political leaders of the followers of the official branches. Followers not only revered these founders while were alive, they were worshiped at grand tombs and shrines built after their death.[4]


A beautiful masjid in Gansu, China [Photo]

A few words about Muslims festivals in China: [4]
Chines Muslims celebrate all major religious festivals of Islam, like fasting in month of Ramadan, and celebrating the two major Muslims fetivals of Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha. In fact the festival of Edi ul Adha is known as Corban.  The word Corban is seems to be derived from the Arabic word "Qurban" which means sacrifice. 
The Eid holidays are generally celebrated with horse racing, sheep snatching and wrestling.
In the "sheep snatching game" a sheep is placed in a designated area. Men on horseback ride to the area and try to grab the sheep, fighting off one another, and carry the sheep to another specified place. After its over the sheep is cooked into "Eating Happiness Mutton" and consumed. [The same game is known as Buz Kushi, played in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan]
There is a concept of Women only mosques in some places in China.  Muslim schools for women enjoy a long history in China, having first been established during the latter half of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). They developed into women-only mosques, presided over by female imams, during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). One of the famous Muslim Women only mosque is “Lulan women's mosque built in 1956 by a group of female Muslims who had relocated to Lanzhou from Henan province in central China. 

Celebrating at religious functions and going on Hajj to Makkah is encouraged by the Chinese government, for Uyghur members of the Communist party. In fact when this facility was opened to the Chinese Muslims, they used to come to Pakistan to catch direct flights to Saudi Arabia as there were no flighted then connecting China and Saudi Arabia. This practice continued for many years. 

You may now watch a short video on the life of Uighurs Muslims in China:


Recently there have been reports of suppression of Muslims in the troubled Xinjiang. A United Nations human rights panel has reported that up to one million Uighur Muslims were forced into grounds that resemble massive internment camps in Xinjiang. It has been claimed that up to two million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities were forced into "political camps for indoctrination". [2]

However, China has recently broken silence on the detention centers under mounting international criticism, and has given its most extensive defense yet of its sweeping campaign to detain and indoctrinate Muslims, with a senior official on Tuesday describing its network of camps in the far west as humane job-training centers. The chairman of Xinjiang’s government, Shohrat Zakir, himself an ethnic Uighur, called the camps a “humane” and lawful shield against terrorism in an interview published by China’s official Xinhua news agency. He said the facilities gave Uighurs and other Muslims courses in the Chinese language and taught them to be law-abiding citizens. They also receive training in job skills such as making clothes, e-commerce, hairdressing and cosmetology, Mr. Zakir said. [3]

Photo | References: |Main reference source: Islam in China (Wikipedia) | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
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1 comments:

Feeling pity on the way Muslims live in China - can their poverty stricken faces be of any comparison with the people living in Beijing?

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