China has a great diversity in religious beliefs; however, according to the Chinese website China Highlights, Islam is among the main five religions in China. Muslims are a minority group in China; today there are about 25 million Muslims found in different scattered Chinese regions, they are most concentrated in Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan, and Xinjiang; where 50% of the population there are Muslims. Muslim ethnic groups in China include; the Hui people, they shape the majority of Muslims in China and they look like original Chinese people and speak their language, the Uygur, Uzbeks, Tatars, and others that have different ethnographic and language.
So, how Muslims live there?
Mosques in China
Mosques can easily be found in different Chinese cities, where Chinese Muslims can practice their daily prayers, but does mosques’ existence in China mean anything?
Guangzhou Huaisheng Mosque is the oldest mosque in China; it was built during the Tang Empire in 627 CE when Islam was first introduced to China through trade, the name of this mosque means in English “remembering the sage” as a way of honoring the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the mosque is also holding a great historic and religious importance. There are many other mosques in China including Niujie Mosque in Xicheng, Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou, Dunhuang Mosque in Dunhuang, and others that combine both old and modern architecture styles.
The question is; can Chinese/ foreigner Muslims in China publicly go to these mosques and do their prayers? and Is being a Muslim in China dangerous?
The National Public Radio (NPR), has published an article on November 21, 2020, describing the harsh restrictions imposed by the country on the Islamic educational life in China, this includes arresting people for just buying Islamic books, Suppression of religious and intellectual freedom by targeting writers and publishers, and in this case, keeping a religious book in the house could put its owner in jail.
The NPR also reported in 2019, that the government has forced almost all mosques in Ningxia and the eastern province of Henan and even mosques in Zhejiang and Gansu provinces to do some changes included removing their domes and Arabic writings; however, what real Muslims found harsh was the restrictions imposed on the intangible side of the spiritual part.
The Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang
China is facing great criticism from the whole world over how it treats the Uighur population in Xinjiang who are Muslims by the majority, it is also accused by several countries like the US, Netherland, and Canada of practicing genocide against Xinjiang Muslims. Besides retaining over a million Uighurs over the past few years in what is called by the government “re-education camps”, the accusations also included forced labor and forcibly sterilized women.
“China is committing “genocide and crimes against humanity”. Said Antony Blinken US secretary of state, as reported by the BBC.
Before Joe Biden the US president has taken office, the Trump administration has criticized the Chinese authorities’ policy with the Uyghurs; describing it as a genocide, and trump said that he avoided punishing China to save the trade deal between the two countries, but The US government announced in December, that imports of cotton produced in Xinjiang would be blocked because of the rising concerns about violating human rights in the area; doubts about forced labor in Xinjiang.
However, Biden described, what most of the world sees as genocide and human rights violation, as a “different norm”.
Major international brands like H&M and Nike have expressed their concerns about the way by which the Xinjiang cotton is being collected, and China has banned these brands from the country including the physical stores and the online shops as well and supported instead the local brands. This was followed by a move by Chinese celebrities announcing to cut all their ties with the opposing fashion brands including any promotional works as a way to support their country, and it is not clear if this is out of their conviction or to be in the safe side.
So, what China says about the accusations?
China refuses all the accusations, claiming that there isn’t any proof on the mass sterilizations and that forced labor is untrue, justifying the crackdown as a way to face terrorism and face Islamist extremism.
It is worth mentioning that Uighurs live in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, they have their language which is close to Turkish.
Hashtags like #uighurlivesmatter, have been used by many users, on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as a way to support Uighur Muslims.
Talking about the Muslim community in China could take too many articles that questioning middle east countries’ support for Muslims in China for reasons that may be related to international trade deals or some common interests with China, which made Uyghur minorities victim, and this article was a quick look at what is happening in the country regarding the Muslim minority.
Minorities can be found in all countries; however, countries differ in how their governments deal with these minorities, and to what extent minorities feel free to express their opinion and articulating their beliefs.
Sandy is a senior student in the Faculty of Mass Communication, she has known since day one that she wants to study media. Fashion is her passion; she finds herself in reading and she likes cooking for those who she loves. Nothing can stop her from smiling, and when she has to do something; it will be very well done.