History of Islam in China
The history of Islam in China began when four Ṣaḥābā—Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqās (594–674), Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, and Jahsh preached in 616/17 and onwards in China after coming from Chittagong-Kamrup-Manipur route after sailing from Abyssinia in 615/16. Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas again headed for China for the third time in 650–51 after Caliph ‘Uthman asked him to lead an embassy to China, which the Chinese emperor received warmly.
Origin of Islamic ChinaEdit
China-Arab Trade relationsEdit
China's long and interactive relationship with the various steppe tribes and empires, through trade, war, subordination or domination paved the way for a large sustained Islamic community within China. Islamic influence came from the various steppe peoples who assimilated in Chinese culture. Muslims served as administrators, generals, and other leaders who were transferred to China from Persia and Central Asia to administer the empire under the Mongols.
Muslims in China have managed to practice their faith in China, sometimes against great odds, since the seventh century. Islam is one of the religions that is still officially recognized in China.
According to the historical accounts of Chinese Muslims, Islam was first brought to China by Sa'd ibn abi Waqqas, who came to China for the third time at the head of an embassy sent by Uthman, the third Caliph, in 651, less than twenty years after the death of prophet Muhammad. The embassy was led by Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās. Emperor Gaozong, the Tang emperor who received the envoy then ordered the construction of the Memorial mosque in Canton, the first mosque in the country, in memory of the prophet. Hui legends seem to confuse the 651 visit with the initiation of Islam as early as 616/17 by earlier visits of Sahabas.
While modern historians tend to argue that there is no evidence for Waqqās himself ever coming to China, they do believe that Muslim diplomats and merchants arrived in Tang China within a few decades from the beginning of Middle Ages (Hijra). The Tang Dynasty's cosmopolitan culture, with its intensive contacts with Central Asia and its significant communities of (originally non-Muslim) Central and Western Asian merchants resident in Chinese cities, which helped the introduction of Islam.
Arab people are first noted in Chinese written records, under the name Ta shi in the annals of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) (Ta shi or Da shi is the Chinese rendering of Tazi—the name the Persian people used for the Arabs). Records dating from 713 speak of the arrival of a Da shi ambassador. The first major Muslim settlements in China consisted of Arab and Persian merchants.
Despite conflict between the Tang and the Abbasids during the Battle of Talas in 751, relations between the two states improved soon after. In 756, a contingent probably consisting of Persians and Iraqis was sent to Kansu to help the emperor Su-Tsung in his struggle against the rebellion of An Lushan. Less than 50 years later, an alliance was concluded between the Tang and the Abbasids against Tibetan attacks in Central Asia. A mission from the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (766-809) arrived at Chang'an.
It is recorded that in 758, a large Muslim settlement in Guangzhou erupted in unrest and the people fled. The community had constructed a large mosque (Huaisheng Mosque), destroyed by fire in 1314, and constructed in 1349-51; only ruins of a tower remain from the first building.
During the Tang Dynasty, a steady stream of Arab (Ta'shi) and Persian (Po'si) traders arrived in China through the silk road and the overseas route through the port of Quanzhou. Not all of the immigrants were Muslims, but many of those who stayed formed the basis of the Chinese Muslim population and the Hui ethnic group. The Persian immigrants introduced polo, their cuisine, their musical instruments, and their knowledge of medicine to China.
Many Muslims went to China to trade, and these Muslims began to have a great economic impact and influence on the country. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Muslims in China dominated foreign trade and the import/export industry to the south and west.
In 1070, the Song emperor, Shen-tsung (Shenzong) invited 5,300 Muslim men from Bukhara, to settle in China. The emperor used these men in his campaign against the Liao empire in the northeast. Later on these men were settled between the Sung capital of Kaifeng and Yenching (modern-day Beijing). The object was to create a buffer zone between the Chinese and the Liao. In 1080, 10,000 Arab men and women migrated to China on horseback and settled in all of the provinces of the north and north-east. The Chinese materia medica 52 (re-published in 1968-75) was revised under the Song Dynasty in 1056 and 1107 to include material, particularly 200 medicines, taken from Ibn Sina's The Canon of Medicine.
The Arabs from Bukhara were under the leadership of Prince Amir Sayyid "So-fei-er" (his Chinese name). The prince was later given an honorary title. He is reputed of being the "father" of the Muslim community in China. Prior to him Islam was named by the Tang and Song Chinese as Dashi fa ("law of the Arabs") (Tashi or Dashi is the Chinese rendering of Tazi—the name the Persian people used for the Arabs). . He renamed it to Huihui Jiao ("the Religion of the Huihui").
The Yuan Dynasty of China continued to maintain an excellent relationship with other nomadic tribes of Mongolia. The Mongol rulers of Yuan Dynasty elevated the status of foreigners of all religions versus the Han, Khitan, and Jurchen, and placed many foreigners such as Muslim Persians and Arabs, Turkic Christians, Jews, Tibetan Buddhist Lamas, and Buddhist Turpan Uyghurs in high-ranking posts instead of native Confucian scholars, using many Muslims in the administration of China. The territory of the Yuan was administered in 12 districts during the reign of Kublai Khan with a governor and vice-governor each. According to Iranian historian Rashidu'd-Din Fadlu'llah, of these 12 governors, 8 were Muslims; in the remaining districts, Muslims were vice-governors.
At the same time the Mongols imported Central Asian Muslims to serve as administrators in China, the Mongols also sent Han Chinese and Khitans from China to serve as administrators over the Muslim population in Bukhara in Central Asia, using foreigners to curtail the power of the local peoples of both lands.
The state forced massive numbers[clarification needed] of Central Asian Muslims to move into China during the Yuan period. In the fourteenth century, the total population of Muslims was 4,000,000. It was during this time that Jamal ad-Din, a Persian astronomer, presented Kublai Khan with seven Persian astronomical instruments. Also, The Muslim architect Yeheidie'erding (Amir al-Din) learned from Han architecture and helped to design and construct the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, Dadu, otherwise known as Khanbaliq or Khanbaligh.
In the mid-14th century, the Ispah Rebellion against the Mongol Yuan led by Chinese Persian Muslims broke out in South Fujian. After the rebellion was suppressed the local Han Chinese in Quanzhou turned against Semu people and great misery was brought upon Muslim population. Quanzhou itself ceased to be a leading international seaport.
Genghis Khan and the following Yuan emperors forbade Islamic practices like Halal butchering, forcing Mongol methods of butchering animals on Muslims, and other restrictive degrees continued. Muslims had to slaughter sheep in secret. Genghis Khan directly called Muslims and Jews "slaves", and demanded that they follow the Mongol method of eating rather than the halal method. Circumcision was also forbidden. Jews were also affected, and forbidden by the Mongols to eat Kosher. Toward the end, corruption and the persecution became so severe that Muslim generals joined Han Chinese in rebelling against the Mongols. The Ming founder Zhu Yuanzhang had Muslim generals like Lan Yu who rebelled against the Mongols and defeated them in combat. Some Muslim communities had the name in Chinese which meant "barracks" and also mean "thanks", many Hui Muslims claim it is because that they played an important role in overthrowing the Mongols and it was named in thanks by the Han Chinese for assisting them.
Dadu would last until 1368 when Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty and future Hongwu Emperor, made his imperial ambitions known by sending an army toward the Yuan capital. The last Yuan emperor fled north to Shangdu and Zhu declared the founding of the Ming Dynasty after razing the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground. The city was renamed Beiping by the Ming in the same year.
Muslims continued to flourish in China during the Ming Dynasty. During Ming rule, the capital, Nanjing, was a center of Islamic learning. The Ming dynasty saw the rapid decline in the Muslim population in the sea ports. This was due to the closing of all seaport trade with the outside world. However it also saw the appointment of Muslim military generals such as Mu Ying who campaigned in Yunnan and central Shandong. These two areas became leading centers of Islamic learning in China. The emperor Zhu Yuanzhang was the founder of the Ming Dynasty. Many of his most trusted commanders were Muslims, including Hu Dahai, Mu Ying, Lan Yu, Feng Sheng and Ding Dexing. The Ming Dynasty also gave rise to the famous Muslim explorer Zheng He.
Muslims in Ming dynasty Beijing were given relative freedom by the Chinese, with no restrictions placed on their religious practices or freedom of worship, and being normal citizens in Beijing. In contrast to the freedom granted to Muslims, followers of Tibetan Buddhism and Catholicism suffered from restrictions and censure in Beijing.
Immigration slowed down drastically, however, and the Muslims in China became increasingly isolated from the rest of the Islamic world, gradually becoming more sinicized, adopting the Chinese language and Chinese dress. During this period, Muslims also began to adopt Chinese surnames. Other Muslims, who could not find a Chinese surname similar to their own, adopted the Chinese character most similar to their own - Ma (馬) for Muhammad, Mai for Mustafa, Mu for Masoud, Ha for Hasan, Hu for Hussain and Sa'I for Said and so on. The Hui, Salar, and Dongxiang are Muslims in China who use Chinese surnames. As a result, the Muslims became "outwardly indistinguishable" from the Chinese.
In addition to names, Muslim customs of dress and food also underwent a synthesis with Chinese culture.The Islamic modes of dress and dietary rules were maintained within a Chinese cultural framework. In time, the immigrant Muslims began to speak local dialects and to read in Chinese.
Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) was ruled by the Manchus.
In the Qing Dynasty, Muslims had many mosques in the large cities, with particularly important ones in Beijing, Xi'an, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and other places (in addition to those in the western Muslim regions). The architecture typically employed traditional Chinese styles, with Arabic-language inscriptions being the chief distinguishing feature. Many Muslims held government positions, including positions of importance, particularly in the army. As travel became easier, there were many exchanges between China and the outside world. Around this time, Chinese Muslims also became the first Muslims in New Zealand (See Islam in New Zealand). Sufism spread throughout the Northwestern China in the early decades of the Qing Dynasty (mid-17th century through early 18th century). The most important Sufi orders (menhuan) included:
- The Qadiriyya, which was established in China Qi Jingyi (祁静一), also known as Hilal al-Din (1656–1719), student of the famous Central Asian Sufi teachers, Khoja Afaq and Kjoja Abd Alla. He was known among the Hui Sufis as Qi Daozu (Grand Master Qi). The shrine complex around "great tomb" (da gongbei) in Linxia remains the center of the Qadiriyya in China.
- The Khufiyya: a Naqshbandi order.
- The Jahriyya: another Naqshbandi menhuan, founded by Ma Mingxin.
Ming loyalist MuslimsEdit
When the Qing dynasty invaded the Ming dynasty in 1644, Muslim Ming loyalists in Gansu led by Muslim leaders Milayin and Ding Guodong led a revolt in 1646 against the Qing during the Milayin rebellion in order to drive the Qing out and restore the Ming Prince of Yanchang Zhu Shichuan to the throne as the emperor. The Muslim Ming loyalists were supported by Hami's Sultan Sa'id Baba and his son Prince Turumtay. The Muslim Ming loyalists were joined by Tibetans and Han Chinese in the revolt. After fierce fighting, and negotiations, a peace agreement was agreed on in 1649, and Milayan and Ding nominally pledged alleigance to the Qing and were given ranks as members of the Qing military. When other Ming loyalists in southern China made a resurgence and the Qing were forced to withdraw their forces from Gansu to fight them, Milayan and Ding once again took up arms and rebelled against the Qing. The Muslim Ming loyalists were then crushed by the Qing with 100,000 of them, including Milayin, Ding Guodong, and Turumtay killed in battle.
The Confucian Hui Muslim scholar Ma Zhu (1640-1710) served with the southern Ming loyalists against the Qing.
Dungan and Panthay RevoltsEdit
During the time, the Muslims revolted against the Qing Dynasty, most notably in the Dungan revolt (1862–1877) and the Panthay rebellion (1856-1873) in Yunnan. One million people died in the Panthay rebellion, several million people died in the Dungan revolt.
However, Muslims in other parts of China proper like in the east and southern provinces who did not revolt, were not affected at all by the rebellion, and experienced no genocide, nor did they seek to revolt. It was reported that Muslim villages in Henan province, which was next to Shaanxi, were totally unaffected and relations between Han and Hui continued normally.
Elisabeth Allès wrote that the relationship between Hui Muslim and Han peoples continued normally in the Henan area, with no ramifications or consequences from the Muslim rebellions of other areas. Allès wrote, "The major Muslim revolts in the middle of the nineteenth century which involved the Hui in Shaanxi, Gansu and Yunnan, as well as the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, do not seem to have had any direct effect on this region of the central plain."
Many Muslims like Ma Zhan'ao, Ma Anliang, Dong Fuxiang, Ma Qianling, and Ma Julung defected to the Qing dynasty side, and helped the Qing general Zuo Zongtang exterminate the Muslim rebels. These Muslim generals belonged to the Khafiya sect, and they helped Qing massacre Jahariyya rebels. General Zuo moved the Han around Hezhou out of the area and relocated them as a reward for the Muslims there helping Qing kill other Muslim rebels.
In 1895, another Dungan Revolt (1895) broke out, and loyalist Muslims like Dong Fuxiang, Ma Anliang, Ma Guoliang, Ma Fulu, and Ma Fuxiang suppressed and massacred the rebel Muslims led by Ma Dahan, Ma Yonglin, and Ma Wanfu.
A Muslim army called the Kansu Braves led by General Dong Fuxiang fought for the Qing dynasty against the foreigners during the Boxer Rebellion. They included well known Generals like Ma Anliang, Ma Fulu, and Ma Fuxiang.
The Ush rebellion in 1765 by Uyghurs against the Manchus occurred after Uyghur women were gang raped by the servants and son of Manchu official Su-cheng. It was said that Ush Muslims had long wanted to sleep on [Sucheng and son's] hides and eat their flesh. because of the rape of Uyghur Muslim women for months by the Manchu official Sucheng and his son. The Manchu Emperor ordered that the Uyghur rebel town be massacred, the Qing forces enslaved all the Uyghur children and women and slaughtered the Uyghur men.  Manchu soldiers and Manchu officials regularly having sex with or raping Uyghur women caused massive hatred and anger by Uyghur Muslims to Manchu rule. The invasion by Jahangir Khoja was preceded by another Manchu official, Binjing who raped a Muslim daughter of the Kokan aqsaqal from 1818–1820. The Qing sought to cover up the rape of Uyghur women by Manchus to prevent anger against their rule from spreading among the Uyghurs.
The Manchu official Shuxing'a started an anti-Muslim massacre which led to the Panthay Rebellion. Shuxing'a developed a deep hatred of Muslims after an incident where he was stripped naked and nearly lynched by a mob of Muslims. He ordered several Muslim rebels to be slow sliced to death. Tariq Ali wrote about the real incident in one of his novels, claiming the Muslims who had nearly lynched Shuxing'a were not Hui Muslims but belonged to another ethnicity but nevertheless the Manchu official blamed all Muslims for the incident.
In addition to sending Han exiles convicted of crimes to Xinjiang to be slaves of Banner garrisons there, the Qing also practiced reverse exile, exiling Inner Asian (Mongol, Russian and Muslim criminals from Mongolia and Inner Asia) to China proper where they would serve as slaves in Han Banner garrisons in Guangzhou. Russian, Oirats and Muslims (Oros. Ulet. Hoise jergi weilengge niyalma) such as Yakov and Dmitri were exiled to the Han banner garrison in Guangzhou. In the 1780s after the Muslim rebellion in Gansu started by Zhang Wenqing 張文慶 was defeated, Muslims like Ma Jinlu 馬進祿 were exiled to the Han Banner garrison in Guangzhou to become slaves to Han Banner officers. The Qing code regulating Mongols in Mongolia sentenced Mongol criminals to exile and to become slaves to Han bannermen in Han Banner garrisons in China proper.
Republic of ChinaEdit
The Hui Muslim community was divided in its support for the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. The Hui Muslims of Shaanxi supported the revolutionaries and the Hui Muslims of Gansu supported the Qing. The native Hui Muslims (Mohammedans) of Xi'an (Shaanxi province) joined the Han Chinese revolutionaries in slaughtering the entire 20,000 Manchu population of Xi'an. The native Hui Muslims of Gansu province led by general Ma Anliang sided with the Qing and prepard to attack the anti-Qing revolutionaries of Xi'an city. Only some wealthy Manchus who were ransomed and Manchu females survived. Wealthy Han Chinese seized Manchu girls to become their slaves and poor Han Chinese troops seized young Manchu women to be their wives. Young pretty Manchu girls were also seized by Hui Muslims of Xi'an during the massacre and brought up as Muslims.
The Manchu dynasty fell in 1911, and the Republic of China was established by Sun Yat Sen, who immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. This led to some improvement in relations between these different peoples. The end of the Qing dynasty also marked an increase in Sino-foreign interaction. This led to increased contact between Muslim minorities in China and the Islamic states of the Middle East. A missionary, Claude Pickens, found 834 well-known Hui who had made hajj between 1923 and 1934. By 1939, at least 33 Hui Muslims had studied at Cairo's Al-Azhar University. In 1912, the Chinese Muslim Federation was formed in the capital Nanjing. Similar organization formed in Beijing (1912), Shanghai (1925) and Jinan (1934). Academic activities within the Muslim community also flourished. Before the Sino-Japanese War of 1937, there existed more than a hundred known Muslim periodicals. Thirty journals were published between 1911 and 1937. Although Linxia remained the center for religious activities, many Muslim cultural activities had shifted to Beijing.
In the first decade of the 20th century, it has been estimated that there were 20 million Muslims in China proper (that is, China excluding the regions of Mongolia and Xinjiang). Of these, almost half resided in Gansu, over a third in Shaanxi (as defined at that time) and the rest in Yunnan. In 1911, the provinces of Qinhai, Gansu and Ningxia fell to Muslim warlords of the family known as the Ma clique, including Ma Bufang and Ma Chung-ying.
During the Second Sino-Japanese war the Japanese followed what has been referred to as a "killing policy" and destroyed many mosques. According to Wan Lei, "Statistics showed that the Japanese destroyed 220 mosques and killed countless Hui people by April 1941." After the Rape of Nanking mosques in Nanjing were found to be filled with dead bodies.They also followed a policy of economic oppression which involved the destruction of mosques and Hui communities and made many Hui jobless and homeless. Another policy was one of deliberate humiliation. This included soldiers smearing mosques with pork fat, forcing Hui to butcher pigs to feed the soldiers, and forcing girls to ostensibly train as geishas and singers but in fact made them serve as sex slaves. Hui cemeteries were destroyed for military reasons. Many Hui fought in the war against Japan.
On 10 February 1938, Legation Secretary of the German Embassy, Rosen, wrote to his Foreign Ministry about a film made in December by Reverend John Magee about the Nanking Massacre to recommend its purchase. Here is an excerpt from his letter and a description of some of its shots, kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. One of the victims killed by the Japanese was a Muslim (Mohammedan) whose name was Ha.
During the Japanese reign of terror in Nanking – which, by the way, continues to this day to a considerable degree – the Reverend John Magee, a member of the American Episcopal Church Mission who has been here for almost a quarter of a century, took motion pictures that eloquently bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Japanese ... One will have to wait and see whether the highest officers in the Japanese army succeed, as they have indicated, in stopping the activities of their troops, which continue even today.
On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house at #5 Hsing Lu Koo in the southeastern part of Nanking, and demanded entrance. The door was open by the landlord, a Mohammedan named Ha. They killed him immediately with a revolver and also Mrs. Ha, who knelt before them after Ha's death, begging them not to kill anyone else. Mrs. Ha asked them why they killed her husband and they shot her. Mrs. Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1-year-old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest, and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia's parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14. They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha's two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.
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.
Muslims affiliated with the Kuomintang moved to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War. In the Kuomintang Islamic insurgency, Muslim Kuomintang National Revolutionary Army forces in Northwest China, in Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, as well as Yunnan, continued an unsuccessful insurgency against the communists from 1950 to 1958, after the general civil war was over.
Early communist era (1949-1990)Edit
The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Through many of the early years there were tremendous upheavals which culminated in the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution urban youths were encouraged to move to the countryside to "tame the wilderness" and many chose Xinjiang, inadvertently diverting Muslim influence. During that time, the government also accused Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and all other religions in China of holding "superstitious beliefs" and promoting "anti-socialist trends". Mosques were often defaced, destroyed or closed and copies of the Quran were destroyed along with Chinese temples, Christian churches, Buddhist monasteries, and cemeteries by the Red Guards. In 1975, in what would be known as the Shadian incident, there was an 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.
Chinese Muslims say that the Soviet Union was worse in regards to its treatment of Islam than China during the "ten black years" (of the Cultural Revolution).
With economic reform after 1978, health care in China became largely private fee-for-service due to the introduction of capitalist reforms which abolished the free socialist health care. This was widely criticised by Muslims in the North West, who were often unable to obtain medical support in their remote communities. Subsequently, with the advent of Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the Chinese government liberalised its policies toward Islam and Muslims. New legislation gave all minorities the freedom to use their own spoken and written languages; develop their own culture and education; and practice their religion. More Chinese Muslims than ever before are allowed to go on the Hajj.
China banned a book titled "Xing Fengsu" ("Sexual Customs") which insulted Islam and placed its authors under arrest in 1989 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. The Chinese government assisted them and gave into their demands because Hui do not have a separatist movement, unlike the Uyghurs, Hui Muslim protestors who violently rioted by vandalizing property during the protests against the book were let off by the Chinese government and went unpunished while Uyghur protestors were imprisoned.
Tensions between Hui Muslims and Uyghurs arise because Hui troops and officials often dominated the Uyghurs and crush Uyghur revolts. Xinjiang's Hui population increased by over 520 percent between 1940 and 1982, an average annual growth of 4.4 percent, while the Uyghur population only grew at 1.7 percent. This dramatic increase in Hui population led inevitably to significant tensions between the Hui and Uyghur populations. Some Uyghurs in Kashgar remember that the Hui army at the Battle of Kashgar (1934) massacred 2,000 to 8,000 Uyghurs, which causes tension as more Hui moved into Kashgar from other parts of China. Some Hui criticize Uyghur separatism and generally do not want to get involved in conflict in other countries. Hui and Uyghur live separately, attending different mosques.
Under China's current leadership, Islam is undergoing a modest revival and there are now many mosques in China. There has been an upsurge in Islamic expression and many nationwide Islamic associations have been organised to co-ordinate inter-ethnic activities among Muslims.
In most of China, Muslims have considerable religious freedom, however, in areas like Xinjiang, where there has been unrest among Uighur Muslims, activities are restricted. China is fighting an increasingly protracted struggle against members of its Uighur minority, who are a Turkic people with their own language and distinct Islamic culture. Uighar separatists are intent on re-establishing the state of East Turkistan, which existed for a few years in the 1920s.Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China feared potential separatist goals of Muslim majority in Xinjiang. An April, 1996 agreement between Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, however, assures China of avoiding a military conflict. Other Muslim states have also asserted that they have no intentions of becoming involved in China's internal affairs. China fears the influence of radical Islamic thinking filtering in from central Asia, and the role of exiles in neighbouring states and in Turkey, with which Xinjiang's majority Uighur population shares linguistic ties.
In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities". This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims (to whom pigs are considered "unclean").
In response to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting Chinese state-run media attacked Charlie Hebdo for publishing the cartoons insulting Muhammad, with the state-run Xinhua advocated limiting freedom of speech, while another state-run newspaper Global Times said the attack was "payback" for what it characterised as Western colonialism and accusing Charlie Hebdo of trying to incite a clash of civilizations.
Different Muslim ethnic groups in different regions are treated differently by the Chinese government in regards to religious freedom. Religious freedom is present for Hui Muslims, who can practice their religion, build Mosques, and have their children attend Mosques, while more controls are placed specifically on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Since the 1980s Islamic private schools (Sino-Arabic schools (中阿學校)) have been supported and permitted by the Chinese government among Muslim areas, only specifically excluding Xinjiang from allowing these schools because of separatist sentiment there.
Although religious education for children is officially forbidden by law in China, the Communist party allows Hui Muslims to violate this law and have their children educated in religion and attend Mosques while the law is enforced on Uyghurs. After secondary education is completed, China then allows Hui students who are willing to embark on religious studies under an Imam. China does not enforce the law against children attending Mosques on non-Uyghurs in areas outside of Xinjiang.
Hui Muslims who are employed by the state are allowed to fast during Ramadan unlike Uyghurs in the same positions, the amount 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.
Hui religious schools are allowed a massive autonomous network of mosques and schools run by a Hui Sufi leader was formed with the approval of the Chinese government even as he admitted to attending an event where Bin Laden spoke.
Uyghur views vary by the oasis they live in. China has historically favored Turpan and Hami. Uyghurs in Turfan and Hami and their leaders like Emin Khoja allied with the Qing against Uyghurs in Altishahr. During the Qing dynasty, China enfeoffed the rulers of Turpan and Hami (Kumul) as autonomous princes, while the rest of the Uyghurs in Altishahr (the Tarim Basin) were ruled by Begs. Uyghurs from Turpan and Hami were appointed by China as officials to rule over Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin. Turpan is more economically prosperous and views China more positively than the rebellious Kashgar, which is the most anti-China oasis. 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. Celebrating at religious functions and going on Hajj to Mecca is encouraged by the Chinese government, for Uyghur members of the Communist party. From 1979-1989, 350 mosques were built in Turpan. Han, Hui, and the Chinese government are viewed much more positively by Uyghurs specifically in Turpan, with the government providing better economic, religious, and political treatment for them.
The Uyghur terrorist organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement's magazine Islamic Turkistan has accused the Chinese "Muslim Brotherhood" (the Yihewani) of being responsible for the moderation of Hui Muslims and the lack of Hui joining terrorist jihadist groups in addition to blaming other things for the lack of Hui Jihadists, such as the fact that for more than 300 years Hui and Uyghurs have been enemies of each other, no separatist Islamist organizations among the Hui, the fact that the Hui view China as their home, and the fact that the "infidel Chinese" language is the language of the Hui.
Hui Muslim drug dealers are accused by Uyghur Muslims of pushing heroin on Uyghurs. Heroin has been vended by Hui dealers. There is a typecast image in the public eye of heroin being the province of Hui dealers. Hui have been involved in the Golden Triangle drug area.
Tibetan-Muslim sectarian violenceEdit
In Tibet, the majority of Muslims are Hui people. Hatred between Tibeans and Muslims stems from events during the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang's rule in Qinghai such as Ngolok rebellions (1917–49) and the Sino-Tibetan War, but in 1949 the Communists put an end to the violence between Tibetans and Muslims, however, new Tibetan-Muslim violence broke out after China engaged in liberalization. Riots broke out between Muslims and Tibetans over incidents such as bones in soups and prices of balloons, and Tibetans accused Muslims of being cannibals who cooked humans in their soup and of contaminating food with urine. Tibetans attacked Muslim restaurants. Fires set by Tibetans which burned the apartments and shops of Muslims resulted in Muslim families being killed and wounded in the 2008 mid-March riots. Due to Tibetan violence against Muslims, the traditional Islamic white caps have not been worn by many Muslims. Scarfs were removed and replaced with hairnets by Muslim women in order to hide. Muslims prayed in secret at home when in August 2008 the Tibetans burned the Mosque. Incidents such as these which make Tibetans look bad on the international stage are covered up by the Tibetan exile community. The repression of Tibetan separatism by the Chinese government is supported by Hui Muslims. In addition, Chinese-speaking Hui have problems with Tibetan Hui (the Tibetan speaking Kache minority of Muslims).
The main Mosque in Lhasa was burned down by Tibetans and Chinese Hui Muslims were violently assaulted by Tibetan rioters in the 2008 Tibetan unrest. Tibetan exiles and foreign scholars like ignore and do not talk about sectarian violence between Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims. The majority of Tibetans viewed the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 positively and it had the effect of galvanizing anti-Muslim attitudes among Tibetans and resulted in an anti-Muslim boycott against Muslim owned businesses.:17 Tibetan Buddhists propagate a false libel that Muslims cremate their Imams and use the ashes to convert Tibetans to Islam by making Tibetans inhale the ashes, even though the Tibetans seem to be aware that Muslims practice burial and not cremation since they frequently clash against proposed Muslim cemeteries in their area.:19
Since the Chinese government supports and backs up the Hui Muslims, the Tibetans deliberately attack the Hui Muslims as a way to demonstrate anti-government sentiment and because they have a background of sectarian violence against each other since Ma Bufang's rule due to their separate religions and ethnicity and Tibetans resent Hui economic domination.
Jingtang Jiaoyu was a system of Islamic education developed during the Ming dynasty among the Hui, centered around Mosques. The Arabic and Persian language Thirteen Classics were part of the main curriculum. In the madrassas, some Chinese Muslim literature like the Han Kitab were used for educational purposes. Liu Zhi (scholar) wrote texts to help Hui learn Arabic. Persian was the main Islamic foreign language used by Chinese Muslims, followed by Arabic.
Hui Muslim Generals like Ma Fuxiang, Ma Hongkui, and Ma Bufang funded schools or sponsored students studying abroad. Imam Hu Songshan and Ma Linyi were involved in reforming Islamic education inside China.
Muslim Kuomintang officials in the Republic of China government supported the Chengda Teachers Academy, which helped usher in a new era of Islamic education in China, promoting nationalism and Chinese language among Muslims, and fully incorporating them into the main aspects of Chinese society. The Ministry of Education provided funds to the Chinese Islamic National Salvation Federation for Chinese Muslim's education. The President of the federation was General Bai Chongxi (Pai Chung-hsi) and the vice president was Tang Kesan (Tang Ko-san). 40 Sino-Arabic primary schools were founded in Ningxia by its Governor Ma Hongkui.
Imam Wang Jingzhai studied at Al-Azhar University in Egypt along with several other Chinese Muslim students, the first Chinese students in modern times to study in the Middle East. Wang recalled his experience teaching at madrassas in the provinces of Henan (Yu), Hebei (Ji), and Shandong (Lu) which were outside of the traditional stronghold of Muslim education in northwest China, and where the living conditions were poorer and the students had a much tougher time than the northwestern students. In 1931 China sent five students to study at Al-Azhar in Egypt, among them was Muhammad Ma Jian and they were the first Chinese to study at Al-Azhar. Na Zhong, a descendant of Nasr al-Din (Yunnan) was another one of the students sent to Al-Azhar in 1931, along with Zhang Ziren, Ma Jian, and Lin Zhongming.
Hui Muslims from the Central Plains (Zhongyuan) differed in their view of women's education than Hui Muslims from the northwestern provinces, with the Hui from the Central Plains provinces like Henan having a history of women's Mosques and religious schooling for women, while Hui women in northwestern provinces were kept in the house. However, in northwestern China reformers started bringing female education in the 1920s. In Linxia, Gansu, a secular school for Hui girls was founded by the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang, the school was named Shuada Suqin Wmen's Primary School after his wife Ma Suqin who was also involved in its founding. Hui Muslim refugees fled to northwest China from the central plains after the Japanese invasion of China, where they continued to practice women's education and build women's mosque communities, while women's education was not adopted by the local northwestern Hui Muslims and the two different communities continued to differ in this practice.
After secondary education is completed, Chinese law then allows students who are willing to embark on religious studies under an Imam.
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