Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Diversity in China

Beneath the apparent absence of cleavages in China, there is diversity. What are the political reasons for the differences between policies in Hui and Xinjiang?

Light Government Touch Lets China’s Hui Practice Islam in the Open
As the call to prayer echoed off the high walls of the madrasa and into the surrounding village, dozens of boys, dressed in matching violet caps, poured out of their dorm rooms and headed to the mosque.

That afternoon prayer ritual, little changed since Middle Eastern traders traversing the Silk Road first arrived in western China more than 1,000 years ago, was at once quotidian and remarkable.
Men gathering before prayers at a mosque in Linxia.

That is because in many parts of the officially atheist country, religious restrictions make it a crime to operate Islamic schools and bar people under 18 from entering mosques…

With an estimated Muslim population of 23 million, China has more followers of Islam than many Arab countries. Roughly half of them live in Xinjiang… where a cycle of violence and government repression has alarmed human rights advocates and unnerved Beijing over worries about the spread of Islamic extremism.

But here in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region… that kind of strife is almost nonexistent, as are the limitations on religion that critics say are fueling Uighur discontent.

Throughout Ningxia and the adjacent Gansu Province, new filigreed mosques soar over even the smallest villages, adolescent boys and girls spend their days studying the Quran at religious schools, and muezzin summon the faithful via loudspeakers…

Unlike the Uighurs, who speak a Turkic dialect and whose Eurasian features set them apart from the country’s Han Chinese majority, the Hui speak Chinese and are often indistinguishable from their non-Muslim neighbors. In much of China, the white caps worn by men and the head scarves worn by women are all that give them away…

Religious leaders said that the government had become especially vigilant about tamping down competition and potential strife among different Islamic factions. Several imams said party officials were most concerned about Salafis, an ultraconservative Sunni sect whose strict interpretation of religious texts has been associated with extremism…

The party is increasingly seeking to leverage this good will by positioning the Hui as mercantile emissaries to the Muslim world, a role that has been bolstered by President Xi Jinping’s national initiative for a new Silk Road, known as One Belt, One Road, which seeks to revive China’s ancient trade routes with Asia, Europe and the Middle East…

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