China is very evidently gaining momentum in its bid to become the most powerful country in the world. It has already become the second largest economy in the world.
A fact that is always associated with China is that, it is the most populated country in the world. And about 1.2 percent of the country’s total population is Muslim. There is one question that is frequently asked by the rest of the world; does China discriminate against Muslims? While international media outlets – especially western powers and China’s rivals – have often reported such discriminations, there have been reports about banning Muslims from fulfilling religious obligations such as fasting.
Out of about 1.4 billion people in China, about 22 million are Muslims. There are over 30,000 mosques for the Muslim population and over 45,000 Imams or muezzins. There are 10 education centers that only teach Islam. There is a government-affiliated association, established in 1953, to advocate for Muslims and to ensure people don’t deviate from the true path of religion. The voices of Muslims are heard through a council of sixteen Sheikhs.
In China, the way Adhan (prayer-call) is called out, is no different from that of what is practiced in other countries; the loudspeakers on minarets are used for the purpose, just like in other countries. Every mosque has ablution facilities. Although Friday is not a non-working day in China, large number of people gather at the mosques for Friday prayer. Muslims fast in the month of Ramadan, and most Muslims wear white cap (Taqiyah) and others have long beards.
Chinese Muslims have been following Islamic finance for quite a long time. China Bank of Ningxia is one of the main centers of Islamic finance. While the Chinese military and the Communist Party are the two most prestigious institutions of the country, Muslims are present in the military, from the lowest to the highest rank. In fact, the country’s history clearly describes the vital role played by Muslim officers. Similarly, Muslims hold various posts in the Communist Party.
When it comes to catering to the Muslim population, China’s food industry does not fall short either. There are Halal-food-serving eateries and restaurants in every part of the country, where often Muslims are employed. Meat shops or butcher stores have writings put on them with the wordings ‘Qingzhen Cai’, which means Halal in Chinese. In most restaurants, below the name board, bears in writing, the two testifications of faith (ash-Shahadatayn).
Under the Chinese government’s efforts to slow down growth rate of the country’s enormous population, one-child policy has been implemented and followed. Despite the strict population-control measures, in many regions, Muslims are exempt from the one-child policy, and are allowed to have up to three children.
Out of the 55 officially recognized minority groups, at least 10 are Sunni Muslim groups. The largest Muslim group is called ‘Hui’ in Chinese.
Islam was introduced to China about 1400 years ago, through Muslim envoys and traders who traveled along the silk routes. Today, China’s western-most region of Xinjiang houses the largest Muslim population in the country. It is a region right next to central Asian countries like Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.
According to Chinese Muslims, the very first person to introduce the religion to China was a Sahabi named Saud bin Abi Waqqas. Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou is the first mosque built in China and was said to be built in the memory of Saud bin Abi Waqqas.
Out of the oldest and largest mosques in China, the second most notable is the Great Mosque of Xian. The mosque is indeed a grand structure, perfectly displaying beautiful Chinese architecture. Xian City’s population is 8 million, one percent of which, is Muslim. While there is a special hall for sermons adjacent to the Great Mosque’s main hall, sermons are delivered there every day. The mosque was built – on a 12000-square-meter area – in the year 742 during the Tang Dynasty.
Xian City’s Muslim Street is, even today, one of the most important markets of the city, and is one of the most popular tourist spots. Shops and cafés lining the street are a beautiful display of Islamic history. It would be difficult to find a shop or café that not do display the wording of the two testifications of faith (ash-Shahadatayn).
If one looks at China’s long history, the close relationship held with Muslim traders and scholars and how they were welcomed by emperors of various dynasties, and how the ordinary citizens of China welcomed Muslims and their culture with open hearts, will be very evident. Even today, the overall picture in China is no different.
When such is the religious freedom for Muslims in China, there must be a hidden reason behind the portrayal of a different picture by western powers and rivals. That reason is, taking away the country’s unity and creating divisions. Because China has earned the support and backing of most Muslim countries, turning those countries against China could be a reason. While it has been 67 years since People’s Republic of China was established, as a communist-socialists state, the country has been the most powerful nation that has sided with Muslim nations.
Western powers does not want China to become a political and military superpower. Criticizing the Chinese government system and attempts to create divisions between different ethnic groups of China, are all aimed at weakening and dividing the country.
As such, the Uyghur Muslim community living in Xinjiang’s south, have long been a tool for China’s enemies. There had been a time Russia had fueled a separatist movement in the region. When Chiang Kai-shek ruled Taiwan, he too, had pushed to incite violence and split the region from China. And today, China’s competitors are secretly working with the same agenda, by encouraging separatists, providing them with weapons and giving them asylum. One such individual is Rebia Kadeer, an activist who has sought asylum in the US.
Due to the presence of such movements in Xinjiang, the Chinese government keeps a close-eye on the region and imposes restrictions. The government has taken steps to prevent religious extremism, and to prevent religion from being used as a tool to aid separatist movements. For this reason, media outlets, of countries that are secretly supporting the separatist movements, are constantly spreading stories to turn the Muslim world against China.