Islam in China (1911–present)
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After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Sun Yat Sen, who led the new republic, immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. When the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, Muslims were to again suffer repression along with all other religions in China, especially in the cultural revolution. Today, Islam is undergoing a revival and there has been an upsurge in Islamic expression.
Republic of China
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. 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. National organizations like the Chinese Muslim Association were established for Muslims. Muslims served extensively in the National Revolutionary Army and reached positions of importance, like General Bai Chongxi, who became Defence Minister of the Republic of China.
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.
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 humilation. This included soldiers smearing mosques with pork fat, forcing Hui to butcher pigs to feed the soldiers, and forcing girls to supposedly 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.
People's Republic of China
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, Islam, like all religions including traditional Chinese religion, was persecuted by the atheist Red Guards who were encouraged to smash the Four Olds. Traditional Chinese Confucian and Buddhist Temples, Monasteries, Churches and Mosques were all attacked However, while most were suffering malnutrition due to severe food shortages, beef was reserved for Muslim people as much as possible even during the Cultural Revolution. Non-Islam and non-Muslim could only have beef if there happened to be surplus.
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).
Since 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.
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 nation-wide 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. There is an ethnic separatist movement among the Uighur minority, who are a Turkic people with their own language. Uighur separatists are intent on establishing the East Turkestan Republic, which existed for a few years in the 1930s and as a Soviet Communist puppet state, the Second East Turkestan Republic 1944-1950. The Soviet Union supported Uighur separatists against China during the Sino-Soviet split. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China feared potential separatist goals of Muslim majority in Xinjiang. An April, 1996 agreement between Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikstan and Kyrgyztan, 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. Like many other minority groups, youngsters are always given special opportunities to go to colleges whenever the college system was available. They were usually recommended by the local officials with minimum academic score requirement.
With economic reform after 1978, health care in China became largely private fee-for-service, after the socialist system of free medical care was abolished due to capitalist reforms. This was widely criticised by Muslims in the North West, who were often unable to obtain medical support in their remote communities.
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.
In 2007, CCTV, the People's Republic of China's state run television station ordered major advertising agencies not to use pig images, cartoons or slogans "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities", a reference to China's Muslims.
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.
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.
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.
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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