Post 18: Muslims in China

Islam in China has always been something of a mystery to me. Besides delicious halal food (lamian, kebabs, etc.) I didn’t really have any prior experience with or knowledge of Muslim traditions in China. For many Chinese people, non-Han ethnic groups are often viewed as exotic and quaint. Chinese Muslims account for a large proportion of ethnic minority groups, and although they are all categorized under a single religious belief, the Muslim population in China is an extremely diverse group of people. Turkic Muslims in the Far West regions of China have significantly different traditions from Hui Muslims, for example. While Hui Muslims benefit from minority classification and are relatively integrated into Han society, Uighurs from the Far West are viewed as potential terrorists; basically, views of Muslims in China go beyond religious belief alone. Despite this, the Muslim identity in China is ethnoreligious, which essentially confines those from Muslim ethnic groups to one set of religious beliefs.

One particular fact I found interesting was that China actually has more Muslims by population than many major Muslim countries, yet the percentage of Muslims in China account for just over 1% of the entire population. This begs the question: Are Muslims in China fairly represented by the government? While many Muslims in China receive and benefit from affirmative action policies, many Han Chinese people are still xenophobic and view Muslims, especially those who “look different” as potential threats.

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