The state of the Muslim faith in China
Ask a Westerner about religion in China, and you’re bound to be met with “It doesn’t exist”, or “It’s illegal” or better yet, a confused stare. What many fail to realize is that while the Communist party does not endorse any one religion, it does allow religious institutions to set up shop.
Christianity and Judaism aren’t the only world religions with a firm presence in China; Islam has existed in China for quite some time. Among China’s 53 recognized ethnic minorities, there are two (the Hui and the Uygurs) known for their Islam followers. As anyone wanting to do business in China, it’s important to stay abreast of the growing Muslim faith which is being privately practiced by people outside of these minority groups. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you experience this cultural shift.
The Good news:
Conditions are better – As opposed to the Cultural Revolution era where all religion was banned, China has been opening more and more since 1978 to global influence. With this opening came the acceptance of religious differences.
Female-only mosques – Many Westerners are surprised to see synagogues, churches, and mosques out in the open in China. They exist with government approval. China is ahead of the curve with female-only mosques.
More progress to be made:
The ethnic determinant – As of now, religious affiliations are determined by ethnicity, not beliefs. Today, only Hui and Uygurs are considered Muslim. This presents problems with free expression of beliefs. In addition, some laws ban Muslim burials based on ethnic background.
Restricted to people over the age of 18 – Legally, only adults over the age of 18 are permitted to be in mosques and to be true Muslims. The common thought is that the Chinese government says this is to encourage individuals to follow their own religious path and determine for themselves what they believe in adulthood.
Location, location, location – Another limitation to the religious freedom extends to location. Muslims are only allowed to pray in mosques without questions or interference. Many Muslims can only practice their faith in their homes and in mosques.