China has A LOT of Muslims. The population of Muslims in the Peoples Republic of China stands at around 25 million. Considering, China has more than a billion people it doesn’t amount to much percentage wise. Most people probably won’t even know that Islam was introduced in China during the caliphate of Uthman (RA). The dear companion of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas is credited with introducing Islam to China. Less than twenty years after the death of the Prophet (saw) the rays of Islam had risen in the far east. In addition he is believed to have constructed the Huaisheng Mosque which was ordered to be constructed by Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty brought a steady stream of Muslim traders into contact with China through the silk road. Many of the Muslims that arrived in China at this time formed the backbone of the Hui ethnic group in southern China. These early immigrants brought their culture, cuisine, music, and medicinal knowledge with them to China. Later dynasties such as the Ming openly patronized Muslims. Muslims were treated with respect and could practice Islam freely without any hinderances. In contrast to the freedom granted to Muslims, followers of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity suffered from censure and restrictions. Up until the 19th and early 20th century Muslims were respected in China. Muslims were often at the front lines fighting against the Japanese and British. Some of China’s most famous generals of the past century were Muslim such as Bai Chongxing.
Unfortunately in recent decades our brothers and sisters across China have been suffering tremendously, especially those of the Uyghur minority in the province of Xinjiang in western China. The rise of communism in China in the 1950’s ultimately led to the conflict and suffering today. During this time, the Chinese government started accusing Muslims and other religious groups of harboring superstitious beliefs while promoting anti-socialist ideas. It was common for masjids to be defaced, destroyed, or closed.
Today, many Chinese Muslims, specifically the Uyghur in Xinjiang are constantly struggling to practice their deen. Uyghur people are ethnically different from the majority Han Chinese who inhabit the eastern parts of China. The Uyghur are more closely related to their Turkic neighbors to the west in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. For the past couple years there has been a strong separatist movement by the Uyghurs who want independence from China.
The secrecy of whats taking place in Xinjiang is what makes this conflict so much more evil. The Chinese governments policies have been torn down by strict euphemism which is raising questions about something utterly terrible happening. The whole of Xinjiang is under martial law. Anyone who seems suspicious ends up in Nazi-style concentration camps, otherwise known to the Chinese government as “vocational training centers.” An estimated 1 million Uyghurs are locked up and the Chinese government encourages Han Chinese to settle in Xinjiang in order to further Sinicize the region. Prisoners in the camps are forced to recite propaganda and renounce Islam. Some prisoners have been tortured, and others have disappeared or died right after being freed. The scale of the detention campaign is only getting bigger. Uyghurs have been forced to eat pork and are even barred from fasting in Ramadan.
The Uyghurs along with the Buddhist Tibetans are on the physical edges of China. China essentially treats these minority regions as its vassal states. Furthermore, Muslim nations around the world are unable to voice concern because of fears of angering China. Chinese economic influence has essentially silenced Muslim governments from saying anything critical about the treatment of the Uyghurs. It sounds so unbelievable when we read about how respected Muslims once were in China. May Allah (swt) allow the Muslims of China to practice their religion freely.