Muslim Conservatism in China


The Muslim Conservatism refers to the staunch belief in the Islamic religious norms and the readiness to oppose any change concerning the doctrines of Islam. The movement has remained one of the most influential in China having shaped the people’s lives in many ways (Dillon, 2013). Since China experiences a large population, the Islamic religion has heard a role to play in the country. The Muslims have a special way of life following their religious doctrines. Their norms have influenced many people in China making the concept relevant for exploration. The group has their unique ways of behavior, some of which people from other religions have emulated. Therefore, the examination of the effect of the Muslim Conservatism proves pivotal in understanding the Chinese charters.

Apparently, the Muslim Conservatism has shaped people’s behavior in China. Specifically, the Hui community is one of the groups in China that have experienced behavioral changes following the influence of the movement in the country. However, not all Hui people succumb to the Islamic norms regarding their religion (Dillon, 2013). One more group of the population the Muslim Conservatism has influenced is the Han – the largest ethnic group in China. The Han practice common ways of life in the country including sharing the same culture, religion, and language, both written and spoken. Historically, people felt that China was divided more on the basis of language than the ethnic lines. However, in time, the country has advanced, though experiencing divisions on the religious platforms. For instance, among the fifty-five tribes in China, about ten identify with the Muslim Conservatism (Possamai et al. 2015). The rest shares other religious affiliations including Christianity. The Muslim Conservatism has also heard an influence on the Uighurs living mainly in Xinjiang since they compose mostly of Muslims (Hershatter, 1996). Therefore, the study of the effect of the Muslim Conservatism on people’s behavior in China proves relevant. It enables one to understand the behavioral transformations that the Chinese have undergone due to the presence of Muslim Conservatism in the country.

The presence of the Muslim Conservatism has had the effect on shaping the behavior of people in China for many reasons. The Muslims’ cultural beliefs have influenced the eating, dressing, and building habits of the Chinese (Blum & Jensen, 2002). Moreover, the Islamic history and its conservation have changed the cultural beliefs of the people in China concerning their trade, religious affiliation, and lineage. Finally, the Muslim Conservatives have influenced the Chinese political behavior and ideology.

The First Book

In support of the first point, Possamai et al. (2015) describe the cultural beliefs of the Muslim conservatives by narrowing to the Hui people. In their analysis, the authors explain several beliefs that make the religion special. They describe the Hui as the better part of Muslims in China (Possamai et al., 2015). The scholars also confirm that the group migrated to China between 7th and 14th centuries like traders, soldiers, and officials. Moreover, Possamai et al. describe several cultural practices of Muslims including their dressing modes. They confirm that the Huis, who wear white caps, are the Muslims while the ones with blue caps are Jews. Furthermore, the authors identify the Muslims concerning their dietary. Specifically, the Muslim Conservatives refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol since such meals portray them as ungodly. They also eat Hui pastry during religious gatherings as they believe in it as a sacred food from Allah. Therefore, exchanging the pastry among them is a sign of respect. In addition, their place of worship is a mosque, which is built on cultural assimilation between the Muslims and the Arabs. The claim holds since the building’s design combines the traditional Chinese and Arabic architecture. Moreover, Possamai et al. recognize the gender disparity regarding the place of worship – the Muslim Conservatives have segregated men and women mosque. Overall, the book mostly discusses the Hui’s ways of life and the differences between them and other groups regarding the culture, territory, race, and violence.

The point also identifies how the Muslim religion has grown over the period and how it has influenced the behavior of the Chinese. The book describes how the Huis came into existence and started growing in China. The Huis are the third largest minority group in China and mostly live in Ningxia, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces. They came to China between the 7th and 14th century as soldiers and traders (Possamai et al., 2015). Being engaged in long distance trade, they were mostly interested in the jewelry, wool, and bullions. The Muslims played a big part in the foreign trade of Song Dynasty (960-1271). According to Possamai et al. (2015), the Muslims migrated from central Asia to China; this migration followed from the Persians and Arabs’ Tang Dynasty (618-907). On their arrival in China, they adopted their ways of life including the dressing style, language, and surnames. Interestingly, the locals saw the Hui as fierce, brutal, and antisocial. Such conclusion was made because over 1000 of them died in PLA intervention, Shadian Incident (1975), during the Cultural Revolution. This violence was mostly the result of cultural differences, cultural insensitivity, enmity, and resistance to the King. The book also shows that in ancient China, there was a major cultural and commercial distribution in the North West China known as Xidaotang, discovered in 1909 by Ma Qixi.

According to the book, the Muslim Conservatism has shaped the political behavior of the Chinese. The Muslim Conservatives argue for the cleanliness and moral superiority of Muslims over other religions’ followers. Besides, they decide whether one is pure or impure regarding his/her religious beliefs. Even though it appears discriminative, the process solicits the truth regarding the Chinese political organization. The Huis had discriminative government policies in terms of the local economic and geographical conditions. In time, the anti-assimilation movement Anti-Sufi appeared because of large Muslim solidarity. There was also National Muslim Association whose aim was to elevate Muslims in China. In addition, Ma Bufang, the ruler of Qinghai, and Ma Hongkui, the ruler of Ningxia, were prominent Muslim Warlords who identified with the Republic of China in 1911-1949 (Possamai et al., 2015). Moreover, Muslim officials and artisans formed the semu class – the second highest stratum in Yuan ethnic hierarchy, which occupied some of the important positions in the government and the army. The morals of the Muslim Conservatism, therefore, shaped the political beliefs of the Chinese leaders.

The Second Book

In support of the first point of Muslim culture and beliefs, Hershatter (1996) explains how Muslims became participants in the social life of China after the Yuang dynasty. Moreover, the author shows that Muslim modernism had a role to play concerning religious ideas, community structure, and ethical interactions (Hershatter, 1996). The Islamic Mysticism, known as the Sufism, believes that the religious leaders like Shayks and Imams have special religious charisma called ‘Baraka.’ Combined with a number of prayers and obedience to the religious law, this charisma can provide the Muslim with a satisfying religious life. The book also discusses the culture and beliefs as a factor Muslims use to rule the community. It also points out the leaders like Man Wanfu who stated his purity. Furthermore, the book presents the Muslims as conforming to the universal ritual of the Hajj since the second generation of Ma Wanfu, named Hong Song Shan, who went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1920. This move showed they had abiding feelings to the Muslim culture and religion (Hershatter, 1996).

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In addition, the people considered the Hezhou to be a Chinese cultural center. The place consisted of rivers and grasslands. As a result, the Muslim conservatives regarded it to be the commercial center and pilgrimage site. Since then, people know the town for its mosques and seminaries.

In support of the second point, the book explains the history of Muslims in general and Chinese Muslims in particular. Hershatter (1996) mostly talks about the Sino-Muslims and the ways they reached China. At that time, the Chinese cultural heritage was a combination of traditional beliefs and customs of different people like Mongols, Tibetans, and other Muslims. Gansu, the Chinese-speaking Muslims, did not come from a well-defined geographical location. During the Ming period, the Sino-Muslims were afraid that the Islamic religion would die if they did not find a place for it in the Chinese culture. Due to this perception, they started explaining their faiths to the non-Muslims who hated them, saw them as barbarians and signed several treaties on Islam. According to Hershatter, the Sufi arrived in China in 1740 though they did not get good reception, and by the 19th century, there were still no orderly mosques in Lanzhou (Hershatter, 1996). The second wave of the Muslims that composed of the scripturalists arrived in China in 1890 when the Japanese raided the country. Ma Wangfu, a Mongolian-speaking Muslim from Dongxiang, intended to purge Muslims from his own country. He went to Mecca with several Imams for four years to study Islamic religion.

The point highlights how the Muslim Conservatism has influenced the political behavior in China. According to the writer, the Sino-Muslims have fought for political reasons over the years. The Islamic religion has remained conservative and has not changed because of the religious and political requirements of the society. The Muslims, therefore, tend to be adamant to their historical evolution. Their leaders have also tried to use the Muslim Conservatism to establish their rule and completely disregard other religions. For instance, Ma Wangfu, a Mongolian-speaking Muslim, refused to learn Chinese and relied on Arabic and Persian to gather the followers. Since he discouraged acculturation, he attracted many enemies though he preached sermons about Islam purification. However, the movement failed and its legal and political system broke down (Hershatter, 1996). This shows that some leaders used the Muslim conservatism for their own political gains. Another aspect of the book is the importance of classification of the Chinese Muslims. Specifically, the high stratum was the Hui, who actively participated in the places of activities in China. In essence, all the above-mentioned beliefs have helped to shape the Chinese political platform.

The Third Book

Blum and Jensen (2002) explain the first point of Muslims’ culture and their unique way of life. The authors highlight how the Hui struggled to get an identity in the country even with the state opposition. For example, the Hui in Na village attempted to revitalize the mosque where they performed most of their rituals. In the 1980s, the mosques were in poor conditions because of low population and the fact that people who looked after them were mostly the elderly (Blum & Jensen, 2002). Moreover, the Hui in Na village refused to visit their neighbors to ask for help because the latter ate pork and kept pigs in their yards. Such decision was because, in 1979, the Muslim Conservatives of North Hui paid close attention to the Islamic purity by observing dietary restrictions.

The authors also state that most of the villagers prayed five times a day and observed the Muslim calendar. In addition, they valued the Quran education and saw it more important for their children to learn Persian and Arabic than Mathematics and Chinese. The rise of Islam conservatism also made the elders prohibit smoking and drinking alcohol in the village; they could only drink outside the village or on special occasions. Finally, the Hui culture distinguished them from the Han neighbors. The claim remained evidenced on the differences concerning the decoration of the homesteads and the direction in which people opened the door – the Hans opened the door to the south while the Huis did not specify.

The authors explain the roots of the Na Muslim to be from the foreign Muslim of the West and not from Han Chinese. The story of the Na ancestry dated from 1984 to 1985. Their ancestors were the descendants of Muslim governors of Yunnan of the Yuan dynasty Sai Dianchi. His son had four children who changed their names to Chinese due to Muslim oppression. Thus, they had the names Na, Su, La, and Ding, which corresponded to the surnames used by the Huis in Ding Dynasty (Blum & Jensen, 2002). In time, the Na moved and formed five villages that corresponded to his five children. This story enables us to understand the Ha origin and their struggles that contributed enormously to their existence.

According to the author, the Chinese used the Muslim Conservatism in the government policies. This claim is evidenced as during that period, the people proposed that the political party reform would correct all misunderstandings among the political parties. The conservatives were of the opinion of stopping other religious activities. They also suggested reforming the political party policies that strongly advocated the religious practices that are useless to people (Blum & Jensen, 2002). The Chinese sociologists suggested that Muslim religion was not useful to the society. There were also policies that they made to clearly distinguish between the religion and ethnic affiliations.

The three authors use similar approaches to the effect of Muslim Conservatism on shaping the behavior of the people in China. Possamai et al. (2015) confirm the Muslim influence on the trade and the eating style of the Hui. The scholars also reason that the Muslim Conservatives argued for the cleanliness and moral superiority of Muslims over other religions’ followers. On the other hand, Hershatter (1996) explains how Muslims became active participants in the social life of China after the Yuang dynasty. Finally, Blum and Jensen describe how the Hui struggled to get an identity in the country with the state opposition. In addition, the scientists state that the Chinese used the Muslim Conservatism in the government policies. All the mentioned authors, therefore, view the behavioral change on political, cultural, and economic platforms of China.


It is true that the effect of the Muslim Conservatism on shaping the behavior in China manifests itself in many ways. The Muslims’ cultural beliefs have influenced the eating, dressing, and building habits of the people in China. The history of the Muslim religion and its conservation has also had the positive effects on the behavior of the Chinese. Finally, the Muslim Conservatism has influenced the Chinese political behavior and ideology. The analyzed three books also provide support in relation to the influential character of Muslim Conservatism in China. The authors point out various facts that show how the presence of the Muslims in China changed the behavior of the people around. Therefore, it is true that various people have undergone behavioral change following the presence of the Muslims in China.

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