How China Taught Me to Understand Islam

January 30 | 102 Comments

How much do you feel like you understand Islam and Muslims? If you meet somebody and they tell you that they are part of the Islamic faith, what is your first thought? China doesn’t have a great track record in dealing with Islam, but my experience living in the Xinjiang region has taught me a lot about my Muslim friends.

Uyghur men exit Kashgar's Id Kah mosque after prayers

I grew up in a part of America that offered very little contact with Muslims, so moving to the Chinese province of Xinjiang was quite a shock.

Over 50% of the population there claims to be Muslim, which includes both the Uyghur and Hui people groups.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my experience in Xinjiang revealed some of the terrible misconceptions I have about the religion and how little I understand Islam.

Having returned to America I was sad to find these misconceptions played out quite often in both the media and among my personal contacts.

Before I continue, I want to stress that I disagree with the foundation and teachings of Islam.

I also want to add that despite the title of this article, China didn’t technically teach me about Islam (their policy toward religion leaves much to be desired), rather it was my experience living among Muslim people in China that showed me how jaded I am toward the religion.

So with that in mind I’d like to share with you some of the top misconceptions I once had about Muslims and things that helped me to better understand Islam.

Misconception #1: Islam is a Religion

In many parts of the world, including Xinjiang, Islam seems to be more of a cultural foundation rather than a religion. 

You aren’t converted to Islam at a young age, you are born into it.

What difference does this make?  I believe it is crucial to understanding some Muslim people.  Most of the Muslims I knew in Xinjiang were not very strict in attending Friday prayers or following the letter of the law in terms of things like alcohol consumption

(Note: some might argue that this has to do with Chinese policy towards religion, but that’s beyond the scope of this article). Their religious identity wasn’t completely rooted in such activities, but rather in their culture, family and upbringing.

Of course, the same could be said for most any religion around the world.

The difference, I believe, lies in how intolerant many families could be towards somebody who decided to believe something other than Islam. It’s almost as if anybody who claimed a different religion was in essence denying their family and culture.

Misconception #2: Islam Oppresses Women

Only a very small portion of Muslim women in Xinjiang covered their heads, and a fraction of those were covered from head to toe.

All it took for me was one time attending a Uyghur wedding and I realized that a woman’s beauty here is flaunted just like it is in America.

A beautiful Uyghur woman on the streets of Xinjiang

I think this particular misconception was born out of all I had heard about select Middle Eastern countries.

In these countries, women can be treated like slaves and are considered second class citizens with very few rights. My wires crossed at some point after I learned about their religion but before I completely understood their government and local culture.

There are bad husbands in any country, part of any religion, but my experience in Xinjiang showed me monogamous relationships with mutual respect between spouses who loved each other.

It seems to me that the oppression of women has more to do with individual groups of people as opposed to Islam as a whole.

Learn Chinese with ChinesePod!

Misconception #3: Muslims are Arabs with Turbans

Muslims in Xinjiang included both Central Asians (Uyghur) and those of Chinese ancestry (Hui). Each had their own unique head wear but it was never a turban.

I recently found out that 69% of Muslims in the world today reside in Asia. China boasts more Muslims (22 million) than Syria (20 million) and a good portion of those can be found in the province of Xinjiang.

That blew me away, especially with my stereotypes about the Middle East.

Misconception #4: If a Muslim Kills, it is Part of “Jihad”

I have seen this common misconception fleshed out in both history books and in commentary surrounding current events in the Middle East.

I used to think that any news I heard about Muslims killing another person had to do with the ridding the world of “infidels”.

This is especially true in Xinjiang.

Many history books treat unrest in the province over the past century as a result of religion (although there are other Xinjiang history books that don’t).

Chinese use it as an excuse to limit religious freedom while Uyghur apologist claim religious restrictions are what necessitated the unrest in Xinjiang.

As is true of the 2009 riots in Urumqi, religion has played little – if any – direct part in most of the uprisings in Xinjiang.

People get frustrated with corruption and unfair policies; some unfortunately resort to committing some terrible acts, but at no point do I believe they were thinking “jihad”.

Understand Islam: Final Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to break away from many of these stereotypes that I’ve grown up thinking, especially the final one.

Obviously there are extremist who break the mold of the traditional Muslim, but I never met one. 

Each of my Uyghur friends would never hesitate to tell you that they are Muslim, but I would love to introduce you to each of them.

They’re great people.

I found that the more I understood Islam, the better I was able to relate to those around me and make friends.

Do you agree with me?

I’d be interested to hear if people think I’m being soft, brainwashed, or dead-on.  This is a reflection of what I’ve learned so far, and I don’t doubt I have much more left to understand.

A group of smiling Uyghur men in Xinjiang, China

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. I enjoyed your article about the muslims in china. I think that what you have learned applies only to the muslims you are near.

    Have a great day.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I assume you mean only the Muslims in Xinjiang? What makes you say that?

    [Reply]

    Truth Speaker on July 10th, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I’m curious as to why you say relaxed standards for things such as drinking are possibly due to Chinese policy, but don’t seem to link Communism to women’s rights?

    Because that’s more or less the only thing Communists have ever done right.

  2. I agree with what you have written Josh.

    I have Muslim friends in Australia who on the most part very strict with there faith.

    I was surprised that the Muslims in Xinjiang are not as strict with there faith as the one in Australia.

    The Hui in Gansu seem to me to be strict/stronger with there faith than Xinjiang.

    I believe there would be more Muslims in Gansu than Xinjiang.Certainly more Mosques there.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Hmmm…Gansu or Xinjiang? Gansu has all the Hui Muslims but Xinjiang has tons of Uyghur. I’ll have to do some research to find out which province has more. I wonder…

    [Reply]

  3. I encourage learning more about Islam! (particularly as your disclaimer sounds a bit intense… the teachings of Islam aren’t a whole lot different from the teachings for Christianity).

    A few things:

    1. Islam is definitely a culture, and the attitudes towards women bit is a lot more on the cultural side than the religious side. Which is why you’ll generally see widely differing attitudes in Egypt and UAE (very liberal, though UAE tries to keep up a facade of conservativism) as opposed to Saudia Arabia and Yemen (very conservative)… Iran similarly is a fairly liberal people and a very conservative government.

    2. The arab world is the only place where women routinely score as high as men in math tests. Which makes you wonder about other places

    3. Turbans are Sikhs… Rather different from Muslims.

    4. Fundamentalist Islam of the Osama Bin Laden type is a fairly new invention (1970s roundabout), and is generally seen as a part of the anti-colonial movement (explicitly in the case of Afghanistan and Iran). Prior to that Arab countries were pretty much how you’d expect any traditional country – somewhat more liberal in the cities and among the ruling elite (the royal family of Dubai is still the country’s largest alcohol importer) and more conservative in the country side. Suicide bombing literally only happened in relation to anti-colonial movements, and then later moving on to the general craziness of modern fundamentalist Islam

    I think Americans often have the odd desire to think of religion as a matter of fervent belief in Dogma, whereas for most people, pretty much everywhere else in the world, its just a matter of culture.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I will continue to learn about Islam, no doubt. I think my statement about “teachings” might have been misleading, whereas my disagreement with the foundation remains as written. I also don’t think that making such a disclaimer diminishes any understanding of Islam. I disagree with Communism but I loved living in China and learning about its culture.

    Also, I personally feel that if you believe in something, you shouldn’t do so half-heartedly. I’m not talking about being a murderous fanatic, of course, but if you truly believe that there is a right and a wrong, why act as if it doesn’t matter? As if it’s just a ‘matter of culture?’

    [Reply]

    Howard on July 8th, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Hey Josh!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful article. I am comparatively ignorant of all things Islamic. I’m a bit puzzled by the intended meaning of your last quote above: “… if you truly believe that there is a right and a wrong, why act as if it doesn’t matter? As if it’s just a ‘matter of culture?” Isn’t all religion of cultural origins?

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 9:58 am

    If what I believe in really is true, then it should transcend culture I think. If there is a right and a wrong, then it applies all over the world – not just as part of my culture.

    There are parts of religion that differ according to the diverse cultures, but I believe the fundamental right and wrong should remain the same. It is wrong to kill. Period. Anywhere in the world.

    These arguments, however, stray far beyond the topic of this article! Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Bob on April 16th, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Dude Iranians are not Arab! Uygurs are Turkic, this group also includes Kazakhs, Turks of Turkey, Tatars, etc..

    Bradley Gardner on July 8th, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I personally believe (strongly) that religion as culture is a much more meaningful practice than religion as superstition. Religion links you to history, links you to your community, and provides you with stories that express the drama of life… That seems much more meaningful than debates over whether Jesus was also God or was just a prophet (the foundation of Islam you are referring too).

    st on July 10th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    religion is rationalised superstition

    海德尔 on September 30th, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I support your article about Islam.

    [Reply]

  4. Interesting points…have you read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali? It gives an unique insight from a woman’s perspective from being raised Muslim in Africa. Very good book, I highly recommend it. As with any religion you have good and bad but when you really look at people you realize we are all basically the same…just trying to find our place in this world.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 1:07 am

    No, I haven’t. I did read “Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Osama bin Laden’s sister-in-law. Also very compelling. Some of those cultures are just incredibly difficult to comprehend. I’ll have to look into the other book you mentioned.

    [Reply]

  5. Islam arrived to this part of the world around the 10-11th century AD. It has been very adaptive at least among Uyghurs absorbing numerous traditions from earlier religions like meshreps or “fire purification” at weddings (when a bride and a groom walk around a small fire during a ceremony). Therefore you don’t see a lot of women covered from head to toes or young bearded men here.

    Islam in Central Asia has its own specifics, some of which you correctly noted.

    Your sentence about wholeheartedly :) disagreeing with the foundation and the teachings of Islam sounds like a) you don’t know much about Islam, b) you hastened to draw a line between yourself and the experience of your past 4 years, and you did it for people with same type of prejudices and misconceptions that you’re trying to break in this article. Just one small example – do you disagree with an idea to share a small part of income with those in need? This is called zeket, one of the major ideas in Islam.

    That’s how prejudices and misconceptions form – based on lack of information and understanding and based on someone else’s ill-informed opinion like mass media’s one. If you want to try to avoid those misconceptions please spend some time reading the teachings of Islam for yourself.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I stand by my statement about disagreeing with the foundation of Islam. I believe it is possible to do so and still respect the people who subscribe to that faith. I’m convinced that it’s possible for people to be respectful while completely disagreeing with somebody.

    Foundation, by the way, is the key here. Giving a small part of your income to somebody in need is not a foundation of Islam, and of course I agree with helping those in need!

    Personally, I think it’s a fundamentally misunderstanding in our world today that everybody has to “accept” each other’s religious beliefs. I have many Muslim friends, I care for each of them deeply, but I disagree with what they believe. That’s ok, though. This article was an effort to voice what I’ve learned about Islam through them, acknowledging that I don’t understand it all, while respectfully disagreeing.

    [Reply]

    Robert on September 13th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    The “Teaching of Islam” is like
    the “Teaching of the West” ?
    Wondering if a teenager would
    like to learn “THE TEACHING OF ISLAM”
    or plain old math, english, biology ?
    “TEACHING OF ISLAM” is an interesting
    choice of words but I like better
    “teachings of Avecena”, “teachings of Omar elKayiam”, “teachings of Al Horezmi”

    [Reply]

  6. Your first point is a bit high handed. It may be more appropriate to say that Islam is more than simply a formal religion, especially in the case of Xinjiang. Obviously, in a nation as hostile to religion as China, the scope for formal religious practice of all forms will be and is significantly curtailed. combining the legacy of communism in china (and central asia) with a traditionally less fundamentalist view of religion in the region may give the appearance of Islam as a cultural shell but I don’t know that it is any less of a religion. However, I do agree with you that Islam in Xinjiang is largely manifest through the culture in xinjiang.

    [Reply]

    damo on July 7th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    There is no shortage of mosques in Gansu and the call to prayer daybreak and dusk can be clearly heard all over.

    http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt98/bigdamo888/xiangansujuly-august2009207.jpg

    Along this road that we traveled for two hours there was a mosque every kilometer.

    http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt98/bigdamo888/xiangansujuly-august2009461.jpg

    In this town of roughly 5000 people there was seven mosques.

    I think your quote

    “Obviously, in a nation as hostile to religion as China, the scope for formal religious practice of all forms will be and is significantly curtailed.”

    is possibly wrong.
    There was also Buddhist temples up in the mountains.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Nice pictures, Damo. I wonder if somebody has done a study on the difference in religious freedom in Xinjiang and Gansu. It’d be interesting to see if Xinjiang has been handled differently because of the troubles the government has had there.

    kahraman on July 9th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    @damo As long as communists consider religion the opiate of the masses and religion is officially discouraged in China I feel my statment is justified. Places of worship certainly exist but I would be willing to bet that the number of mandatory weekly party meetings in any given locality is disproportiontlely more numerous than any formal religious services.

    damo on July 13th, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Morning and night they had a formal religious service in the part of Gansu I visited.

    It was no secret as I said you could hear quite clearly all over town the call to prayers each morning and dusk and see and hear all the people attending.

    They sure as hell went call it a weekly meeting.

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 12:58 am

    You’re right that this article doesn’t take into account outside influences such as government policy. To do so would have opened up a whole can of worms I’m not willing to deal with right now.

    I think maybe the heading of that point was misleading. Obviously Islam is a religion, but in many cases I think it is so much more.

    [Reply]

  7. In support of your belief that Islam is not a religion (and I’d vote it is both a religion & a culture) you say, “Of course, the same could be said for most any religion around the world. The difference, I believe, lies in how intolerant many families could be towards somebody who decided to believe something other than Islam. It’s almost as if anybody who claimed a different religion was in essence denying their family and culture.”

    I grew up in a religion in the US that I no longer believe in. I have kept the fact that I no longer believe in this religion from my family because if they knew, I would be rejected. According to the church, I am worse than a murderer or rapist because I have once known the truth of the church but then denied it. So, yes, What you said can apply to most any religion around the world, including Christian sects, and many of these religions will also view denial of the faith as rejection of the family and culture. Islam is not the only one.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I don’t doubt your family might be extremely disappointed to find out, but do you really think they’d completely reject you?

    I’d also like to stress that this article wasn’t meant to be critical of Islam. Like I said in response to another comment above, I was just intrigued by the fact that I never saw any conversion like you would in the West. It’s just assumed that you’re a Muslim.

    [Reply]

    Mo on July 8th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Unfortunately, yes, my family would reject me. I think that is petty and ridiculous on their part, but this is how that particular religion works. On the other hand, I have a Muslim friend who no longer practices. Her fairly religious parents have no problem with that. I understand that you are not being critical of Islam, I only wanted to point out that there are exceptions, which I’m sure you obviously know.

    I spent several years of my childhood in an Islamic country, and it is hard for me to remember that most Americans have not had simple interactions with Muslims, so I am glad that you are a) blogging about your experience and b) able to make these observations.

    BTW, it is true that there is not much conversion in Islam. They don’t believe in proselytizing, which might be one reason.

  8. I think organized religion is one of the worst things humans have done to themselves-please note I said “organized religion”, not faith. The three religions “of the Book” are all bloody, war-mongering, patriarchal and politically motivated. At different times in history, one or more of them has used violence to justify its existence. Now it’s Islams turn to be co-opted.

    If you don’t agree, think of the native American (both South & North), African slaves, The Crusades. These are just some of the examples of Christian jihad, if you will. It’s all the same, just different moments in history.

    [Reply]

    Rus on July 7th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    2Jan Abbey. that’s an interesting thought, I should say. I tend to agree that organized religion cares more about organizational survival rather than the Faith itself.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Thanks for your comment, Jan. I can easily sympathize with what you’re saying but I would also like to point out that “organized religion” is made up of humans. The Bible speaks of the church as a group of people, not an organization. I am equally repulsed by a lot of what I see in society today that falls under the umbrella of “religion”, but you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    [Reply]

    Kepha on April 30th, 2013 at 4:52 am

    What’s an organization if not a group of people?

    I think that organized political ideology is a far more dangerous thing than organized religion.

    Robert on September 13th, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I agree 100%. There are good people and bad people in the World and religion is a powerful weapon of mass destruction. It is interesting that most uses of religion are destructive. Maybe the religion and the power one can accumulate through it – are also highly corruptive.

    [Reply]

  9. Your first point is premised on an unfair and, if you ask me, ultimately dangerous distinction between belief and practice. Despite the claim I believe most Protestant Christians make, it really isn’t always possible to see the realness and meaningfulness of one’s religious beliefs.

    And I disagree strongly with the final paragraph in point one, as well. First off, that view is itself one of the most widespread stereotypes about Islam that I’ve seen quite often (and one that I know is widespread in Christian missionary literature and lore). Can you substantiate the claim with any accounts of Uyghurs who have converted to Christianity? And secondly, I really don’t think that the “cultural basis” of Islam among Xinjiang Uyghurs makes Islam any less a religion than the cultural basis of Christianity in the United States–as only one example–weakens the religious foundations of Christianity. I’m a Christian-turned-agnostic from the southern United States, and I faced a heck of a lot of social ostracism among my friends and family members, most of whom were never “visibly Christian,” when I renounced my faith.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I expected this kind of response to that first point, and I don’t blame you. I’ve never had to go through being ostracized by my family or friends because of something I believe and it seems unfair to comment on the issue since I haven’t.

    That said, I’m not aware of families in America disowning their family due to conversion, and yes, I have seen that in Xinjiang. It was a Hui, however, and not a Uyghur. Perhaps Uyghur are more willing to accept such changes? I don’t know.

    Also, with point one I’m not judging the genuineness of anybody’s faith, merely pointing out that unlike America, there doesn’t seem to be a point of conversion. It’s just an integrated part of their culture. Do you disagree?

    [Reply]

    Ivan on July 7th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    There have been a few prominent cases of families doing more than disowning their offspring — outright attacking them, in fact — for “abandoning Islam” in the US in the recent years. See the cases of Noor Faleh Almaleki and Rifqa Bary.

    EMA on July 14th, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I know. I was asking for a case from Xinjiang to substantiate the claim made on the basis of observing Xinjiang Muslims.

    EMA on July 14th, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Apologies for a late reply; I’m currently in XJ with less than regular internet access (thankful I have it at all).

    I think that this view you’re expressing hinges critically on the idea that Christianity is somehow special, and potentially “more real” as a religion, because of the notion of conversion/choice. The distinguishing factor for me, though, comes from my belief that the choice to become a Christian is a culturally-conditioned one. Why do people make the choice to walk up to an altar and/or pray a prayer to accept Christ? (Or better yet, why are there billboards in America that say nothing other than “JESUS” on them?) Christians say it is because people have developed understanding of their sin and their need for Christ, etc. But another important explanation is that people make this “choice” because they have developed, through repeated exposure from church or, say, an American missionary running around Xinjiang, developed a familiarity with the culture of Christianity. Posed as choice, but no less culture than the Islam of Xinjiang’s Muslim populations.

    Ultimately, I think the view you express of Islam as culture and not religion really only serves to minimize the religion and its many practitioners. Whether you intend to or not (we often do and imply things we never intend), you do question the genuineness of people’s faith by dismissing it as not truly religious.

  10. Excellent post. I agree with all points raised.

    [Reply]

    Nelson on July 18th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    This is indeed an excellent article and being an Overseas Chinese myself from Singapore, I cannot help but agree with what you say. The Muslims in China are in China are a mixed breed of ethnic minorities and they certainly practice the Muslim faith in a much more peaceful and less radical way. In Singapore, where I live my Muslim fellow citizens are very much the same. Maybe, it has a lot to do with Governments and how they look at religions. Religion should never be part of politics.

    [Reply]

    Robert on September 13th, 2010 at 8:57 am

    This is a well written article of a sincere, educated person indeed. I’ll touch on a few afirmations: 1/”Obviously there are extremist who break the mold of the traditional Muslim, but I never met one.” Answer: It is hard to meet or even hear about extremism in China. I mean that any violent behavior or hate speech, may only be spontaneous not motivated by ……. . 2/ There is an obvious reason islamic women are treated better in China: one child policy. Statistically, groups having less children per family have increased respect for women. There are even some non-statistical reasons. 3/ I agree Islam is not ONLY religion; it is Religion + Ignorance + Backwardness + Lots of money. I’m sorry to say but in Singapore, the militant Islam is strongly inhibited by the government (which is not democratic!)
    Opinion: The Asian Islam is (still) different from other forms because Asians are mostly hard working people not lazy oil salers.

    racheal on November 6th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Robert ur comment is really representation of ignorance about Islam. Oil producing region of islam rep just fraction of Muslims. CHina has more Muslims than Saudi Arabia (Ughyr plus hui)
    Even India has more muslims than Saudi Arabia.
    If u comment, pls. get info first.

    海德尔 on September 30th, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Yes agreed

  11. Before arriving in China I had very little contact with Muslims. In Xi’an, I found the shopkeepers in the Muslim quarter were more friendly and less pushy than anywhere else in China. I also thought the Muslim restaurants in Shenzhen had better service.

    But what really changed my views on Islam was my trip to Malaysia–especially seeing one street in Malacca with church, mosque, and Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist temples.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Malaysia, huh? It boggles my mind how far Islam reaches, especially in Asia. I went to the Philippines a year and a half ago and was surprised to find that half of the country is Muslim.

    [Reply]

    Baoru on July 7th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Hey Josh,

    Half of the country? Hmmm…embarassing to think that i myself don’t know this! The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic country.

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 1:19 am

    From my understanding, the southern portion of the Philippines is predominantly Muslim while the northern half is split between a minority Christian and majority Catholic. This is all hearsay from friends living there, of course, so I would need to do some research before saying that I’m sure this is correct.

    Baoru on July 8th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    You’re right. Southern part as in one of the 3 islands–Mindanao.

    Chinamatt on July 8th, 2010 at 8:58 am

    You’d enjoy Malaysia. KL has the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, and the museum is amazing. There’s even a nice collection of art from Xinjiang.

    Jack on April 14th, 2012 at 7:58 am

    The southernmost island of Mindanao is minority Muslim. Only 20% of the people in Mindanao are Muslim. :) The Philippines IS NOT half Muslim.

    Josh on April 16th, 2012 at 7:58 am

    After a bit of research it looks as if I was told incorrectly by my Filipino friends. Perhaps they means that Islam represents the southern “half” of the country? Thanks for the correction, Jack.

  12. I really enjoyed your post. The only way to truly know someone or something is to experience first-hand for an extended period of time. Reading an article or listening to another’s stories can not convey the true sense of something. My experience in the sense of yours was truly beginning to know and understand Communism as it plays out in the everyday lives of Chinese people. Reading books and hearing about it never gave me a full comprehension of it until living and breathing it for myself. Same with Buddhism and understanding it in its more pure form overseas, not the glamorized Hollywood version. One of the great benefits of living fully immersed in a culture different from ours!

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I agree. And unfortunately, as important as these new understandings are, it doesn’t quite translate in American culture, you know? I can’t come back to America and put on my resume “I adapt to cultures well and better understand Communism”. That just doesn’t fly. Yet it is such an important part of living abroad.

    [Reply]

    yeah on July 8th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    装B
    一方面宣扬包容,一方面你自己丝毫容不下不同意见
    一方面在前一篇文章里面宣扬美国是如何牛屄地自开国以来就尊重自由,一方面却虚伪地忽略美国残酷血腥的历史

    伪善的美国人
    我从美国人身上学到的唯一一点就是伪善,我在美国的生活经验也验证了这一点

  13. “I recently found out that 69% of Muslims in the world today reside in Asia. China boasts more Muslims (22 million) than Syria (20 million) and a good portion of those can be found in the province of Xinjiang.”

    Syria’s on the Asian continent, though…

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 7th, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Really? Now that you mention it I’ll have to look back at the place where I read that and determine what they meant by “Asia”. Cause to be honest, I think of Syria, Iran, Iraq and all those countries to be “Middle East”…even though that’s technically not a continent. Thanks for pointing that out.

    [Reply]

    Ivan on July 7th, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    As an Arab-studies guy, I can tell you that the common refrain is “Middle East? Middle of what, and east of what? We are West Asians!” It’s a response, of course, to the whole Asia-is-the-Pacific-Rim mentality. I know people who claim that Georgia and Armenia, because they’re majority-Christian, can’t be Central Asian or Caucasian (another widely-abused label, the use of which usually ignores the presence of the Caucasus) but rather ought to be categorized as Eastern Europe.

    We have to remember that the largest Muslim population in the world is in Indonesia (203 million), followed by Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and only then — in fifth place — do we see an Arab country (Egypt)! The countries we see after that in the ranks are just as diverse and certainly not Arab either: Nigeria, Turkey, and Iran.

    (Figures taken from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, fyi.)

    racheal on November 6th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Middle East is rather a confused term and greater middle east sometimes includes north Africa, Central Asia, Pakistan, Syria , Turkey, SAudi Arabia and Iran…Afghanistab too

    Caucasia too in some maps meaning Armenia, Azerbaijan and georgia is included in defination of middle east.

    It is a political rather a geographical term.

  14. I think the foundation and policies of Islam, Christianity and Judaism are pretty similar. I am with commenter Jan that I fundamentally disagree with all three monotheistic organized religions!
    Turkey is a quite interesting place to consider visiting – layers of all three of those religions are apparent in Istanbul. There are Islamic and Christian (including Orthodox) sites, as well as Greek and Roman, and it is a city where Ladino the language of the Iberian Jews (expelled in 1492) can still be found spoken as a native language. For a majority Muslim culture, there is a lot of wine and beer produced in Turkey.
    I think while one can read a great deal about different religions, it has to be best to make opportunities to talk to and get to know people from other cultures. Xinjiang culture sounds very rooted and very social. That seems much more important to me.
    Thanks for making the post.

    [Reply]

  15. Some excellent, thought-provoking posts above, covering a gamut of opinions and experiences.

    I have a question related to this quote of yours, Josh: “Also, with point one I’m not judging the genuineness of anybody’s faith, merely pointing out that unlike America, there doesn’t seem to be a point of conversion. It’s just an integrated part of their culture.”

    Would it be correct to assume that the Muslims you encountered did NOT spend much of their youth or adult time learning/dissecting/analyzing the whys and wherefores of the various tenets found in their religion? In *some* religions (as we’re defining them here), adherents are BORN INTO The Faith, like we Americans think of just BEING Irish or German in heritage. I’m wondering if the Uighers you know would have ever had the chance to decide if they might have preferred another religion, by way of comparative study, etc.

    I believe we Americans (among others) tend to view religion as something we acquire by way of parental guidance, or maybe as an adult choice, after we “shop” and critically decide what theological system best fits our life. Maybe that’s a legacy of our Constitution’s freedom of religion clause; it certainly isn’t something that is enjoyed worldwide.

    Having said all that, I just believe it may help to explain why_in some settings, at least_belief systems such as Islam resemble a cultural identity than a religion as we define it.

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 8th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Great points, Howard. You are correct in assuming that most Muslims in Xinjiang are born into the faith, as far as I can see. Most of them don’t have the opportunity to learn/dissect/analyze the faith, but that has more to do with Chinese policy than personal preference, I believe.

    The schools that used to teach that stuff have been banned for the most part. A select few remain, but they are for the post-high school students.

    [Reply]

  16. I loved reading your post..though i have reservation about some of your conclusions…But the basic point that all people living in the earth must learn is tolerance towards others’ different opinion, beliefs, culture – this is the only way people can live in harmoney..There are quarals even between a son and father over petty material issues..then differences over beliefs, faiths and cosmological concepts are sure to exist.The only way to deal with it is to learn tolerance. I have spent 12 years learning Islam and secular subjects to be a Muslim scholar..and what i have learned is this lesson….
    then one point about Zakat…u are free to believe the way u think…But…there are 5+6 basic foundations of Islam and Zakat (compulsory alms giving) is one of them… it is compulsory on every earning Muslim to give out certain portion of his income if it crosses certain limts, to the deserved. It is not called cahrity, rather it is believed to be the right of the deserved ones…and to do it or not to do depends upon the person…(there is no compulsion in the religion)..those who try to compel others to do teachings of Islam is doing against the actual teachings..
    wishing all the best..
    and waiting mrre such posts
    Zubair, India

    [Reply]

  17. Hi, I grew up in Urumqi but I am a Han Chinese. I also had work experience in different Arab countries. I partly agree with your opinion on islam as a religion. I think Han Chinese confucious culture plays an important unseen role in the muslim culture in Xinjiang, which is a unique character among all the muslim societies in the world.
    I have many Uygur friends, but I don’t like people deviding us into groups as ‘han’ and ‘Uygur’. For me, we are all equal and we love each other very much. In fact, some of my Uygur friends have married to Han Chinese and set up families together. – This may not be everybody’s taste, but I hope this is going to be the trend in the future.

    [Reply]

  18. It’s good to see that you have a reasonably open mind. Muslims are normal people like anyone else. It’s quite astonishing to see how deeply embedded in the American mindset is the idea that this cannot possibly be the case. Obama’s speech to the Muslim world was hailed as a great thing to do, but it is based on the spurious idea that there is “us” and there is “them” and the 2 are totally different (although to be fair many groups of people divide the world into us and everyone else, not least the Chinese and some Muslims themselves). This is all the more mystifying given that Muslims in the US more or less reflect the national average on things like income, level of education etc etc. The only caveat I have is your assertion that you “disagree with the foundations and teachings of Islam” – this is just a strange thing to say. Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam contains teachings that we should all basically be nice to one another, help each other out, be thankful to God etc etc, principles that millions of Muslims all over the world take as guidance every day – is that somehow wrong?

    [Reply]

  19. Hi Josh,
    I’m just loving this post of yours, although I am a bit confused about what you and others are finding so wrong with the foundation of Islam/ monotheistic religions What exactly are you against, belief in one God or even God, is that it?

    [Reply]

    Josh on July 14th, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Sorry for the confusion! Personally I believe in one God and the Bible, which is why I have a problem with the foundation of Islam which contradicts that belief. I do think, however, that through understanding other religions I can be more effective in communicating with people who believe differently than me. That’s the basis of this post. Hope that clears things up :)

    [Reply]

    Swan on July 15th, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I hear you bro!

  20. We all have experiences, both positive and negative that form the mosaic of how we judge people and ideologies. At least here there is no attempt to demonize Islam.
    Because of the failure of Muslims to adequately educate themselves and others over many centuries, regional cultural differences are found as interaction ceased many centuries ago. An Islamic revival of its core ideas is needed and it has to be at grassroots level as in Protestant evangelical activities.
    Because of imperialism, colonialism, military and unIslamic dictatorships a wave of hard core fundamentalism mixed with extremism and violence has grabbed the stage allowing for many stereotypes to flourish. One one level there is individual spiritual development through Sufi practices(especially in Asia and on the other a desire to return to the past glories of Islam by establishing an Islamic state but usually from the top down through political activism which has been blocked in most Arab and Muslim countries and by US support of governments friendly to its policies. There is a tornado going on in the Muslim world with many different forces vying for power and influence. There is not enough freedom for most groups to circulate and communicate to the masses what the Islamic obligations are so that good examples have to be searched out. Today , we have many extreme positions, or at least seen as such and divides the Muslim community.Modernism, secularism,materialism hinder change and extreme reaction postpone evolutionary changes.
    Incidentally, Zakat
    is one of the foundation pillars of Islam and requires Muslims each year to give 2.5% of their total wealth(not yearly income)to certain classes of people who are in need and is not voluntary charity which is extra. It used to be collected by the government but now left to the individual. Taking interest or giving interest is also forbidden. Either the unIslamic political systems will collapse by themselves or internal and external forces will cause change hopefully non-violently. Islam needs to be explained and practiced properly by Muslims themselves before non-Muslims can get a balance picture of what is essentially a struggle to please and be pleased by our Creator.As it does not separate the spiritual from the political as it is holistic, there are many conflicts today that have resulted in a concept of a War of Civilizations that has become a real war in many areas. Some Muslim individuals, religious scholars and politicians and countries are willing participants and the masses have been sidelined are brought into the fray though emotional appeals.There is fear on the part of the West of a growing Islamic unity that can challenge its hegemony.

    [Reply]

    Robert on September 13th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Talk about:
    “Islam contains teachings that we should all basically be nice to one another, help each other out, be thankful to God etc etc, principles that millions of Muslims all over the world take as guidance every day – is that somehow wrong?”

    Nothing wrong…
    there are milions of very nice muslims but
    how come they have such inept advertizing ?
    Their trillions of petro-dollars cannot
    buy a better suite ?

    Every challenger in the history, had to be crueler then the establisment and certainly less scrupulous. Both China and Islam are challengers but there is a great difference between them !

    [Reply]

  21. Zubair’s words…”But the basic point that all people living in the earth must learn is tolerance towards others’ different opinion, beliefs, culture – this is the only way people can live in harmoney..” resonate most with me.

    I am of the opinion that if one could bring together all the Great Religious Leaders of the centuries (Christ, Mohammed, Confucious, Buddha, Ghandi, etc.), each of them in their prime, and put them into one room, they would agree on far more than they might disagree on.

    Any “Religions” that are named for these men (and not all of them have that as a legacy) were CREATED BY THEIR MORTAL FOLLOWERS, i.e., Jesus never said, “You should all become Christians.” Quite frankly, I’m convinced he and others, like Mohammed, would be (are?) aghast at how some of their “followers” behave nowadays.

    There is an extraordinary amount of selfism in most religions; that is, we chose to believe “our religion” is The Best, THEEE One Authorized by The Only God, while all others are lesser religions. Furthermore, few of us can claim a truly Divine Intervention that revealed this as The Truth: we *learned* it, most likely, as children from our parents, or by some influence from friends, etc., but at some point, we bought into the We’re-The-Bestest/Rightest-Religion. It is this level of selfism that makes one’s religious fervor become dangerous. It is this “zeal” for serving(?)God and defending our faith that leads to such things as The Crusades, The Holocaust, etc. This mindset is the antithesis of Zubair’s words above.

    [Reply]

  22. Guys, it is funny but understandable that many westerners think Islam is something just about killing and terror. In fact, Muslims are proud to be Muslims. Because the peace the Islam teaches them. Of course some Western countries suffered some Islamic extremist groups, especially the US. But remember guys, there is no religion which motivates a war or violence. Religions like that were eliminated hundreds years ago. All the violent and extremist groups have political achievements to achieve. Therefore we should call these groups as political groups rather than extremist religious groups.

    Finally, there would not be more than one billion believers on this planet if Islam was a violent religion.

    [Reply]

    Robert on September 13th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Gallup:

    “A new category, the “politically radicalized,” was defined, limited to the 7 percent who said that 9/11 was “completely” justified (level 5). These were considered a potential source for recruitment or support for terrorist groups. The authors acknowledge that “only” 7 percent of 1.3 billion people is still 91 million. Of these, 13
    percent say that attacks on civilians are “completely justified.”

    91000000x20kg(TNT)= 1800 kt TNT = Hiroshima x 180
    0.13 x 91000000 = 12000000 (more than the chinese army just you don’t know who they are)

    [Reply]

    Mohamed on October 31st, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Hi I just wanna clarify that statistic. Are you implying to say that 7% of the religion actually supports the killing of innocents. Cause I would not even consider them muslims if that were the case because of the basic commandment of “If any one innocent person is killed (hence not just muslims but innocents), it is like the murderer had commited a killing of the entire world. It is highly unlikekly that statistic is right in the first place.

    watchfull on December 28th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    @mohamed says,

    The probelm with your biblical defense is failing to acknowlege who is defined in the Quran as “innocent”. The hadiths expand on this to exclude non-believers. Out of the great Islamic universities in Cairo you will find Imams who use this loophole to justify jihad as acceptable punishment for non-believers. As far as comments towards religious wars, the crusades were a defensive battle, and no one in histroy has killed more muslims….than muslims.
    I am afraid the author is comparing apples and oranges when comparing Islam from China to the Arabic nations or African nations. China is ruled by strict atheist governement with tight restrictions on allowed religions vs. arabic countries run by strict Islamic governance according to Sharia law. I full heartedly belive that there are great abd bad people of all walks, but perhaps you should spend a year abroad in muslim controlled Nigeria and report what that life was like.
    Whoever wrote that mohamod would be disappointed in Islam today, would that be disappointed at those fighting for a one world caliph, or those resolving to live peacefully with Jews and Christians? There is a huge seperation from his teachings concerning muslims to his teaching concerning infidels and dar al islam.

    damo on December 16th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Well Josh well done for turning your blog from an informative site on living in and traveling in Xinjiang blog to a Uyghur and there extremists supporter blog.

    “Uighur from Aus”
    Truly shows that.

    [Reply]

    Josh on December 22nd, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Thanks for your comments. I know I can’t please everybody, especially when I allow others to comment on the site. It’s a catch-22 really…if I allow people to comment I get extremists. If I block the comments I get blasted for censorship.

    I judge my site by what I write, and I’m glad you find it “informative”. Thanks, damo.

  23. That’s quite true. You can’t generalize when it comes to talking of a large percentage of population because they all have different perspectives. The Uyghurs are a unique population as they live in China but don’t follow the mainstream Chinese society and culture. However, in the recent years, the Chinese government have began to be more controlling about their practices and ways of life. You should definitely keep in touch with the events in Xinjiang and surrounding areas. Recently, there was an article by RFA stating the CCP’s officials use of their mosque for a meeting. This caused quite a stir in the population. Actually, RFA has a section dedicated to the Uyghurs. I don’t think I can comment links on here so to get to RFA (Radio Free Asia)’s website, just search on Google: Radio Free Asia and there’ll be a link to the homepage. Under NEWS, there’s Uyghur.

    [Reply]

  24. HI,

    Just a comment about Uyghur women. To say they are oppressed due to Islam, yes may a be a bit much. But Islam definitely affects the way they are viewed. I’ve lived among Uyghurs for almost 12 years now, so have seen first-hand how this plays out.

    In the big cities, you’ll find women dress and go about pretty freely.

    You go to the smaller cities though or dig deep into the lives of those in the city and you begin to find different pictures.

    #1 – must be married by 30 years old (in most cases, and sometimes earlier); even if it’s to someone you don’t love. Better to be married and divorced, than to have never married.

    #2 – many husbands cheat on their wives, but a wife better not cheat on her husband! I’ve even heard it said that Uyghur college boys are free to play around with Han girls; but a Uyghur girl had better stay pure until marriage!

    #3 had one friend tell me that her Uyhgur friend got married and then when her monthly time came around and she was considered impure, her husband told her to go out and find a friend for him to be with during those days to fulfill marital relations!!

    #4 I have had several Uyghur boys tell me that they don’t care if their future wives have any education or not, the important thing is that they can cook well, keep a clean house, and raise children – seems they think that’s all wives are good for.

    #5 I lived in one county where businessmen from Xinjiang worked. Most of them had a wife and family in Xinjiang and wife or mistress in this other country, perfectly normal to them.

    On the other hand, I will say that Uyghur boys seem to really hold their mothers in high respect. They have a saying, “Heaven is under the mother’s heel”. I don’t know if this is an Islamic saying or Uyghur saying. From my understanding of Islam, a wife getting into heaven, depends on her husband’s report of her to Allah….

    I have several married Uyghur friends, some of them have great marriages; others have terrible ones. This is the same everywhere in the world. But I do think expectations of wives here are quite conservative.

    [Reply]

    rudy lim on December 7th, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    hi Kizqak,

    I live in Indonesia which has the largest muslim population. I saw few points that you said are almost same in here, especially the point #1 that even applied to the big city dwellers. The saying of “Heaven is under the mother’s heel” is from a hadith. But for the point #4, it doesn’t quite apply here, especially for the big city dwellers.

    I have a question, are there many chinese males married to uyghur females and vice-versa in xinjiang?

    [Reply]

    rudy lim on December 7th, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I want to add a bit for my previous comment. For my comment about #1, I mean the women here are usually be encouraged to get married soon whenever they’re ready physically and mentally. It is more apparent in a religous family. But I seldom heard a case that they are forced to marry someone they don’t love, especially for the big city dwellers.

    Josh on December 8th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Not many. It happens on occasion, but because of the vast differences between both cultures and religions it makes for a very difficult marriage.

    Thanks for your comment!

    rudy lim on December 12th, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Thank you Josh for your information. If I may ask again, are there many uyghurs in xinjiang married to other local/non-local turkic ethnics such as kazakhs, tajiks, kirgiz, and especially uzbeks who are very close in term of culture, religion and language to uyghurs?

    I heard once the uzbek girlband called shahrizoda is very popular in xinjiang. I don’t know if they sing in uzbek or uyghur, but I heard the uzbek and uyghur language are almost similar.

  25. nice article. I am an american born muslim, lived in Pakistan for 6 years and have travelled through Africa, Europe, Asia. Islam in its true essence is a “deen” way of life. Every aspect of a muslim’s life is about being God conscious. The word “Islam” is derived from the word “salema” which means Peace and a “muslim” is one who submits to God in order to obtain Peace. We are all people trying to live our lives in peace and love. Politics and hatred creates extremists not religion in itself. The beautiful teachings of Islam are full of peace and love no matter what the media tells you. That is why you see Islam spread throughout these beautiful eastern countries without missionary or war, but purely through teaching and trade.

    [Reply]

  26. I struggle to find logic in this article.
    Example: Misconception #2: Islam Oppresses Women
    Then the author then tells us that:
    a) Not all Muslim women cover their heads/whole bodies
    b) In certain Middle Eastern countries the women can be treated like slaves
    c) In Xinjiang there are couples who enjoy monogamous relationships with mutual respect between spouses who loved each other

    Now, does a), b) or c) disprove that Islam oppresses women?

    [Reply]

    Josh on March 16th, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I argue that it isn’t Islam that oppresses women, it’s the governments in those Middle Eastern countries that oppress. The coverings are optional, so how is that oppression?

    I don’t believe your comment raises any sort of argument, so please do expound upon how I have erred.

    [Reply]

  27. Muslims constantly tell us the Islam they practice is not violent. Great! I am not against any peaceful religion. But when they attack me and try to stop me when I criticize the violent Islam, it is clear they are lying. Their religion is violent and they know it.

    There is only one Islam and that is the Islam of Muhammad. It is detailed in the Quran and his biography. Muslims have different takes on their faith. Some practice it more than others. But there is only one Islam.

    We chinese in indonese have seen all terrible and barbaric things by islam through muslims. You should read this article:
    http://www.faithfreedom.org/articles/free-thought/why-attack-only-islam/

    My view and many other chinese’s view in indonesia have been summarized in that article.

    [Reply]

    Mohamed on October 31st, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Wait your confusing muslims with the religion Islam. Muslims – the people following the religion, Islam – the religion. I know many news articles of a christian terrorist bombing a abortion clinic, or the westbaptist church. I mean obviously Im not gonna like go say ALL who practice christianity are evil. I can say many different things about communist countries (hint hint China) and how Stalin did crazy atrocious acts to the people, does that mean China is bad? And dont even bring up indonesian people, they have the highest population of muslims in the WORLD, and ALL of the converted peacefully, that itself is an example of Islam. And Im sorry but if your talking about indonesia (hence the largest population of muslims around the world), why are you even there then. Im sorry if I offended you but imagine if I was going to the vatican church and try to uphold certain types of chinese ideals like communism. Whats the reaction supposed to be?

    [Reply]

    watchfull on December 28th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Are you suggesting there is a difference between muslim and islamists? I have never heard of an islamist population count. Look up islamist and you get muslim, follower of islam, teachings of mohamod. Obviously the chines muslims are well content people. Allowed to self govern to the extent allowed in China. Indonisia is not a peaceful islamic state. They are of the highest intolerance states with severe penalties for conversion ( apostacy) and violence against Christians.
    And Mohamod, on one hand you can count the radical Christian crimes against abortion clinics abd abortion Dr’s, tell me, how many hands would you need to count islamic violence in any similiar five year period? The facts are stacked against you to the hundredth degree my friend.

  28. There are so many culture shocks here in China (I’ve lived here for over 6 years) and some of them are sort of “reverse” culture shocks, like you describe. One small shock I had was reading your next-to-last sentence:

    “I’d be interested to hear if people think I’m being soft, brainwashed, or dead-on.”

    Just from reading this one post, it seems to me you’re a reasonable and honest person. I could be wrong, but there’s nothing in what your write that would ever make me think “soft or brainwashed” so just the idea that you think people in the states might think that comes to me as a small culture shock. Interesting – one of the things I’ve noticed by living here is how much more I understand the U.S. by living in China!

    Good luck to you.

    [Reply]

  29. Hi Josh,

    You grew up with misconception about Islam once, by writing your article based on your experiences, I consider you had new conception about Islam, wether you agree or disagree with Islam. I am a muslim, if I found goodness (teachings and practicing) in any other religions (which are many), I don’t hesitate to say those are right and I agree not just wholeheartedly but my whole body.

    Agreeing other teachings (which are good) is the way we learn and absorb a new perspective about something.

    I see you had a little worry…. which you shouldn’t .

    [Reply]

    watchfull on December 28th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    jumpit,

    I agree with you that good can be found in all peoplesfrom all four corners of the world. Not everyone is a fanatic in there beliefs, but I would like to know from a muslim perspective, why is there such silence amongst the muslim communities for acts such as destruction of churches, killing of gays, bombing of innocent people, yet we see a world wide revolt when a danish cartoonist in his own country , protected by danish law under freedom of speech, submits a cartoon not too far off of the truth he was emphasising. Why is there so much tolerance in the muslim community for acts of terror, yet such violent responses for editorials or cartoons? This question has always baffled me. I am not trying to be inflammatory, please accept my apologies for any offense this may cause, just an honest question.

    [Reply]

  30. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for a useful article. I’ve recently moved to Xinjiang and was surprised to realise just how many misconceptions I had about muslims and Islam. It’s great to experience a culture and have dodgy stereotypes replaced by some understanding of real people.

    [Reply]

  31. Well, what you describe here is the Islam you witnessed in Xinjiang. This region is geographically and culturally on the periphery of the Muslim world, and governed by non-Muslims who view the religion with suspicion. It is thus hardly typical of the Muslim world.

    Especially when it comes to Islam oppressing women, I think you don’t really get a fair picture. Islam, just like all monotheistic Abrahamic religions, does indeed solidify patriarchal rules which at least nowadays represent regression and not progress.

    It is noticeable that almost everywhere in the world, Muslim countries or communities tend to be more patriarchal than their non-Muslim neighbours. Yes, you can argue about what the Koran actually says, but currently Islam stands for this, like it or not. Xinjiang has long been influenced by being ruled under a “communist” regime which supported women’s liberation and in the past repressed Islam.

    [Reply]

    Josh on June 14th, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree with you that what I experienced can only be described as a fair picture of Islam in Xinjiang…not Islam in general. But I would also argue that the same could be said everywhere.

    The primary purpose of this article was to document the preconceived notions I had about a major religion in the world. I don’t agree with their beliefs at all, but I came to realize that shoving the whole community into one box – even saying that anything is “typical” of the Muslim world – is not doing anybody a favor.

    [Reply]

  32. Hi Josh:

    I can sense that you meant this webpage to be about your observation of Muslim people living in Xinjiang. It has unfortunately turned into a discussion about Islam, ‘fundamentalism’ and women rights — common themes the media picks to mislead and misguide people all over the world about Islam.

    It is so simple — there is Islam, and then there are muslims who may or may not be practicing Islam, or may be doing so only partially.

    Islam (meaning peace acquired through submission to the will of God) was the way of life for ALL Divine messengers, namely Adam, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad and many more (may peace be upon them all). They were all muslims meaning that they believed in ONE GOD (monotheists) and His commands, and all of them brought the same message.

    The Divine commandments have always been the same:
    1. Respect your parents
    2. Let your women cover themselves modestly
    3. Abstain from wine and all things that are addicting, including gambling.
    4. Give to the poor and needy and take care of your neighbor
    5. Do not kill your children (abortion) for fear of poverty
    6. Safeguard your chastity; marry, for it helps you guard your chastity

    And so on.

    One can be a believing muslim but he/she may not be a practicing muslim, or only a partially-practicing muslim.

    So, it is futile to look at muslims living in Xinjiang or Indonesia or Pakistan or elsewhere and then say….such and such a practice is Islamic.

    If you truly wish to educate yourself about Islam, please do not look at Muslims. Instead read the Holy Quran and study the life of Prophet Mohammad (may peace be upon him) and his rightly-guided companions (may Allah be pleased with them).

    [Reply]

  33. Beautiful article.

    This article applies to muslims all over the world.People are ignorant of this fact because they believe things without 1st hand experience and proper unbiased knowledge of the religion as well as its people.

    Also because a country calls themselves a ‘muslim country’ doesnt mean they really follow islamic law. Rather,as with all countries they have their own interests and pockets to line so they use the religion to justify their personal actions.

    I have met many xinjiang muslims and I do admire them for keeping to the true religion.

    [Reply]

  34. Hello,

    I am a Muslim woman. I can nderstand why you link Islam to culture because it is a way of life, and Muslims in different regions incorporare their native cultures into the religion, but nonetheless, Islam is a religion. My culture is American, but my religion is Islam. And I am Muslim because I choose to be — not because of my family. And I, nor any one of the tens of hundreds of Muslim women I know in America and the Middle East and from around the world are like slaves. My Arab husband is the kindest and most helpful man I have ever known. And he does wear turbans to religious events and is very religious. Hence why I chose to marry him.

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

    海德尔 on September 30th, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Subhanallah
    Hayyah

    [Reply]

  35. What languages do you speak? Are you required to have s “tour guide?” Are you traveling alone? Do you feel safe? My neighbor’s college-age sons traveled to China and to Urumqi, where they were pelted with rocks upon getting off the train.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on December 7th, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I speak Mandarin and a very little Uyghur (I’m still learning). I do travel alone but I feel perfectly safe!

    [Reply]

  36. You really need to understand Islam more from Quran itself not form the muslims , especially the Muslims in xinjaing since they don’t have any freedom in practicing own religion and they even scare to show and speak freely

    [Reply]