Comparing China’s Islams: Muslim Minority Accommodation to Chinese Rule

Friday, April 13, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • Dru C. Gladney

Muslim minorities in China are often depicted as either forces for integration (i.e., sinicization and assimilation) or disintegration (as separatists, radical Islamists, or ethnic nationalists). Yet, many of the challenges China’s Muslims confront remain the same as they have for the last 1400 years of continuous interaction with Chinese society, though clearly many are new as a result of China's transformed and increasingly globalized society, and especially since the watershed events of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with the subsequent Sino-U.S. cooperation on the “war on terrorism.”

Muslims in China live as minority communities amid a sea of people, in their view, who are largely pork-eating, polytheist, secularist, and kafir ("heathen"). Nevertheless, many of their small and isolated communities have survived in rather inhospitable circumstances for over a millennium.

This seminar will examine Islam and Muslim minority identity in China. Through comparing the two largest Muslim minorities in China (Uyghur and Hui), it will be argued that successful Muslim accommodation to minority status in China can be seen to be a measure of the extent to which Muslims have been able to reconcile the dictates of Islamic identiy to their host culture. This goes against the opposite view that can be found in the writings of some analysts of Islam in China, that Islam in the region is almost unavoidably rebellious and that Muslims as minorities are inherently problematic to a non-Muslim state. The history of Islam in China suggests that both within each Muslim community, as well as between Muslim nationalities, there are many alternatives to either complete accommodation or separatism.

Dru C. Gladney is the author of over 50 academic articles, as well as Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People's Republic (Harvard University Press, 1996, 2nd edition); Ethnic Identity in China: The Making of a Muslim Minority Nationality (Wadsworth, 1998); Making Majorities: Constituting the Nation in Japan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the U.S. (Editor, Stanford University Press, 1998). Former president of the Pacific Basin Institute and dean of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Gladney is also the author of  Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities, and Other Sub-Altern Subjects  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). He is currently working on a comparative study of Muslim adaptations in China as well as a study of new media in helping to build a Uyghur "virtual" nation. 

 This seminar series is co-sponsored by the South Asia Initiative,