Life as a Muslim in China

There are over 16 million Muslims in China (aka 2% of the Chinese population) and most of them live in the western province of Xinjiang. In China, being religious (any religion) usually means a fraught balance between personal spiritual convictions and practices, and the government. This is definitely true for Xinjiang’s Muslim population, especially given the history of oppression, corruption, and violence in this province since 1950. But China’s Communism also allows for some unique freedoms for Muslims, especially women, a topic often negatively linked to Islam.

These two articles highlight the interesting challenges facing those mainly in Xinjiang today, although the government clearly considers riots and deaths important enough to hush up internally and to a lesser degree internationally, the situation for Muslims in China is more nuanced than both the Chinese and the West usually think.

Two ethnic Uighur women pass Chinese paramilitary policemen standing guard outside the Grand Bazaar in the Uighur district of the city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region on July 14, 2009. A mosque was closed and many businesses were shuttered a day after police shot dead two Muslim Uighurs, as ethnic tensions simmered in restive Urumqi.   AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

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