Practicing Islam in Today's China: Differing Realities for the Uighurs and the Hui

2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Monday, May 17, 2004 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Transcript (PDF) (Text)

According to government statistics, China has more than 20 million Muslims, more than 40,000 Islamic places of worship, and more than 45,000 imams.  Islam is an officially sanctioned religion, and Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution nominally ensures freedom of religious belief and "normal religious activity" for Muslims in China.  Reports regularly surface, however, of government-imposed restrictions on Muslim religious activities. According to these reports, Chinese officials censor the sermons delivered by imams,  limit the ability of Muslim communities to build mosques, and discourage Muslims from wearing religious attire. Chinese government policy also prohibits teaching Islam to those under 18 years old.

The Uighurs and the Hui, China's dominant Muslim groups, have distinct ethnic, cultural, and historical backgrounds, and Chinese authorities treat the two groups differently. The Uighurs, who are of Turkic descent, face harsh religious restrictions and repression, since Chinese authorities associate the group with separatism and terrorism in western China.  The Hui, who are related ethnically to the Han Chinese majority, enjoy greater freedom to practice Islam than Uighur Muslims.


Dr. Jonathan Lipman, Professor of History, Mount Holyoke College

Dr. Gardner Bovingdon, Assistant Professor of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University

Dr. Kahar Barat, Lecturer in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University