China Offers an Islamic Model, Yet Scholars Join in on Stereotypes

Posted on October 10, 2012 by


Between Expectations and Ideals: Hui Women Finding a Place in the Public Sphere through Islamic Education

Islam made its way to China over 1000 years ago and ever since the Qing Dynasty in China, which began in the mid 1600’s, women have had a very important role in both education and the spead of Islam.  Interestingly enough, around this same time Middle Eastern Muslims were taking a turn towards men having all the power.  In addition to the origins of Islam promoting the importance of women’s education, the reason that women remained having so much power in China was because there were too few Chinese men to educate and gain followers.  However, while this is a wonderful influence for not only Muslims but for people everywhere, this extremely liberal form of Islam seem to be making judgemental comments on the rest of the Muslim world.  A New York Times article includes statements from Chinese Islamic scholars stating that Female imams and women’s mosques are important because their endurance in China offers a vision of an older form of Islam that has inclusiveness and tolerance, not marginalization and extremism at its core.

So it seems that at least these scholars, who should be very educated in Islam and Muslim peoples around the globe, are making remarks that suggest that a majority of Muslims have very radical views and promote extremist acts.  This is, of course, an extremely inappropriate statement and is in no way true of a majority of Muslims anywhere.  Yes, it is true that almost every time Muslims are on the news it is about some attack or revolution against a dictator such as the recent one in Tunisia. However, many local and national news stations seem to forget about the many inspiring and positive events taking place.  Any of you fans out there may remember my last post about the Tunisian calligraffiti artist who made his largest and arguably his best work in response to the Tunisian revolution in 2011.  An even more recent story, actually posted today on the New York Times, is about the shooting of 14 year old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani school girl promoting women’s education in Pakistan.  This part of the story is likely to be exactly the kind of story that would be told due to the involvment of the Taliban in this incident.  However, in this case the story goes on to tell of the reaction of seemingly most of the country, which is the extreme anger towards the shooter and the rest of these extremists.  “Malala is our pride. She became an icon for the country,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.  The government even went so far as to offer a reward of more than $100,000 for information as to the name or whereabouts of the men involved.

Now this doesn’t sound like the actions of Islamist extremists, other than the Taliban of course.  Since the Chinese scholars went so far as to say that modern Islam outside China has extremism at its core, they might also be ignorant to the religous population of Pakistan.  The Muslim population of Pakistan is currently estimated to be between 96 and 98%.  While Pakistan and many of the Middle Eastern countries aren’t as tolerant when it comes to women’s education, it is obvious that they are not nearly as extreme as many would believe, even their Muslim neighbors to the east. Ms. Armijo, a young Muslim woman in China, made the comment that “To teach a man is to teach one person. To teach a woman is to teach everyone,” which has been the case for Chinese Muslims and hopefully will be one day in the Middle East so for at the very least, the stereotypes against Muslims might come to an end.

Posted in: Islam