Travelogue: Sufi Shrines in Linxia, China’s “Little Mecca”

Yu Baba Gongbei in Linxia Photo: David Dettmann

In summer 2010, David Dettmann, Assistant Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, traveled to the Hui heartland in central China to collect material for his course Islam in China. The following is about his experience in Linxia, sometimes called China’s “Little Mecca,” in Southwestern Gansu Province.

When I arrived at Linxia’s bus station, I liked the town immediately. It was obvious upon leaving the bus station that there is a hearty mix of people in Linxia, practicing different faiths and speaking different languages. There were Tibetan monks (likely in transit from the nearby Labrang Monastery in Xiahe), Hui (Chinese-speaking Muslims of various backgrounds), Han Chinese, Salar (Turkic-speaking Muslims), and the Santa and Bonan peoples (Mongol-speaking Muslims). Linxia, formerly known as Hezhou, is located in today’s southwestern Gansu Province, and is sometimes called China’s “Little Mecca” due to its important role in the spread and development of Islam in China. It is a central location in China’s Muslim heartland, part of a broader region that spans from Eastern Qinghai Province in the West, across Gansu and Ningxia, that straddles the borderlands of many historical powers: Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Turkic. The largest concentrations of China’s Hui communities—China’s largest Muslim group—are located in this region.

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30 Mosques in 30 Days

Aman Ali and a small congregation of Bosnian Muslims praying in a Seattle mosque

New York-based comedian Aman Ali and documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq journeyed across America during Ramadan this past August, visiting an astounding 30 mosques in 30 days. Beginning their adventure in Anchorage, Alaska, and praying in the mosques and homes of Muslims from Laramie, Wyoming, to Omaha, Nebraska, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Ali and Tariq got to explore firsthand what Akbar Ahmed and his research team documented in their book and film, Journey in America: The Challenge of Islam. We’ve written past posts about gender and sexuality in mosques, but Ali and Tariq crossed the US to connect with their own spirituality through the personal stories of individual Muslims and the communities where they live.

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Advertising Islam: Can Commercials and Billboards Change its Image?

One of these billboards

This week the first commercial on Islam was broadcast on TV in Australia. MyPeace, a group started by Diaa Mohamed, is behind the ad, which aims to promote Islam by addressing misconceptions about the faith and emphasizing similarities with Christianity. The commercial is part of a larger campaign, which began this past summer.

In addition to the commercial, MyPeace paid for billboards around Sydney as well as signs on 40 buses. The four statements on the billboards were: “Jesus: A Prophet of Islam,” “Holy Qur’an: The Final Testament,” “Muhammad: Mercy to Mankind,” and “Islam: Got Questions? Get Answers.” The billboards also had a phone number that people could call to ask questions about Islam and receive free literature and copies of the Qur’an. The billboards were not without controversy: the billboard on Jesus was vandalized one day after it appeared. Continue reading

Women Driving and Voting in the Kingdom: Two Saudi Male Perspectives

Thousands of Saudi Arabian students are learning English in the U.S. under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.

Sally Jolles is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently researching Saudi students living and studying in the United States. Jolles interviewed two Saudi men in their 20’s and 30’s studying English in Madison, Wisconsin, through the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Scholarship Program. The following statements are unedited transcriptions from their recent conversation related to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The names of the speakers have been changed at their request.

Sally: So, recently King Abdullah said that he was going to give women the right to vote and also to be on the Shura Council. What do you think about that? Continue reading

Fines for Wasting Food

Last month, Marmar, a restaurant in Saudi Arabia, announced that it would begin fining customers who order food and do not finish it. According to the restaurant owner, Fahad Al Anezi, the motivation behind the new policy is to stop food wastage. Al Anezi maintains that many customers will order large quantities of food to show off, a practice he aims to stop at his restaurant. Continue reading

Islam’s Position on Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem. There are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide, according to  an Al-Jazeera series on slavery. Trafficking is defined as “the movement of these persons from their place of origin to elsewhere in their communities, provinces, regions, or across countries and continents, to destinations where they are ultimately exploited.” While all countries in the world prohibit slavery, human trafficking, many times referred to as modern-day slavery, continues to be a problem and affects countries all over the world, including some Muslim majority countries. While Muslims in these countries may engage in the crime of trafficking, Islam’s position on this topic is clear. Even though human trafficking is not explicitly prohibited in Islam, there are many aspects of it that are clearly forbidden in the faith. Continue reading

Let There Be Dharmoniropekkhota

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/ Drik News

A native of Bangladesh, Tarik M. Quadir received his doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and currently reside in Turkey where he teaches about the work of 13th century Sufi mystic and poet, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi.

I think it would be wise for us to focus on the notion of dharmoniropekkhota, which signifies “neutrality in the choice of religion,” and not get entangled in the concept of “secularism” as it is understood in European countries. In Bangladesh, we tend to translate dharmoniropekkhota as secularism, though dharmoniropekkhota refers to only one of the many meanings of secularism current in the world today. This problematic translation initiates many unnecessary debates. Continue reading

On Apostasy

Among the negative images of Islam is that apostasy is believed to be punishable by execution. The most recent example of this is in Iran where a pastor was convicted of apostasy and faces execution by hanging. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was born to Muslim parents but did not practice Islam. He converted to Christianity when he was 19 and is now a pastor in the Protestant Evangelical Church of Iran. Nadrakhani was arrested in October 2009 when he protested that his son was forced to read from the Qur’an. Iranian state media, however, later reported that the real charges were rape, extortion, and security-related crimes. His case has received international attention and pressure has been put on the Iranian government to release him. Continue reading

Muslims and Jews in America: The Most American of All?

Muslim and Jewish students at a recent co-existence dinner at the University of Wisconsin. Photo: Muslim Jewish Volunteer Initiative

On college campuses where significant numbers of Muslims and Jews study, it may not be surprising to find that they have negative perceptions of one another. To characterize the overall dynamic between these two groups as tense is generally not accurate–there have been a number of service-based/interfaith dialogue initiatives between them–but the reality is that many students from both groups have been raised in environments that instil deep distrust for one another, sometimes bordering on hatred. And this is despite the fact that Muslims and Jews have shared more common experiences with each other living in a Christian-dominant US than with any other group.  Continue reading

Inside Islam Radio Show…Bridging the Faith Divide: Eboo Patel and the Interfaith Youth Core

Eboo Patel Photo: Carlos Ortiz, The New York Times

Tomorrow at 3 pm central standard time (GMT-5:00), Muslim-American Eboo Patel will speak with Jean Feraca about his organization, Interfaith Youth Core, and its mission to counter religious extremism by building young leaders through service projects and interfaith dialogue. Make sure to tune in to a live webstream of the show!

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