May 06, 2004

East Turkestan: "Practicing Islam in Today's China"

The US Congressional Commission on China announces a Roundtable on Uighurs and Hui Islam in China to be held on May 17
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) announces an Issues Roundtable entitled: "Practicing Islam in Today's China: Differing Realities for the Uighurs and the Hui" to be held on Monday, May 17, 2004, at 2:00 PM in Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

According to government statistics, China has over 20 million Muslims, over 40,000 Islamic places of worship, and over 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.

This CECC roundtable will examine the current situation of Islam in China and the realities of Muslim life across the country. The panelists will focus primarily on the Uighurs and the Hui.

All CECC Issues Roundtables are on the record and open to the public and press. Those wishing to attend do not need to RSVP or register in advance. Members of the news media should see the instructions below.

The panelists are:

Jonathan Lipman Professor of History, Mount Holyoke College

Gardner Bovingdon Assistant Professor of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University at Bloomington

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