By Masood Rab, MMNS
Chinese Muslim Scholars Visit Detroit Area – Observe American Muslimsâ€™ Involvement in American Politics
Imagine US State Department sponsoring Chinese Muslim Scholars to meet and observe the Muslim communities conducting their affairs in America as a model.
On the one hand we see the presidential candidates in the primaries shying away from getting even close to anything looking Muslim-ish and taking a swipe at Islam every time they are on the media camera and get an opportunity. And then, we see the US government sponsoring Muslim scholars from other countries to visit America, meet us in our centers and schools and know how we are flourishing in the multi-ethnic American polity.
Obviously, there is a strategy of the US government to impress on the intelligent overseas Muslim scholars to bend their Islamic thought processes in their countriesâ€™ political systems as the American Muslims are doing within America and the resulting material benefits.
One imam from Yunnan province introduced himself on entering the Muslim Center in Detroit as â€œSaleh Issa,â€ and said â€œNoâ€ when asked if he spoke English. â€œDo you speak Arabic?â€ â€œYes,â€ he replied and started chatting away with Shaikh Ali of Canton, Shaikh Elturk of Warren, and Dawud Walid of CAIR. Imam Saleh Issa aka Zhang Jianhua is Dean of Islam College Najiaying in the southwest Yunnan province of China. He learnt Arabic in Pakistan, speaks Arabic fluently, and is Imam of Xinhua Islamic Mosque. Other members of the group invited by the State Department were:
1. Sister Yan Qiong-Ying. She is an Assistant Researcher, Department of Islamic Studies, Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. She has visited India and Pakistan to study Muslim social way of life in these countries. She demonstrated knowledge of Pakistani culture by saying, â€œAllah Hafizâ€ when leaving the Muslim Center.
2. Dr. Yang Wengjiong, aka Abrahim. He is an Assistant Professor at The College of History and Culture in Lanzhou University â€“ Northwest Minority Research Center.
3. Brother Ahmadjan Hasan. He is an Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of Religious Studies, Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.
The visiting scholars informed us that Muslim Chinese number more than 20 million (in a total population of 1.32 billion, i.e., 1.5 percent of current population of China) using over thirty thousand mosques. The training of imams is conducted by established institutes over the last 400 years; some of the imams are women. Female imams lead mosques dedicated to female services only. Islamic history in China dates back over thirteen hundred years. Ninety nine percent of the Muslims are Sunni and follow the Hanafi madhhab. There are some madrasahs, but most of the religious training of the Muslim children is carried out in the mosques after public school hours.
Their challenges are similar to those facing American Muslim young people â€“ maintaining Islamic identity in a non-Muslim culture.
It was an afternoon of exchanging information to mutual questions from the members of the diverse American Muslim group assembled in The Muslim Center and the guest Muslim Chinese scholars.
â€œ9/11 has not only affected you,â€ Dr. Yang said in response to Imam Elahi of Dearborn Heights, â€œIt has affected Muslims throughout the world. We are working as you all are – to demonstrate that Muslims are pillars of peace in every country.â€
The US State Departmentâ€™s efforts of bringing Muslim scholars from other Muslim minority countries seems to be working.