Reviews

This valuable overall view of Islam in the People’s Republic of China takes into account the recent relevant literature.  An ideal introduction to the subject, it focuses on how to define Muslim identity in China: “in terms of accommodation to or of resistance to the dominant Chinese host culture and political milieu,” a 1,400 year old challenge.  Almost all the Islamic-background population of the PRC is adept of Sunni, Hanafi Islam.  According to the most recent national census, implemented in 2000, it amounts at 20.3 million, including about 10 million Hui (mainly Chinese-speaking Muslims) and 8.4 million Uighurs (the numerically prominent Turkic-speaking people of Xinjiang).  The first topic is here the Uighur unrest in Xinjiang and the problems raised by the quest of Xinjiang for a real autonomy or even a possible independence.  The basic argument held by Uighurs is their quality as “indigenes,” although the present reconstruction of their ethno-genesis is imaginative, as the author has already shown.  Conversely, the Chinese government justifies its sovereignty by its historical presence in the region for two millennia, as archaeological finds may prove.  It fears that the complaints of the Uighurs for harsh and unjust treatment may alienate foreign Muslim trade partners and international opinion, all the more so since it has already to manage the Tibetan and Taiwanese questions.  For this reason the authorities of the PRC try to pretend that the Uighur dissatisfaction is a matter of terrorism.  The second, broader, topic is Islamic accommodation to Chinese society in several historical periods.  Currently Chinese Islam consists of several layers formed one after the other: the gedimu (Arabic qadim) tradition practised in local mosques, the mutually rival Sufi networks of the Qadiriyya, Naqshbandiyya (either Khufiyya or Jahriyya), the minor Kubrawiyya; the Salafi trend; and recently an ethnic nationalism which transcends political boundaries in the wake of globalisation.  In conclusion, the author displays a pessimist view of future Muslim integration in the new Chinese world.  (Strangely enough, the author keeps silence on one important and typical movement of Muslim integration in a Chinese context: the scripturalism of ‘ulama’ writing Chinese works with a Confucian setting, later deemed as classics.  D. Gladney’s subtitle “scripturalist concerns” raises hopes of seeing this topic treated, significant even today within a Communist institutional framework.)

Françoise Aubin, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-8.4.G-752