Reviews

Françoise Aubin has published here a new study on the interaction between the Chinese world and Islam which analyses the Protestant missionary’s strategies for evangelising the Hui (Chinese Muslims).  From the second half of the nineteenth century, missionaries in China came to understand that they needed to create works of propaganda aimed specifically at the Hui, for the modalities used for promoting Christianity differed from those used on non-Muslim Chinese.  In addition, they had to learn to deal with a cultural dissociation between practising Muslims only able to read in Chinese and ‘ulama educated in Arabic.  Several works were published in the last third of the nineteenth century, but it was not in 1927 and the establishment of the Society of Friends of the Muslims that an institution was specially set up for this mission.  Stamped by pietism, the missionaries regarded the Bible as the best tool for spreading Christianity and organised discussions to compare the sacred Christian text with its Islamic equivalent, the Qur’an, thus forgetting the importance ascribed to the corpus of the Hadith and to the discipline of tafsir.  All the same, as the mission progressed proselytising techniques became more elaborated.  The author subtly analyses the selection of Chinese terms used for missionary discourse, the publications of varied new texts (for example, missionaries’ autobiographies), and the development of oral (and visual) propaganda centred on the Christ, considered the figure most likely to attract the Hui to Christianity.  This brilliant study provides a fine contribution to our understanding of the particularities of Chinese Islam confronted with Western Christian missionary activity.

Sébastien Peyrouse, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC
CER: I-5.3.E-500