Reminding how the appearance of Muslim print and the circulation of intellectuals helped the first development of reformist though in early-twentieth-century Xinjiang, the author also shortly mentions the negative impacts of the restrictions and repressions of the Republican and People’s Republic periods on the development of reformist trends in Xinjiang. On the basis of a fieldwork implemented in the rural neighbourhoods of Kashghar over a ten-year period, E. Waite argues that the political machinations of the socialist rule have served to bolster reliance on the traditional, orally transmitted knowledge of religious elders ― in a way globally comparable with what was happening at the same time in Soviet Central Asia. For this reason major social and intellectual developments that were taking place in other Muslim societies have long been impeded in Xinjiang. At the same time, E. Waite shows that nowadays the so-called ‘Wahhabi’ critiques of vernacular practices occasionally coincide with Chinese state interests, as in the case of opposition to Sufi practice. In parallel, the state’s suspicion of those who embark on the path of orthodoxy also can serve to buttress the existing patterns of religious authority. Though sketching captivating parallels with the historical developments in ex-Soviet Central Asia, the article also lets aside of its scope a considerable amount of data, accessible through oral history, about the developments of ‘high Islam’ in Xinjiang during the Republican period and since 1949.
Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris