Arabization in Xi’an

I was reading an article about Fashion amongst Chinese Muslims when I came across the following paragraph which I found particularly striking. It talks about the phenomenon of Arabization amongst some Hui in China. It is basically the confusion amongst some people of equating being a better Muslim with adopting Arab cultural norms.

When Lanlan had her hijab made in 1999, Xi’an Muslims no longer called this kind of veil “gaitou.” Their new name was shajin or “Saudi kerchief.” Over the next five years, the number of women wearing Arab style headscarves increased slowly but steadily. When I revisited the Xi’an Muslim district in September of 2004, the young women who covered their heads almost all wore “Saudi kerchiefs.” Veils were almost as common as white caps among women who chose to cover their heads. One reason that helps explain why more Xi’an Muslims were wearing the Saudi headscarf was the increase in the number of locals who made the pilgrimage. Between 1994 and 2000 the number of pilgrims from the Muslim district doubled, and the numbers have continued to rise each year. Imitating the costume, architecture, and eating practices of Arab Muslims has become an important way for local Hui to show their authenticity as Muslims. The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, carries a special significance as the originating point of Islam, and many locals conflate contemporary Arab practices with the Islam practised by the Prophet. Xi’an Muslims also admire the prosperity and technological advancement of Saudi Arabia. Locals who made the pilgrimage came home with tales of six lane highways, skyscrapers, and air-conditioned tents.

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2 responses to “Arabization in Xi’an

  1. What’s the source of it? Does this one come from Maris Boyd Gillette? She’s known for her interest in the Hui fashion, especially in Xi’an.

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