Rumi, China and Capitalism

Although this news story is not strictly about Islam in China but I thought it was somewhat amusing. The year 2007 marks the 800th birth anniversary of Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi. Contrary to misperception in the West Rumi was not an unorthodox poet but rather a strong followers of the letter and the spirit of Islam. Also it was interesting to see a Capitalist twist in a Communist country on Rumi’s birthday. Here is the story from Zaman.

Chinese revel in Mevlana product profits

The Chinese have managed to turn the Year of Mevlana, declared by UNESCO to honor the 800th anniversary of Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi’s birth, into an economic windfall by manufacturing several souvenir items bearing images of Mevlana and whirling dervishes.

The statuettes, tableaus, plates, prayer beads and T-shirts of whirling dervishes produced by Chinese manufacturers are among the best-selling souvenirs in Konya.

China, which has recently received negative press related to the production of toys containing lead, has found a new economic avenue in the production of toys and souvenirs commemorating Mevlana — the great humanist, philosopher and mystic of Islam. China faced an economic deadlock when its trade partners raised questions about the safety and quality of its products; however, the country has moved on and re-entered the competitive world market with brand new low-priced items bearing the images of Mevlana and the whirling dervishes.

Yet the enthusiasm for Chinese-made souvenir items has turned into an issue of debate among merchants and domestic producers in the central province of Konya. Merchants and shopkeepers in the province have expressed their satisfaction with a significant rise in their sales figures. “We are happy to sell visitors all manner of souvenir items with images of whirling dervishes. There has been a great increase in sales; the tourists visiting the Konya Mevlana Museum flock to the souvenir shops and ask for items bearing images of whirling dervishes,” said shopkeepers. Domestic producers, on the other hand, indicate that the companies importing cheap Chinese products into the country are a threat to domestic manufacturers. “Such souvenir items could be produced in our country as well. But we cannot compete with cheap Chinese standards, and we will be faced with big challenges if necessary measures are not taken,” stated one producer.

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