I wanted to post his some time ago but did not get the chance. Brother Dave did a post on Chinese Muslims some time ago and shares many of his observations about the Hui Muslims. I believe that personal accounts of different groups by ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ can reveal many things about the people and their culture, things that cannot be captured in academic books. Here is an excerpt.
The Hui are a visible presence in Chinese cities these days, having steadily trickled in, especially in the last decade as many have left their homes in the Ningxia province to pursue growing opportunities in more populous areas of China. Ningxia itself seems to have been largely passed over by China’s rapidly expanding economy; one elderly Hui woman told me that she’d come to Xiwu, the tiny watertown I’d met her in, because it offered more opportunities than Ningxia. Xiwu is a small, ancient hamlet with mainly dirt and cobblestone streets, where many people eke out livings selling bootleg pornography and paper fans to Chinese tourists; nonetheless, she was quite clear, this was a place where success could be had and her family ran a halal (the Muslim equivalent of Kosher) restaurant. Halal restaurants were incredibly common in every city I went to, and as a rule quite popular with other Chinese as well as Muslims. I literally could not go out for any period of time in Beijing without seeing at least a couple restaurants with “La Illaha Il Allah Wa Muhammadan Rasulullah” (The Islamic declaration of faith) on the sign, a way to prosperity for many Ningxia transplants. Ningxia’s economic troubles seem to be a recurrent theme behind the high Hui population. One (Han) woman told me that she would not wish to travel to Ningxia simply because clean water was so difficult to obtain, a view several Hui understood when I questioned them about it. To put this in perspective, most Chinese will not drink water without boiling it first, and many people I met will drink nothing that is not bottled; to the Chinese, lack of potable water is the status quo even in large cities. So if they consider Ningxia to have a perpetual water crisis, the situation must be grim indeed.
Here is an another excerpt about the cultural identity of the Hui that I particularly liked.
I am pleased, firstly, with the way Hui seem secure in their Chinese cultural identity. There is little or no pressure to become a counterfeit Arab or Central Asian; matters like Tawhid (unity of god) and a more classical Muslim philosophy seemed to be stressed, not outward appearances. I am not sure how many would have approved of my own theological slant; I am a believer in Allah, and the Qu’ran is my soul’s medicine, no doubt, but I do not trust religious organizations or (nessscarily) follow the classical positions, especially when they seem directly at odds with the Qu’ran’s beautiful pronouncements.
Check out the complete article at brother Dave’s website.