Most people outside of China do not know this but there are more Mongolians that live in China then Mongolians who live in the country of Mongolia itself! Most of them live in Chinese provinces of Inner Mongolia and Liaoning. A minority of Mongolians are also Muslims. I recently came across this article on “Muslim” tourism in Inner Mongolia which was an interesting read. Consider the following excerpt:
MOTHER and daughter were standing at the entrance of the Great Mosque in Hohhot, the main city in Inner Mongolia. “But it doesn’t look like a mosque, Mummy,” said eight-year-old Nur Aziqa Abu Zaren. “But it is. Look at the Arabic calligraphy on the walls,” explains Madam Rubiah Salleh, 38. At first glance, the traditional Mongolian architecture makes it look like a temple.
But closer scrutiny reveals some common features of a mosque such as the mihrab, which indicates the direction of Mecca. There are also several Qurans on the shelves.The 300-year-old Great Mosque is one of the attractions in Inner Mongolia, which is becoming a hot spot for Malays looking for alternative vacation destinations. Besides Inner Mongolia, Beijing and some parts of China, as well as Uzbekistan, with large Muslim populations are packing in Malays from Singapore too.
Metting Muslims from other countries and background can be a good experience since it can broaden one’s horizon and make one realize that Muslims are not limited to one’s own group or that one’s culture does not define Islam. Consider the following excerpt.
Madam Rubiah, who went on a tour to the Gold Coast, Australia last year with her husband and four children, says: “Unlike the Gold Coast which was all fun and entertaining, Inner Mongolia was an eye-opener for my children. “They learn that Muslims are not just Malays and Arabs. There are Chinese and Mongolian Muslims too and although their way of life differs slightly, their religious beliefs are similar.” And, instead of saying Assalamualaikum (Muslim greeting of peace be upon you), they say Salamolekom.
And then there is of course the feeling and recognition of brotherhood in Islam which is recognizable everywhere.
One can tell a Mongolian Muslim from his headgear. Women wear white scarves to cover their heads while men put on a songkok (cap). A Muslim house is also distinguished by Arabic calligraphy on the door. Although language can be an obstacle, bilingual guides help the tourists communicate with the local people. Madam Rokiah Anang, 59, who went on the May and June trips organised by Halijah Travels, says: “Although there was no exchange of words except for Assalamualaikum, we feel the closeness simply by being together.”