PULITZER CENTER - October 21, 2016
Driving through the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province, in China’s northwest, minarets puncture the sky every few minutes. Many rise out of mosques that resemble Daoist temples, their details a blend of traditional Chinese and Islamic features: a bronze door knocker inscribed with the word “Allah” in Arabic, a crescent moon peeking above the pointed eaves of a tiled roof, and stone steles carved with hadith—a collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed—in Chinese. This is the heartland of the Hui, a Chinese minority of about 10.5 million, distinguished from the majority Han ethnicity primarily by their Muslim identity. China’s ruling Communist Party (C.C.P.) has long had a fraught relationship with religion, with harsh restrictions in regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, where religious identity is seen as a conduit to separatism. C.C.P. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s heightened sensitivity toward civil society and outside ideological influences, combined with the recent rise of global terrorism, has intensified government suspicion toward Muslims. Meanwhile, mainstream Han society, especially on the Chinese web, has grown increasingly vitriolic toward Muslims. Han chauvinism and ethnocentric nationalism are common in online forums, occasionally including Islamophobic warnings that the mosque will soon overshadow the Party.