Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Harmony and Martyrdom Among China’s Hui Muslims By Alice Su

The New Yorker - June 6, 2016

The Martyr’s Memorial in Shadian, China, is a gray pillar topped with a crescent moon, set on a stone block engraved with names. It commemorates the so-called Shadian incident, a massacre that took place in July of 1975, when the People’s Liberation Army came to this small southwestern town to quell what the central authorities were calling an Islamist revolt. Then, as now, Shadian was inhabited almost entirely by Hui, members of one of the country’s two main Muslim minority groups. In the years leading up to the incident, the Red Guards had attacked the Hui, destroying their mosques and forcing them to wear pigs’ heads around their necks. When the P.L.A. soldiers arrived, they razed more than four thousand houses and killed some sixteen hundred villagers in one week. The Chinese government later apologized for the raid, blaming it on the Gang of Four—the ousted architects of the Cultural Revolution—and helping fund Shadian’s reconstruction. But locals do not pay homage to the state at the memorial. The pillar is emblazoned with the Fatiha, the first chapter of the Koran, in green Arabic calligraphy, and, above it, in Chinese characters, the word she-xi-de. “That’s the Arabic word shahid, instead of lieshi, the Chinese word for ‘martyr,’ “ a man named Huang told me. (As with the other Chinese Muslims I spoke with, I will protect his identity by referring to him only by his surname.) “You know why? Lieshi would include the P.L.A. soldiers, wouldn’t it?”