Islam in China

overview of the role of Islam and Muslims in China

Muslims have been in China for the last 1,400 years, and have interacted with Chinese society.[1] Muslims live in every region in China.[2] Various sources estimate different numbers of Muslims in China. Some sources indicate 2% of the total population in China are Muslims.[3] Xinjiang in the northwest is the province with most Muslims.[4] The Hui ethnic group are often referred to as “Chinese” Muslims. They “speak the Chinese language, abide by core elements of its culture, and thus can be trusted”.

The Huaisheng Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the world, built by Muhammad's maternal uncle

Manchu officials in the Qing executed a Muslim family in 1784 in Xinjiang because their relatives revolted in Gansu despite the fact they had no idea their relatives were revolting.[5]

Hundreds of thousands of Turkic Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.

There is a policy of stripping Muslim buildings of Arabic features all over China, and in some cases replacing them with traditional Chinese designs. During Deng Xiaoping’s liberal era, a new mosque-building boom began, with a fashion for domed prayer halls and tall, slender minarets. Xi Jinping became president in 2013. In 2017, the Islamic Association of China said “Mosque architecture needs to be in harmony with our national characteristics.” In 2019 the “Five-Year Plan on the Sinicisation of Islam”, set out to standardise Chinese style in everything from Islamic clothing to ceremonies and architecture. It called for the “establishment of an Islamic theology with Chinese characteristics”. At least 1,714 mosques had Arabic-style features removed between 2018 and 2023.

The government also removed crosses from the roofs of over a thousand Christian churches and demolished a vast church — the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi province — in 2018. The government is also trying to stop under-18s from entering religious sites, or even practising religion at all.[6]


  1. Dru C. Gladney 2003. Islam in China: accommodation or separatism? The China Quarterly. [1]
  2. Armijo, Jackie 2006. Islamic education in China. Harvard Asia Quarterly 10 (1). [2]
  3. "East Asia/Southeast Asia :: China — The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". Archived from the original on 2016-10-13. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  4. Bentley, Jerry H.; Ziegler, Herbert (2007). Traditions and encounters: a global perspective on the past. McGraw-Hill. p. 586. ISBN 978-0073406930.
  5. Waley-Cohen, Joanna (2015). "5 / Collective Responsibility in Qing Criminal Law". In Turner, Karen G.; Feinerman, James V.; Guy, R. Kent (eds.). The Limits of the Rule of Law in China (reprint ed.). Asian Law Series: University of Washington Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0295803890.
  6. "How China is tearing down Islam". Financial Times. 2023-11-18. Retrieved 2023-11-27.

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