China's Muslims "Push the Barriers of Faith," Have Female Imams

September 15, 2004

Source: BBC News

On September 15, 2004 the BBC News reported, "Against a desert backdrop, surrounded by parched yellow-earth hills, an army of worshippers sing devotional chants as they march through a compound to the central mosque. Ningxia province is the heartland of Islam in China - and the base of Hong Yang, a Muslim leader who commands a million Chinese followers... Religious rituals only resurfaced in the 1980s after years of communist suppression, when all religious activity was banned. These days an Islamic resurgence is taking place, but China's leaders fear the fervour of faith... But Muslims in the province are pushing forward the barriers of faith - with unique results. Jin Meihua is at the forefront of those changes. Her head covered with a lilac scarf, she teaches passages from the Koran to other women. The 40-year-old wife and mother is one of a handful of Chinese female imams... Jin Meihua runs a mosque exclusively for women. While hers is attached to a male mosque, some female Muslims have set up their own completely independent mosques. 'These are sites led by women for women, not overseen by male religious leaders,' said Maria Jaschok from Oxford University. 'They're independent, even autonomous. This is simply not the case anywhere else in Muslim countries.' Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world."