The history of China’s Muslims and what’s behind their persecution

By Kelly Anne Hammond is Assistant Professor of History, University of Arkansas

 Over 1 million Uighur Muslims are being held in detention centers in the far western province of Xinjiang, China.

Uighur leaders and experts located outside China have warned that the situation could worsen, and “mass murder” could not be ruled out. With upwards of 10% of the Uighurs being held against their will, it is being called the worst and the most neglected humanitarian crisis of the past 10 years.

Why is this is happening, and what makes the Chinese government see Muslims as a threat?

I have studied the long history of Muslims in China. Today’s China is home to a large Muslim population – around 1.6% of the total population, or around 22 million people.

They are not newcomers. Islam was introduced to China by envoys from the Middle East who traveled to meet Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century.

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