Source: International Policy Digest
By Stephen Chan
We enter 2020 with a sense that Islamic populations are under siege in both China’s Xinjiang province and throughout India. That the two greatest new powers on the global stage, both committed to international pluralism, should be so determined to crush and restrain a particular expression of pluralism is in some ways astounding, and in other ways fully tragic.
It is astounding since Islam has played a role in Chinese and Indian societies for hundreds of years. The great voyages of discovery by Admiral Zheng He in the 1400s, including to East Africa, were noteworthy for Zheng’s bringing home to China of a living giraffe as a wonder of nature’s own pluralism. But he was able to make contact with coastal African societies who were Islamic by virtue of the fact that he too was Islamic. The Mongols who swept huge parts of Europe and China in the 1300 and 1400 centuries practised a form of Islam – though not the Shari’a, preferring their own customary laws. Nevertheless, Islam has been no stranger to China for many long years, and the Uyghurs whose land borders Transcaucasia, and who speak a form of Turkic language, have themselves long been torn between two great masses of culture and have sought until recently, though not always successfully, to ride a middle way.