CAIRO - Having rich and nuanced traditions, China's Muslims are seen as a treasure for enriching Islamic thought and promoting the true moderate teachings of the Islamic faith.
The thing that is very interesting to me is that they are always very excellent, they master Arabic, Khaled Abou El Fadl, a leading Islamic law expert, told The New York Times on Tuesday, October 9.
It is such a waste that they come to a place like Al-Azhar University and they depart, they go back to China and there is no effort made to learn from them, he said, referring to the Egypt-based university, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.
He said Chinese Muslims who study at major universities and seminaries in the Middle East tend to disappear once they return home.
China has 22 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces.
Smaller Muslim communities can also be found throughout interior China.
The majority of Chinese Muslims are of the Hui origin, who are estimated at nearly ten million.
The other ethnic groups are Uighurs, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan and Tatar.
Hui Muslims have remarkably untapped and underexplored rich and nuanced traditions, Abou El Fadl said.
He said among Hui Muslims, female imams and women's mosques are the norm, more important than a lot of people might realize.
The expert opines that Hui Muslims can contribute to the advancement of Muslims worldwide if they shared their traditions with others.
I think if Chinese Muslims reach out to Muslims in the Arabic-speaking countries, or in Iran or Turkey, one thing I think that you'll find is that there'll be an extreme degree of excitement about engaging and interacting with Chinese Muslims.
The expert believes that time is now ripe for better engagement between Hui Muslims and worldwide Muslims, particularly following the Arab Spring revolutions.
I think it would be extremely useful and extremely productive, if there is a concerted effort to encourage any type of intellectual exchange with China, he said.
Especially in the post-revolutionary countries like Egypt and Tunisia, because there is a lot of openness now that the authoritarian regimes have been overthrown and there is a democratic order, Abou El Fadl said.
There is a lot of openness to learn from different sources.
Islam, the second largest religion in China, has a very long history in the western Asian country.
Historians believe that the faith was spread to China by Muslim diplomats and merchants between 630AD and 751AD during the Tang Dynasty.Atheist China recognizes five religions Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism and tightly regulates their administration and practice.