CAIRO - Retaining mosque's historical role as a social minaret, mosques in China's central city of Wuzhong are offering services of reproductive health education, achieving unprecedented success in spreading health awareness in the district.
"Followers now expect more from mosques, such as health knowledge and services," Wu Xuexing, an imam at Qinqiao Mosque, who also serves as deputy director of Wuzhong Family Planning Association, told China Daily on Thursday, September 12.
A decade and half ago, the China Family Planning Association started in 1999 to involve imams and mosques in Wuzhong, which belongs to Ningxia Hui central autonomous region, to educate Muslims about reproductive health.
"Muslims respect and listen to imams, so working with the religious leaders helps substantially when we try to institute a reproductive health plan and improve reproductive health for them," Gou Qingming, deputy director of the association, told China Daily.
The project, which benefited nearly one-Million Muslim, has installed facilities in more than 500 mosques, including reproductive health service room and demographic cultural library.
Results of mosques health education were outstanding.
According to a recent local-survey, reproductive health awareness among Wuzhong inched up from 46% in 1999 to 97% in 2011.
The classes also helped in bringing down ratios of female reproductive tract infection from 77% in 1999, to 43% in 2011.
At the city mosques, Muslim women get free medical examinations, including breast cancer screenings."Muslims, particularly the women, have benefited a lot from the project," said Wu.
"Thanks to the efforts, we began to know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and how to conceive and raise a healthy baby," Ma Qiaomei, who attends physical checkups in the mosque, said.
Islam encourages its followers to marry, procreate, and populate the earth. Yet, it allows family planning and the use of contraception as long as the conditions set by Islam in this regard are observed.
Family planning is allowable as long as the method employed is not irreversible as the case in vasectomy for example.
Emphasizing the role of Muslim women in the Islamic society, female imams have been involved in Wuzhong mosques reproductive health education.
"They like to share private problems with us," Wang Xiuyan, a female imam, told China Daily.
"It would be hard to imagine in the past that women would feel so at ease in receiving condoms and contraceptive drugs in the mosque," Wang, who receive nearly 60 female at the mosques on a daily bases, added.
Achieving a huge success, the project is scheduled to be expanded to the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Qinghai, as well as the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, Gou said.
Moreover, Hutubi county Imams, have started to give reproductive health lectures to Uighur Muslims in mosques.
"Our advocacy will help them cultivate a lifestyle of good hygiene and health," imam Yang Jie of Hutubi said.
Before the Islamic civilization developed hospitals a couple of centuries later, the mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a place for care of the wounded in wars and similar crises.
The illiterate used to learn how to read and write in the mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Muslims have also developed their whole Islamic civilization based on the education they got in mosques.
The only activity that was forbidden in the mosquein addition to the forbidden immoral actswas buying and selling and related things.
According to official data, 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.
Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China up to 7.5 percent of the population.