Vol. 3    Issue 14   01-15 December 2008
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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
The Holy Quran A Pictorial Gallery
Muslim Minorities in Non-Islamic Milieus
Virtual Museum of Islamic Arts and Culture

Professor A. R. Momin

The world’s biggest women’s university to be established in

Saudi Arabia

The world’s largest university for Muslim women is under construction in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Due to open in 2010, the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University will be spread over an area of 8 million square metres and will accommodate 40,000 students. The university will have 15 academic faculties, a library, conference centres, laboratories, and a 700-bed hospital. There will be facilities for research in nanotechnology, biosciences and information technology. The campus will also have residential quarters for the faculty, mosques, a school, a kindergarten and theme parks.

Educational deficit in the Arab world

It is universally recognised that education is the key to human development and progress. Unfortunately, the Arab world lags far behind in this crucial sphere. The Arab Human Development Report 2002 identified three major deficits in the Arab world today: knowledge, freedom and women’s rights. The report revealed that illiteracy rates in Arab countries are higher than the international average and even higher than the average in developing countries. The Arab Human development Report 2003 concluded that the status of knowledge in the Arab world in terms of demand, production and dissemination is grossly inadequate and ineffectual.

The Arab Human Development Report 2005 reiterated that the rate of illiteracy in Arab countries continues to be higher than the world average and even higher than the average for developing nations (p.80). There are more than 60 million illiterate adults in the Arab world (40% of all adults), most of them impoverished and rural women. A report of the Arab League Education, Culture and Science Organisation (ALECSO) revealed that some 70 million people aged 15 and above in the Arab world are unable to read or write at the beginning of the 21st century, one of the biggest populations of illiterates in the world.

John Daniel, former UNESCO Director General for Education, observed that “the Arab region has some of the world’s lowest adult literacy rates, with only 62.2% of the region’s population of 15 and over able to read and write in 2000-2004, well below the world average of 84% and the developing countries’ average of 76.4%”.

Appalling state of female illiteracy

The Arab region has one of the lowest rates of female education in the world. Nearly one half of females in the region are illiterate, compared to one-third of males. The relatively higher deprivation of girls in terms of educational opportunities at all levels extends across all Arab countries. The Arab Human Development Report 2005 points out that despite the tremendous spread of girls’ education in Arab countries in the last five decades, Arab women remain poorly equipped to participate effectively and fruitfully in public life by acquiring knowledge through education (pp. 73-74).

There is wide diversity in the Arab world in respect of literacy levels. Female literacy rates in aged 15 and over in the Arab world today range from 24% (in Iraq) to 85.9% (in Jordan). Fewer than 80% of girls attend secondary school in all Arab countries, except in Bahrain, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territory, and Qatar. Female enrolment in secondary schools is less than 20% in Djibouti and Mauritania. In Yemen, female enrolment in secondary education is 46% of male enrolment. The absolute number of female illiterates in the age group of 15-24 is increasing in most Arab countries. It rose from 40 million in 1990 to 43.9 million in 2005.

Discrepancies in the gender dimension of education become wider in vocational and technical education, where the rate of female enrolment is less than half that of male enrolment.

The main reasons for the low levels of female enrolment in primary school include the widely prevalent bias against educating girls, early marriage of girls, the decline in public expenditure on education since 1995, and the location of schools far away from home. Some universities in the Arab world discriminate against women in the admission criteria. At the University of Kuwait, for example, male candidates are admitted to engineering and petroleum courses on the basis of a grade point average of 67.9, while female candidates are required to have an average of 83.5.

According to the estimates of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, the Arab world will not be able to achieve gender equity before 2020 or achieve basic education for all before 2050, if things remain unchanged.

Progress in women’s education

By and large, Arab countries have made substantial progress in reducing levels of illiteracy and in bridging the gender gap in education. Arab countries were able to reduce illiteracy rates from 48.7% in 1990 to 38.5% in 2000. In the age group of 15-24, 11 Arab countries (Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia and Lebanon) have attained a literacy rate of 90% and over (well above the world average of 87.6%). On the other hand, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Yemen have scores below those of developing countries’ average of 85.2%. Female literacy rates in Arab countries have tripled since 1970, rising from17% in 1970 to 53% in 2000. The average percentage of female illiteracy in 18 Arab countries for the age group 15 and above dropped from 64.9% in 1980 to 40.2% in the year 2000.

Most Arab countries have greatly expanded their investment in women’s education. Equality between the two sexes in higher education has been achieved in 12 Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, occupied Palestinian territory, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia). The number of women registered in higher education in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE is greater than that of men. Some 55% of university students in Saudi Arabia are female.

International data indicate that girls in the Arab region perform better in school than boys. Dropout rates for girls are lower than those for boys. Girls achieve their academic success in spite of obstructive social and family environments.

Multiple benefits of women’s education

The United Nations’ Human Development Report 1995 convincingly argued that human development, if not engendered, runs the risk of being endangered. The advantages of educating girls far outweigh those for boys. The education of girls has a particularly significant bearing on nutrition, hygiene and healthcare. It greatly improves the ability of households to manage basic child care, increase the nutritional content of diet and ensure more effective diagnosis of diseases. Several studies suggest that the education of females is positively correlated with a significant increase in immunization and child mortality rates. A World Bank simulation study indicated that a doubling of female secondary enrolment in 1975 (from 19 to 38%) would have reduced the infant mortality rate by 64% (from 85 to 31 per cent). It has been estimated that mothers who have completed primary school have 20% less malnutrition in their children than illiterate mothers. Female education makes a positive contribution to enhanced life expectancy.

The education of females generally delays the age of marriage which, in turn, results in the lowering of fertility. There is extensive statistical and demographic evidence across the world which suggests a positive correlation between women’s education and reduced fertility rates. Women’s education has a positive and significant bearing on the upbringing and socialization of children. The education of females significantly contributes to the reduction of gender-based inequalities and enhances women’s ability and power to participate in the decision-making process at home.

The multiple benefits of women’s education can be observed in the Arab world. A generation ago, three-quarters of Arab women were married by the time they were 20. That proportion has dropped by half. The number of children borne by the average Arab woman has fallen by half in the past two decades.

Germany’s largest mosque opened in Maxloh

There are 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany, the second largest Muslim population in Europe after France. An estimated 3.8 million Turks live in Western Europe, more than 2.6 million in Germany alone, forming the country’s largest foreign-born population.

By and large, Muslims living in Germany enjoy substantial religious and cultural autonomy. They are free to practise and propagate their religion. Muslims have the freedom to construct mosques and other places of prayer and worship. There are some 2,500 places of Islamic worship and about 140 conventional mosques with domes and minarets. In most of the states, Muslim women have the freedom to wear the Islamic headscarf in school and in government offices. Muslim girls in Germany are exempt from coed gym and swimming classes in schools.

Muslims living in Germany are allowed to slaughter animals according to their religious rituals and to have halal meat shops. Muslim associations in several states of Germany enjoy the status of religion-based communities, like churches and synagogues. In Hamburg, language teachers, even with Turkish nationality, are treated as civil servants. The cultural freedom available to Muslims living in Germany can be gauged from the fact that there are more than 40 Turkish-language TV stations and nearly 20 in Arabic. Some German companies (such as Ford in Cologne and Fraport in Frankfurt) provide separate spaces for prayers for Muslim employees and consideration is given to their dietary requirements in canteens.

The Maxloh district in Germany has a fairly large concentration of Turkish Muslims. The relations between the Turkish minority and local residents have been cordial. Many Muslim children attend the Catholic kindergarten, and Catholics and Muslims visit each others’ homes during festivals.

Germany’s biggest mosque opened in the city of Duisburg in the Maxloh district on 26 October, 2008. Unlike some other mosque projects in Germany (such as in Cologne and Berlin), there were no protests from the local community. In fact, local politicians, church representatives and other public figures welcomed the opening of the mosque. The governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jurgen Ruttgers, said, “We need more mosques in this country, not in the backyards, but visible and recognisable”. Thousands of local people gathered to witness the opening ceremony, displayed on a giant public viewing screen.

The mosque, which cost €7 million and can accommodate 3,500 worshippers, has a conference centre in the basement, which is open to all the people of the district of Maxloh, regardless of religious distinctions. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has invested €3.2 million in the construction of the conference centre.

The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza

Israel and Hamas have been at loggerheads ever since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. At present a five-month truce holds between Israel and Hamas.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in the beginning of November this year amid fresh violence between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops. The blockade, which has put the 1.5 million residents of the Strip under severe hardships, has been condemned by the United Nations as well as international NGOs. The United Nations’ top human rights official recently said the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities have deprived Palestinians of basic human rights. The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navis Pillay, has called for “dignity and basic welfare” to be restored to the people affected by the blockade. In the second week of November, Israel bowed to international pressure and allowed some industrial fuel to be delivered to Gaza’s sole power plant. But after a few days Israel again sealed off the territory. People continue to suffer from daily electricity blackouts and shortages of cooking gas, fresh food and water. People queue up for two or three hours for bread, but sometimes there is no cooking gas or flour, so they have to return empty-handed. Serious fuel shortages have led to widespread power cuts across Gaza city. That, in turn, has caused problems in pumping water to homes, and sewage to treatment plants. Quite often, nearly 40% of people in the city have no access to running water in their homes.

On 18 November the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Ban ki-moon, told the Israeli premier Ehud Olmert that he was deeply concerned about the deteriorating conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip. He urged Mr Olmert to ease the delivery of aid to the territory.

The Independent published on 15 November extracts from a leaked report of the Red Cross, which reveals that the Israeli blockade of Gaza has had a devastating effect on the people and has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition. The report says the heavy restrictions on all major sectors of Gaza’s economy are causing “progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70% of Gaza’s population”. That, in turn, is forcing people to cut household expenditure down to “survival levels”. The report reveals that people are selling assets, slashing the quality and quantity of meals, cutting back on clothing and children’s education, and are depending on dwindling loans and handouts from slightly better-off relatives.

In the urban sector, in which about 106,000 employees lost their jobs after the June 2007 shutdown, about 40% are now classified as “very poor”, earning less than 87 a month to provide for an average household of seven to nine people. The report quotes a former owner of a small, home-based sewing factory, who said he had laid off his 10 workers in July 2007. “Since then I earn no more than 52 per month by sewing from time to time neighbours’ and relatives’ clothes. I sold my wife’s jewellery…..I do not know what to say to my children”, he said.

In agriculture, on which 27 per cent of Gaza’s population depends, exports have stopped and, like fisheries, there has been a 50% fall in incomes since the siege began.

Bosnia: Picking up the threads of life

Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkan Peninsula has been a multiethnic society for centuries. The region’s population consists of Muslims, known as Bosniaks (43%), Serbs, who are followers of Orthodox Christianity (31%), and Croats, who are Roman Catholics (17%).

Bosnia became an Ottoman province in 1463. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, which resulted in the defeat of the Ottoman forces, Bosnia-Herzegovina was assigned to Austria-Hungary. After World War I the region was annexed to Serbia. Following World War II, the territory became a part of communist Yugoslavia. With the disintegration of communist regimes in eastern Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992. The decision was opposed by the region’s Serbian population, which led to conflicts among Serbs, Croats and Muslims. The conflict ultimately resulted in a fierce civil war in 1992, embroiling the region in widespread killings, forced deportations and mass rape of women. The Bosnian war involved Bosnia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later Serbia and Montenegro), as well as Croatia. The Serbs had the upper hand due to the heavy weapons that were given to them by the Yugoslav People’s Army.

The Bosnian war, which continued from 1992 to 1995, involved large-scale killing of Muslims, forced deportations, torture in concentration camps and mass rape of Muslim women by Serb soldiers. Houses and apartments belonging to Muslims were systematically ransacked and burned down. Civilians were attacked, tortured and killed. The Serbs sought to create ethnically pure areas with no presence of Muslims. Systematic ethnic cleansing involved forced expulsion and killing of Muslims, and destruction of their homes as well as mosques, cemeteries and cultural buildings. Young Muslim women and girls were kept in detention centres under appalling conditions, where they were humiliated, tortured and repeatedly raped by Serb soldiers.

The estimates of the number of victims during the Bosnian war include around 100,000-110,000 killed and 1.8 million displaced. Most of the victims (66%) were Bosnian Muslims, followed by Serbs (25%) and Croats (8%). More than 83% of civilian victims were Muslim. Some 30% of Muslim civilian victims were women and children. The estimates of Muslim women raped by Serb soldiers range between 20,000 and 50,000. According to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the crimes committed during the Bosnian war of 1992-95 “amounted to crimes against humanity”.

A systematic and horrifying genocide of Muslims was carried out in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, which was under the protection of the United Nations peace-keeping forces, in 1995. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in cold blood. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the United Nations’ failure to prevent the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica would “haunt our history for ever”.

The mastermind of the horrifying atrocities committed on Bosnian Muslims was the Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. On 13 October 1991 Karadzic had declared: “In just a couple of days, Sarajevo will be gone and there will be five hundred thousand dead, and in one month Muslims will be annihilated in Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Karadzic was indicted by the United Nations’ Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity.

For 13 years Karadzic was at large, secretly protected by the powerful networks of former and current members of the Serbian security forces. He disguised himself as a practitioner of alternative medicine in a quiet corner of Belgrade. He was finally arrested by the Serb forces on 21 July 2008 and brought to The Hague to face trial before the International Court of Justice.

Reassertion of courage and determination

Mass graves of the Muslim victims of the massacre of 1992-95 are still being discovered. Thousands of people reported missing during and after the war are still untraceable. In many areas of Bosnia, where the houses of Muslims were burned and their inhabitants driven out or killed, the atmosphere of fear and apprehension is palpable. Occasionally, when some Muslim families return to their villages to resettle, they are either threatened by their Serb neighbours or targeted by Serb snipers.

Despite this uncertain and fearful situation in many villages and towns of Bosnia, an increasing number of local Muslims are determined to pick up the threads of their lives and to assert their religious and cultural identity. The town of Kozarac, which Karadzic hoped to wipe out, is bustling with activity once again. Many of the former inhabitants of the town have come back to live here and to rebuild their homes. Many of the mosques which had been destroyed or burned are being rebuilt. One of the survivors of the massacre, Edin Kararic, says,” I don’t go to the mosque, but I like it that they are there, because every minaret is a finger up to the people who tried to put us out. It says, “We’re back!”.

A new museum of Islamic art opened in Doha

There is a growing worldwide interest in Islamic art. Most museums in Western countries have special galleries on Islamic art, which are visited by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In 2004 the world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris added a $60 million glass expansion to house its Islamic collection, which was earlier exhibited in underground corridors. Branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim are planned in Abu Dhabi.

The prices of Islamic art objects in London’s famous auction houses such as Christie’s and Sothbey’s have skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to growing international demand by museums and private art collectors. Famous jewels, manuscripts, ceramics and glassware from the medieval Islamic world are fetching 10 times their estimated worth.

The royal al-Thani family of Qatar has been in the forefront of purchases of Islamic art objects around the world in the past few years. The royal collection of Islamic art has been brought together in a new museum which opened in Doha in November 2008. The Museum of Islamic Art, established by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has 800 rare specimens of Islamic art collected from around the world.

The inaugural festivities began with spectacular fireworks display on November 22, attended by luminaries from the art world from around the globe. The architecture of the museum has been designed by the 91-year old renowned architect and designer, I. M. Pei, who designed the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre. He spent months travelling across the Middle East, visiting the region’s architectural monuments and drawing inspiration for the museum project. The design of the museum, including its environs, reflects the distinctive features and ethos of Islamic architecture. The chief curator of the museum, Oliver Watson, is British, as are many of the staff.

The museum’s collection includes manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalware and other art objects assembled by the royal family over the past 20 years. The art objects in the collection originate from diverse regions of the world, including Spain, Central Asia, Iran, India and Turkey. The galleries are spread over an area of 41,000 square feet and are organised around a towering atrium capped by a dome.

It is hoped that the new museum will soon emerge as a leading centre of research and publication relating to Islamic art.

Islamic tribunals in Britain

Unlike many European countries, there is no separation between church and state in Britain. Anglican Christianity is the state religion and the head of state—the British monarch—is also the head of the Anglican Church. Though there is a broadly secular legal system in the country, the Church of England has its own legally recognised ecclesiastical courts. Courts and tribunals run by the Church of England carry the full force of the law. Furthermore, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have their own distinctive legal systems.

There are nearly 180,000 Orthodox Jews living in Britain. They have their own Beth Din or rabbinical courts, which have been in existence for more than a century. Under Britain’s 1996 Arbitration Act, the rabbinical courts or tribunals can function as official courts of arbitration in the consensual resolution of civil disputes such as divorce or inheritance. Rabbinical courts, run under the authority of Britain’s Chief Rabbi, are voluntary and subordinate to the overarching British legal system. A Jewish couple who wish to divorce have to do so in civil courts. They will then turn to the rabbinical courts to secure a divorce in religious law on top of their legal divorce. “People often come to us for reasons of speed, cost and secrecy”, said David Frei, registrar of the London Beth Din.

Islamic tribunals

There are nearly 1.8 million Muslims living in Britain. By and large, they have maintained their religious and cultural identities, which are reinforced by a wide network of mosques, Islamic schools, community organisations and Islamic courts. Loosely structured arbitration councils, sometimes described as Islamic or Shariah courts, have been in existence in Britain over the past two decades. Under Britain’s 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows disputes to be resolved through alternative forums like tribunals, Islamic tribunals or councils can give rulings which can be enforced by county and High Courts. The Islamic Arbitration Council in Leyton is one of the oldest and largest Islamic tribunals in the country. It has been quietly engaged in resolving civil disputes since 1982 and has dealt with more than 7,000 divorce cases.

A large majority of cases brought before Islamic tribunals involve women asking for divorce on grounds of ill-treatment, domestic violence and torture by their husbands. Other cases involve disputes over inheritance and property. If a wife wants a divorce and the husband refuses, the Islamic tribunal can grant her unilateral request to dissolve the marriage, after exploring avenues of reconciliation. Sometimes cases are brought in from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. The tribunals stay away from criminal cases.

Islamic arbitration councils are becoming increasingly popular across large parts of Britain. Offices of the Muslim Arbitration Council, the country’s largest apex body, are now operating in London, Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and Nuneaton, with more planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. The cases brought before local tribunals are sometimes referred to an apex body of law experts and scholars at London’s central mosque for final arbitration and judgement. The committee meets once a month. Since the Muslim population of Britain is ethnically diverse with different national backgrounds, arbitration procedures are coordinated through representatives of different ethnic communities.

British government has accorded a tacit but guarded approval to Islamic tribunals in the country. In October 2008, Jack Straw, the justice minister, said that “There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Shariah principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law”. He added that “British law would always remain supreme and that “regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams suggested in February 2008 that there could be a “plural jurisdiction” in the UK in which Muslims could freely decide whether they wanted to have their family disputes resolved in secular courts or through Islamic legal institutions which offer an alternative forum for arbitration. He pleaded for “transformative accommodation”, which would incorporate features of alternative legal cultures in the country. The Archbishop pointed out that certain provisions of Islamic Shariah are already recognised in British society and under British law. He said some aspects of Islamic personal law relating to marriage could be included in the British legal system as a way to accommodate Muslims who did not defer to British law. What he seemed to suggest was that the secular legal system should accommodate the Shariah councils, which exist around the country, for dealing with family matters. This move, he suggested, would foster the integration of Muslims in the wider society.

The Archbishop opined that Shariah could play a role in “aspects of marital law, the recognition of financial transactions, and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution”. He clarified that his suggestion for the incorporation of some aspects of Islamic Shariah in the British legal system was confined to family law and that the question of introducing Islamic penal laws was unthinkable in the context of British society. Similarly he discounted the notion of parallel systems of law in the country.

Britain’s Chief Justice, Lord Philips of Worth Matravers, in a speech to the London Muslim Council on 3 July 2008, said there was “widespread misunderstanding of the nature of Shariah law” and added, “There is no reason why Shariah principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution”. Lord Philips said he was willing to see Shariah laws operate in the country, so long as they did not conflict with the laws of England and Wales, or lead to the imposition of severe physical punishments”.

Supporting Archbishop Rowan Williams’ observations, Lord Philips said, “It is not very radical to advocate embracing Shariah law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the Archbishop’s suggestions”. He added, “It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law. Those who, in this country, are in dispute as to their respective rights, should be free to subject that dispute to the mediation of a chosen person or agree that the dispute shall be resolved by a chosen arbitrator or arbitrators”.

Lord Philips suggested that marital arrangements could be mediated through Shariah principles. He also supported the creation of specialist Shariah-compliant financial products and services, something the UK Treasury has acknowledged since 2002. Lord Philips clarified that he was not countenancing “any notion of Shariah courts operating in this country and seeking to impose such punishments”.

Stephen Hockman QC, one of Britain’s leading barristers and a former chairman of the Bar Council, suggested on 25 November 2008 that a group of parliamentarians, lawyers and religious leaders should be convened to plan how elements of Islamic law could be incorporated into Britain’s legal system. Mr Hockman told The Daily Express: “Given our substantial Muslim population, it is vital that we look at ways to integrate Muslim culture into out tradition. Otherwise we will find that there is a significant section of our society which is increasingly alienated, with very dangerous results”. He added that the incorporation of Shariah into the British legal system could improve relations between faith groups and boost the country’s security (The Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2008).

Women’s mosques and female teachers in China

In China, there are 55 distinct ethnic groups, officially designated as nationalities or national minorities, which comprise nearly 120 million people and constitute about 10% of the country’s population. Ten of the 55 national minorities are adherents of the Islamic faith. The most important among Muslim minority groups are Hui (9 million), Uighur (7.5 million), and Kazakh (1.2 million). The Hui, who comprise about half of the Muslim population in China, are spread over 97% of China’s provinces. They are the descendants of Arab, Central Asian and Persian merchants who began arriving and settling in China since the 7th century. They married local women, which resulted in their gradual assimilation into Chinese society. The Hui Muslims thus represent a blend of Chinese, Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultural traditions. Unlike other Muslim communities, they speak a variety of languages.

The Hui Muslims maintain an extensive network of mosques and Islamic schools across the country. Hui women occupy a significant space in the religious and cultural life of the community. Nearly one-seventh of mosques and prayer halls in China are almost exclusively used and managed by women, mainly by female religious teachers known as ahong (derived from the Persian akhund, or teacher). Many of them live in rooms attached to women’s mosques or Islamic schools for girls. The ahong function mainly as teachers and spiritual and moral guides for women. They also offer ritual guidance at marriages and funerals and act as mediators in resolving inter-personal and intra-community disputes. Some ahong women teach the Quran and elementary literacy to adult women. Some of them run shops that sell Islamic literature. The ahong have developed extensive intra-community social and marriage networks across the country that link members of the Hui community.

The ahong continue to play a highly important role in keeping Islamic ethos and traditions alive in China’s atheistic environment and in reinforcing community solidarity among Hui Muslims.

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