Mr. Jia Qinglin, the third-ranking government official in China, recently had an audience with members of a special committee for the discussion, selection, and compilation of state-prescribed teachings of Islam. This Guiding Committee on Islamic Religious Affairs, which exists under the China Islamic Association and brings together influential Muslim Mullahs and Imams for the interpretation of scripture (Tafsir), celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2011. The teachings of this committee are spread among local Imams by means of recitation competitions, meetings, and other semi-official activities. In can be said that by means of this committee, China’s Islamic Association has been acting as a council guiding and governing Kutubs and Fatwas delivered by Imams in Mosques across China and especially in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
According to the working rules of the Guiding Committee on Islamic Religious Affairs, the mission of this committee is to promote accommodation of Islam to socialist society. These rules clearly stipulate that the objective of the committee is to fight extremism and maintain China’s sovereignty –– in other words to fight separatism. It also aims at standardizing interpretations of certain religious concepts, such as Jihad. The newly established scripture-interpretation committee of the China Islamic Association is fighting an ideological war against the so-called “three evil forces.”
主任： 陈广元 副主任：阿荣汗阿吉 马云福
委员： 艾伯都拉大毛拉; 哈吉亚克巴尔•黄吾尔; 尤努斯 库尔班大毛拉; 尼亚孜卡日阿吉; 沙地克卡日阿吉; 马长庆; 马安泰; 马 贤; 谢生林; 马人斌; 敏生光; 马开贤; 吕金虎
组长： 马云福 （中国伊斯兰教协会副会长）
副组长： 阿地力 （中国伊斯兰教协会国际部副主任）
A state council or committee to prescribe and disseminate orthodox teachings is nothing new to scholars of Islam. Iran and Saudi Arabia provide standard, state-defined Islamic teachings to their citizens under the supervision of Mullah or Shura councils.
But China in different in that the People’s Republic is an atheist county that claims to maintain a complete separation between the state and religious authorities. But under the leadership of the Association, some 15 to 20 Imams are put forward by regional religious bureaus to serve as committee members. Among the first committee members, five are from Xinjiang. Since the establishment of this committee in 2001, the China Islamic Association organizes annual Koran-recitation competitions and other activities. One of the much highlighted achievements of this committee is the compilation of collections of “Wo-er-zi,” or standard interpretations of Islamic texts such as the Koran. Interestingly these compilations and collections are called new interpretations (新编卧尔兹演讲集) and were “donated” to Xinjiang and the former Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with the Vice Chairman in attendance. As Mr. Jia Qinglin commented on April 25, in 10 years this scripture-interpretation has borne rich fruits in accommodating Islam to socialist China.
The establishment of government-approved religious committees reminds Muslims of policy ahongs, Imams that had been trained since the late 1950s in the hope of leading Muslims to socialism. Following China’s Open Door Policy, most of these Imams have been rejected by the local Muslim population. The new policy ahongs of today may one day share a familiar fate when China ends another ideological war against “-isms” such as separatism, extremism, and terrorism.