[ Monday, May 22, 2006 08:37:59 pm
XINING (CHINA): Ishmael is a big fan of Osama bin Laden. "He is a hero," he said, stroking his beard. "He is a good Muslim." Maybe not such a strange comment
to hear from a Muslim in Iraq or Saudi Arabia, but Ishmael is a Chinese citizen who lives in the remote province of Qinghai, in a country which is officially
atheist and strictly controls religion.
With just over 20 million adherents, according to the government, there are as many Muslims in China as in Syria, or Yemen, two predominantly Islamic countries.
And Islam is alive and well in western China. Ishmael, who, like many other Muslims in Qinghai, prefers using his Arabic name to the Chinese one on his
identity card. He is a student at an Islamic school attached to a mosque in Xining.
There he learns Arabic and Persian, as well as studying the Koran and other Islamic teachings. But politics is technically banned by law from being mentioned
either in Ishmael's school or mosque.
A large blackboard near the entrance to the mosque, on the dusty outskirts of Xining, reminds worshippers of their duty to love the motherland and love
the Communist Party as part of being a good Muslim, an admonition that riles some.
Source: = The Times of India