Erie’s recently published book, “China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law”, is a look at how Sharia is implemented among the Hui. In an interview he discussed his findings, which confound many preconceptions about Sharia, Chinese law and the rigidity of the communist state. Excerpts:
How should we understand the statistics on Muslims in China? Officially there are 23 million, but this assumes that Islam is an ethnicity, and that all Hui, or all Uighurs, must be Muslim.
It’s a problematic issue because it’s an ethnic category that is used to define members of a religion. Hence, it can be both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. For the former, Muslims outside China may not consider every Hui to be a Muslim. Many Hui are very pious. They attend mosque regularly and go on the Haj. And then there are people who say they’re Hui, meaning they just don’t eat pork. For the latter, it’s possible that some Chinese citizens who are ethnically Han [the dominant ethnic group in China] or Tibetan are, in fact, Muslims. It’s a very loose category.