RELIGION is often hidden in China, so the unabashed public display of Islam here in the city known as Little Mecca is particularly striking. Men have beards and wear white caps. Women wear head scarves. Minarets poke up from large mosques. A bookstore sells Korans and religious study guides in Arabic.
These are reminders that with almost 21 million followers of Islam, China has roughly as many Muslims as Europe or even Iraq. But the openness of religion in this isolated region along the ancient Silk Road does not mean that China’s Muslims are active participants in the protests and seminal debates roiling the larger Islamic world. In that world, they are almost invisible.