A Splendid Mosque, A School for Muslims
   2012-12-20 13:39:22    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Guo Jing

Mu Yali, a 17-year-old student reads books in class at Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque on Friday, December 7, 2012. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Guo Jing]

Originally built in the 14th century, Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque, the largest mosque in Lanzhou, northwest China's Gansu province is much more than a place of worship. In addition to welcoming almost 4,000 Muslims to Jumu'ah, a congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday afternoon; it is also a school providing both higher and primary education for Muslim girls and for cultivating male Muslim clerics and talents.

As the city's first religious girls' school, it consists of more than 400 faculty members, including 16 female teachers. The school enrolls women from teenagers to middle-aged alike and customizes their courses, said Ma Zhong, Imam of the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque in an interview with reporters from China Radio International.

"Our courses cover the history of Islam, the Koran, computer skills, Chinese language, Arabic language and basic English language, for both higher and primary education. We also offer vocational classes such as sewing," said a teacher for the girls' school.

"I came here after graduating from junior high school," said Mu Yali, a 17-year-old girl at the school, "and I chose this school because I want to learn more about my own religious culture."

Referring to discrimination against Islamic culture, teacher Zhang Xiumei explained, "We don't like those misunderstandings that describe us as ignorant and backward."

"The Sunna tells us to be polite and honest; to not cheat or steal and we follow it exactly. Though some of our older students didn't go to school when they were young, they attach great importance to education and send their children to university," she added.

The boys' school produces young Muslim clerics and talents. The school has fewer than 100 students and provides courses on Islamic religion, culture and history.

"Islam means peace in Arabic. So we cultivate clerics and religious talents, hoping that the teachings of 'doing good' can be better spread. The Koran forbids drinking, gambling and fortune telling because this kind of behavior causes people to do evil which leads to problems within the family and society," said Ma Zhong.

There are more than 200,000 Muslims in Lanzhou, accounting for about 8 percent of the city's total population. Most of them are Hui people who wear white prayer hats or colorful turbans. Halal restaurants are common sights in this northwest city.

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