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China through the Kaleidoscope of a Curious Traveler

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I have little knowledge of Chinese history, but I noticed that the Chinese students are proud of their history and heritage. A group of students signed a book containing advices from Confucius and presented it to me while highly praising him. On the other hand, unlike Turks or Arabs, Chinese have no problem assuming English or Western nicknames. Every student at the Lushan School had a Western nickname. This identification makes them highly receptive to Western culture, fashion, lifestyle, and Christianity. A student at Hunan University told me that these days it is fashion to conduct graduation ceremonies at church; according to him, about fifty percent of students had no problem with affiliating to Christian church. Surely, joining the bandwagon of the winning world, and getting a share of the pie has its appeal beyond seeking the truth in theology.


Melancholy and Cultural Sensitivity


If television programs are a measure, Chinese people are socially conservative. Surfing the 44 channels in my hotel for days, I never saw prolonged kissing scenes or couples in bed. Though, I saw a few ads about how to make one’s breasts bigger. I did not find a single English channel, but I heard that people could have some English channels such as HBO and CNN through cable. After ten days in China, I started craving English channels; I could even watch the unbalanced and unfair Fox News. At any time, you may find almost one fifth of the channels showing war movies. If you include Karate and violent American movies such as Rambo or Indiana Jones, perhaps the violent movies would fill more than a quarter of the programs. I also noticed plenty of feuding people, sad and crying faces. You may not only see women, but also men crying and sobbing.


I saw a couple of reality shows too. For instance, the one about obstacle competition, where young men and women are expected to pass a series of obstacles in less than two minutes without falling into dirty water... I did not see a sitcom like Everyone Loves Diamond or Sinfilled (don't bother correcting the spelling errors) where people are shepherded through laughing tracks to laugh exactly when the director wants them to. Though Chinese people are politically manipulated more directly than Americans, they are not yet shepherded so directly when to laugh.


My observation about Chinese TV and films is not based on a quantified survey made for a long period of time; thus you should caution against generalizing it.


Our hosts showed sensitivity towards our culture and even my idiosyncratic preferences. For instance, my son's host family together with another host family invited me for a dinner. They first took me to their home, but there I learned that we would meet in a restaurant. When I saw the restaurant, I could not believe it. Learning that I was a Muslim, they had picked a restaurant ran by Muslims adjacent to a big mosque facing the huge stadium and the colossal Ferris wheel. The Restaurant's wall had a huge Arabic calligraphy on a green background testifying to oneness of God, while adding Muhammad's name, which was a violation of strict monotheism expressed in the Quran.  While waiting for the orders, I wanted to visit the mosque. If I met an English speaking Chinese Muslim, I was going to present him/her my recent publication, Quran: a Reformist Translation. I found none there.


The mosque had a courtyard and the adjacent building was used as a school and dorm for religious education. Noticing several Chinese Muslims lingering there, I greeted them with the universal "Salam" (Peace) and a big smile on my face. Receiving no response, I charged towards the door of the mosque to satisfy my curiosity. The host parents translated their words for me: "The mosque is not open on Sundays." I tried to talk with someone, but I was shunned. My repeated efforts trying to get to know a Chinese Muslim failed. I could not believe their apathy and lack of curiosity. For a moment, I thought perhaps they showed aversion towards me because of the short pants on me. But, I later saw the waitresses in the restaurant wearing no headscarves. I am not sure whether my experience in that mosque was an anecdotal one. But, I know for sure that the backward sectarian teachings that have replaced the progressive and liberating teaching of the Quran, have turned many so-called Muslims to zombies!


Mao here, Mao there, Mao Everywhere!


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EDIP YUKSEL, J.D. is a progressive American-Turkish-Kurdish author/philosopher/lawyer/activist (too many hyphens and slashes, I know). His recent English books "Quran: a Reformist Translation", "Manifesto for Islamic Reform", and "NINETEEN: God's (more...)
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