China, Silk Road and spread of Islam

China held a two-day conference in Beijing to sell its trillion dollars mega international trade project, called the Silk Road or Belt and Road early this month. Head of states from 29 countries attended the conference which was boycotted by United States, European Union, India and Japan.

Chinese president Xi Jinping in his keynote speech assured the world leaders that China wants to bring countries in Asia, Europe and Africa closure through trade without internal political or military interference. He pledged US$124 billion toward the project.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also addressed the conference.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi criticized the Chinese plan on the basis that Beijing supports Pakistan’s claim on the Indian occupied Kashmir Valley. Ironically, leaders from India’s all neighbors, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Nepal and Bhutan attended the conference.

The Silk Roads (Silk Routes) initiative is nothing new. This vast expanse of intercultural trade routes traversed Eurasia from the Mediterranean all the way to Japan, crossing into India on the way. Textiles, spices and even religions were all exchanged along the Silk Roads starting around 1,000 B.C. and continuing for several millenniums. For much of this time, Islam was the dominant religion among Silk Roads traders coming from western Eurasia, and they brought with them their belief system and a culture rich in tradition and advancements to millions of people.

Muslim traders established a network of business spreading to several major foreign cities along the Silk Roads such as Xi’an, Samarkand, Aleppo, Mosul, and Merv.

Today the Hui, a Muslim Chinese minority numbering 5 million, are widely thought to be the descendants of Muslim merchants who settled in China at the end of their Silk Road journeys (watch video below).

Muslim traders introduced Islam to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Korea, etc. via Silk Roads.

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