Fourteen Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) students recently travelled to China to gain first hand insight into the history of Islam and Muslims in the country. They were there as part of GU-Q’s award winning Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace program, which combines classroom learning with visits to sites of ethnic, political, religious, and social conflict across the globe.
During the course of 12 days, the students visited five cities in China as part of the travel component of the co-curricular program, which was offered as a three-credit course this year and taught by GU-Q professor and historian Dr. Max Oidtmann. Led by the professor, staff members, and a GU-Q alumnus, the students went to masajid and religious sites in Beijing, Yinchuan, Lanzhou, Linxia, and Xining, and met with faculty and students from three universities which have a significant or minority Muslim student population.
“This year was the first time Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace was offered as a course, which greatly strengthened the program,” explained Naila Sherman, director of student life at GU-Q. “The students were very invested in the topics they chose for their final papers, and asked direct questions on the ground in China to find out more about their area of focus.”
Prior to the trip, students attended classes twice a week over the course of the spring semester to learn more about the history of Islam in China from an academic perspective. In addition to attending lectures and completing quizzes and short papers, they were required to submit a final research paper after their trip that counted towards a significant portion of their grade. The course allowed students from various majors to explore their interests in relation to the topic, from the economic and political aspects of Muslims in China to literature and cultural customs.
“My research was about the Chinese state economic policies and their impact on Chinese Muslims,” said Mudassar Raza Shakir (SFS’21) who was one of the 14 students who travelled to China “The professor gave us a lot of autonomy to choose where we wanted to go, and I was surprised to see how patriotic Chinese Muslims were to the country. They love the state and appreciate what it had done for them. Mudassar points out that the trip to China changed his perspective about Chinese Muslims: “they are allowed to a large extent to practice their religion freely. Now I feel I know China a lot better and will be looking forward to the next class I take about China.”
Established in 2007, the Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace program is one of the many co-curricular opportunities available to students at GU-Q. The program has taken students to sites of historical conflict and reconciliation in countries around the world, including Japan, Rwanda, Germany, Poland, Northern Ireland, East Timor, Cambodia, Cyprus, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oman, and Zanzibar.