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Female imam a first for Ningxia

Female imam a first for Ningxia



( 2003-08-25 09:55) (Agencies)

Jin Meihua, a female imam, preaches in a very small courtyard in the Wunan Mosque in the city of Wuzhong in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

 The 40-year-old Jin is among the first female imams in the region.

 "My wish is to deliver virtue," said Jin.

 Born into a religious family, she studied the Koran, the sacred text of Islam, under her father when she was very young. But, as a female, she could not go to mosques like her father. To help more women like herself to have the opportunity to learn the Koran and to pray in mosques, Jin decided to become an imam.

 Last year, she passed the exam held by the Ningxia Islamic Association, and became one of eight female imams in Wuzhong. In Ningxia, where one-third of China's Hui minority lives, the number of registered imams is 5,000, but only 30 female ones.

 The status of female imams is unique to China. "Religion should develop with the times, " said Hei Fuli, secretary of the Ningxia Islamic Association. "The emergence of female imams and mosques serving only women also goes along with the trend of the times."

 Mosques serving only women are playing a more and more important role in the life of local women. They go to pray, and to study Arabic and the Koran there.

 Imam Jin has five students, and some 50 women from nearby villages come to hear her preach.

 "Because of illiteracy," Jin explained, "many women here feel frightened by the modern changes and deve-lopments in society. What I can do is to help them reject unhealthy thoughts, and to do good things under the influence of the Koran."

 "Jin has earned a fine reputation with her sermons," said Ma Wanyun, imam of the Wunan Mosque.

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