By David G. Atwill
At dusk one evening in June 2012, I found myself staring up at the imposing main gate of Lhasa’s Grand Mosque. I had waited four years to procure the proper travel permit necessary for me to visit Lhasa and witness firsthand the people, places, and spaces I’d previously only been able to read about in my research on Tibetan Muslims (in Tibetan known as Khache). However, I was not the typical tourist and I had not requested the typical itinerary. My local Tibetan guide—a requirement for foreign visitors—was less than impressed. Rolling his eyes and not bothering to conceal his disdain, he asked, “Why are you even interested in Tibetan Muslims?”
He went on to explain that in Tibet there were only Chinese Muslims, never Tibetan Muslims. I knew from my research that Lhasa in fact had been home to a Muslim community for over three hundred years and had multiple mosques, and that the Tibetan Muslims had influenced Tibetan literature, culture, and pol ...
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