The Hui Muslims in China are worried about losing their religion. Beijing is imposing Chinese characteristics on Islam upsetting the Hui Muslims. Domes and signs in Arabic over Islamic religious places, and banning the building of new ‘Arabic style’ mosques has left the Hui Muslims worried, distraught and anxious. So how is Beijing stopping the spread of so-called “Radical Islam” in China? Here is a report by EurAsian Times with inputs from SCMP.
Mosques as old as 1981, in China, thronged by Hui Muslims every Friday, are under the scanner of the Communist Party in China. According to a new government campaign, catching pace, the authorities want to get rid of all the religious places, domes and signs to spread a ‘Sinicise religion’ and curb the growth of ‘Islamisation’ and ‘Arabisation’ in the north-west Ningxia region of the Hui Muslims.
Will Hui Muslims in China Lose their Region and Religion?
Hui Muslims in China are already losing all the Islamic signs, domes and décor in the region, but will they lose their religion too? All these said signs had been conveniently placed about 10 years ago when the government wanted to attract tourists and lure them to the ‘ethnic’ and ‘cultural’ Hui Muslims minority. These signs and domes have now been ripped off, building new ones are banned and some of the existing mosques may soon be converted into Chinese temples. This is making the Muslims in China apprehensive about Beijing’s policy towards their region and religion.
There are over ten million Hui Muslims in China, who have largely descended from Central Asian Silk Road Traders and from Arab traders. For decades this minority ethnic community has been peacefully practising their faith. There has existed a peaceful co-habilitation between the Hui and the majority Han communities.
With China tightening its grip over Terrorism and Religious Extremism, the first to be targeted were the Uygurs, a Muslim community in the West of Xinjiang. The Hui Muslims are the next to be targeted. The current situation is severe with even the prayer calls being banned, being deemed as a cause of noise pollution. Religious books have been removed from book and souvenir shops and some of the mosques are not allowed to hold Arabic classes, just as some of the Arabic Schools have been shut down.
Muslims in China Pitted Against Sinicising Religion
These major steps being taken by the Chinese government are a part of a campaign to ‘Sinisice Religion’ in China. This policy has been brought in by President Xi to align all religions in China with traditional culture and a complete authority of the Chinese party. Last year, President Xi had stated in a party congress report:
“We should adhere to the direction of Sinicising religion in our country, and actively guide religion to adapt to a socialist society,”
There are 5 religions recognised in China:
While Taoism is an indigenous religion and Buddhism, even though its origins lie in India, has been accepted as a religion in China, it is the remaining three that the government is worried about. The Chinese government, although recognises these remaining 3 as religions, at the same time considers them to be agents of ethnic separatism.
In fact, the head of the China Islamic Association, in March, criticised the growth of Islamisation and condemning mosques blindly copying foreign models of construction, stated:
“Religious rites, culture and buildings should all reflect Chinese characteristics, style and manner,”
Another report by the CIA stated:
“Mosques should adapt to the circumstances of our country, reflect Chinese style and blend in with Chinese culture, instead of worshipping foreign architectural styles,”
Hui Muslims in China – Anxious?
While some Hui Muslims are not as concerned about the change in the construction style of Mosques as long as they are allowed to practice the faith, most of them are worried about the change in attitude towards their faith. The curbing of religious practices is what is causing a state of anxiety and worry for the Hui Muslims. The biggest concern came with a ban on the visit to Mecca for party members.
The Hui Muslims believe that following an Islamic structure, connects them to the larger Islamic world and belief and it is exactly this ‘connection’ that China is worried about. The extensive spread of jihadist terrorism in Europe and the widespread of Islamist terror groups and militants from the Middle East, across the globe, is exactly the extremist sentiment that China is trying to curb and eradicate.
While the Hui Muslims in China and their peaceful way of life and co-habitation with the Han population has been a Chinese pride, displaying a high level of ethnic unity, this sudden change in the scenario has left the community confused. With Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, starting next week, will the Muslim community in China be able to rise above anxiety, terror and dismay and devote themselves to their faith?
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