China Launches Ramadan Crackdown in Muslim Northwest


A Uighur Muslim worshiper prays inside the Kashgar Idgah mosque, the biggest one in Xinjiang province, during early afternoon prayers August 5, 2008.


September 6, 2008 — BEIJING (AFP) – Authorities in China’s Muslim-populated far northwest are seeking to prevent mass prayers and the distribution of religious material as part of a security crackdown for Ramadan, government notices said.

A series of attacks on police in Xinjiang around last month’s Beijing Olympic Games left more than 20 officers and security guards dead, and at least as many attackers killed or arrested, in the biggest unrest there in years.

As the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began, local governments this week issued orders to stop ethnic Muslim Uighur population from using the holy month to foment further unrest.

Xinjiang’s Zhaosu county government prohibited government officials, Communist Party members, teachers and students from observing Ramadan, while warning that “any person caught forcing another to observe Ramadan” would be punished.

“We must timely warn and stop religious believers from organizing and planning large scale prayer groups and prevent any large crowd incidents that could harm social stability,” said a notice on the Xinhe county website.

In some areas, the crackdown also was extended to the Muslim religious practices of men growing beards and women covering their faces with veils.
“For those that maintain beards and for the women who wear veils, we should take all effective measures to have them shave their beards and take off their veils,” the Shaya government said, without elaborating on how this would be done.

The county government also stepped up patrols around mosques and urged top officials to remain vigilant around the clock for any incidents that could result in social instability.

“The handing out of religious propaganda in public places by any work unit or individual is banned,” the Shaya government said.

“We must strictly prohibit the playing of any audio-visual tapes, loud speaker announcements and religious drum rituals that could disrupt the Ramadan festival.”

Xinhe and Shaya are near Kuqa city where up to 10 alleged Muslim attackers were reportedly killed after assaulting a local police station on August 10.

Xinjiang is a vast desert region bordering Central Asia that is home to 8.3 million Uighurs, many of whom say they have suffered decades of political and religious repression under Chinese rule.

The Uighurs established two short-lived East Turkestan republics in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese central government control was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.

Phelim Kyne, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the postings on the government websites appeared to be the first time that such hardline religious control measures had been openly and publicly disclosed.

“We have heard of these types of measures on beards and veils, that Uighur party members and citizens who join the government are expected to distance themselves from overt cultural and religious expressions,” Kyne said.

“But by putting them in black and white on government websites, they are showing that they have become much more concerned with the situation and are deepening the crackdown.”

According to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, the measures would only increase tensions among Xinjiang’s Muslim population.

“To publicly restrict Uighurs from observing the Ramadan fast is a serious act trampling on the religious faithful,” the German-based Raxit said in a statement.

“At the same time this is only going to intensify the conflict (in Xinjiang).


1 reply
  1. TMO
    TMO says:

    Ramadan Crackdown & the use of Terminology: Chinese Muslim vs. Uiygar vs. Hui vs. Han Muslim
    from Islam in China by Wang Daiyu

    Before delving into the issue regarding Ramadan restrictions in Xinjiang I wanted to clarify some terminology which most people outside of China get wrong. Thus for example the media often uses the term “Chinese Muslims” as if there is a monolith of 25 million people in China, or when the media announcs the restrictions on Chinese Muslims – as if the restrictions are on all Chinese Muslims. A word of caution is in order here. Here are some clarifications which will may be helpful for people to interpret the news in the future insha’Allah. Firstly even the term Chinese is not always well defined. It can mean a person who is a citizen of the People’s Republic of China (and Taiwan) and thus can be from one of the 56 recogonized nationaliities in China. Thus the millions of Koreans and Monglians of China would be Chinese in this sense. On the other hand the word Chinese can be synnonymous with the Han Chinese ethnic group in China which accounts for 92% of Chinese citizens. The amount to which the minorities of China identify with China depends upon the minority and how many people of their own ethnicity live outside of China. In the same vein the word Chiese Muslim can also be problemetic. The most general definition would of course anyone who believes in Islam and is a citizen of People’s Republic of China or the Republic of China (Taiwan). Out of the 56 ethnic groups 10 ethnic groups have majority Muslim populations. Out of these 10 the two that account for more than 90 percent of all Muslims are the Hui who are spread throughout China and the Uiygar who are mainly concentrated in the Northwestern province of Xinjiang. Historically the word Chinese Muslim has been synonymous with the Huis. They are the descendents of Arab and Persian Muslims who intermarried with the local Chinese population plus Han Chinese converts. At the begininning of the twentieth century all Chinese Muslim regardless of their background who did not have a seperate language and spoke any dialect of the Chinese language as their mother tongue were declared as a single ethnic group called the Hui. Historically the relations between the Hui Muslims and the Uiygar Muslims have varied and have not always been good. The Huis are sometime preceived as being “More Han Chiense than the Han Chinese” by the Uiygar. One of the reasons is that Hui Muslims have historically conceived of themselves as Chinese Muslims. They have not thought of themselves as something seperate but rather an integral part of China and the Chinese nation while the Uiygar are Turkish in origin. The terminology is even more complicated becasue there are hundreds or even thousands of Huis who are not even Muslims anymore but are counted as such. At the same time there are many Han Chinese Muslim converts who are not considered Huis but they would have been considered so if they lived a couple of hundred years ago. The category of Hui and Chinese Muslims is thus very complicated. More on this in another post in the future insha’Allah.

    Now onto the recent restrictions regarding Ramadan. I am sure most people would have read about it by now in New York Times. These restrictions are not on all Chinese Muslims but to the bese of my knowledge only in the province of Xinjiang. Chinese Muslims in other provinces are free to observe Ramadan. The same applies to foreign Muslims in China i.e., they are also free to observe Ramadan. Also the conflict in Ramadan should not be viewed as a conflict in religious terms but rather it is an ethnic conflict. What do I mean by this? In Westen media any news story about Xinjiang usually starts with “Muslim extremists in China.” However if one reads the same story in Chinese or even from Chinese sources in English, they use the term “Uiygar seperatists.” So what is the point of this post? We are not stating that there is no discrimination or restrictions in Xinjiang but rather that this is not the case in all of China and we should not look look at it as a religious conflict. We can always pray for all these people that may Allah make it easy for them and may Allah show our non-Muslim Chinese friends the right path to Islam. Ameen!