This is how Islam is getting a Communist makeover in China

A woman walks past a Uighur-owned and operated restaurant in Beijing | David Butow/Bloomberg

AASTHA SINGH
10 January, 2019

New Delhi: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s policy to restructure cultures and traditions of its Muslim minority according to the Socialist characteristics of the Communist Party has taken a more aggressive turn.

report published in state-run Global Times Monday said China will soon release an “outline” for the “Sinicisation” of Islam, as it called upon Islamic organisations from eight provinces and regions, including Beijing and Shanghai, to realign Muslim practices and beliefs in accordance with the Communist way.

China has drawn widespread international criticism for its “Sinicisation” moves. The Arab world, however, has maintained a curious silence.

The ‘outline’

The Global Times report said the outline will be imposed over the next five years.

The outline, reported to be a legislation in Western media, “clarifies the primary work and measures for the Sinicisation of Islam”.

The move is part of a larger crackdown on religious minorities, especially the rights and practices of Uighur Muslims, since at least 2014, under the Xi rule. China claims these communities are susceptible to engaging in religious extremism and wants to prevent the outbreak of terrorism in its territory.

“Practising Islam has been made forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion, facing the threat of arrest,” said an Al Jazeera report.

Last year, a United Nations panel expressed fear that as many as one million Uighurs could be detained in mass internment camps — what China calls “re-education camps” — sparking global outrage.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE PRINT

China welcomed the UN to visit the Xinjiang region, home to Uighur Muslims, to see the situation for itself. However, several accounts that have emerged from Uighur Muslims of the region give rise to questions over the activities of the Chinese government.

International response

Individuals across the world have questioned China over its measures towards the human rights of Uighurs, including “Sinicisation”.

The World Uyghur Congress, which considers itself an umbrella organisation advocating the rights of Uighur Muslims, tweeted Monday that the recent move is actually a “continuation of its (China’s) already existing policies” of subjecting Uighurs to “totally assimilation” and “religious persecution”.

Brahma Chellaney, an international security expert, said on Twitter that the government’s arrest of Uighur intellectuals last year and the decision to Sinicise Islam is all a part of their “social-engineering drive”.

Phelim Kine, director of research and investigations at US-based Physicians for Human Rights, said that “China’s government is effectively treating Islam as a form of mental illness”.

However, Gulf countries, the self-professed promoters and upholders of Islam, have largely failed to oppose China.

On 10 December, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which boasts to be the second largest inter-governmental body only after the UN, said it was aware of the situation in China and admitted that Uighurs were being forced to “follow cultural values and practices contrary to their religious beliefs”.

Since then, the OIC hasn’t made any statement on China’s actions.

Pakistan hasn’t opposed China’s moves either. Although its minister for religious affairs Noorul Haq Qadri did raise this issue with Chinese ambassador Yao Xing last year, China asserted that it is providing religious freedom to Uighur Muslims.

On Tuesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in an interview that he did “not know the exact situation of this (of Uighur Muslims)” in China. When pressed for a response, he said he would deal with it in a “different way with the Chinese”.

Pakistani researcher Sarmad Ishfaq earlier wrote in Foreign Policy Journal that “countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kazakhstan and even Pakistan are frightful of losing billions of dollars in Chinese investment and trade — and also potentially losing a major ally that can counter American hegemony”.

A recent opinion piece in The New York Times penned by Turkish author and journalist Mustafa Akyol said, “China’s ‘re-education’ policy is a major attack on Muslim people and their faith, Islam, yet the Muslim world has remained largely silent.”

The Xinjiang Uighur community, however, isn’t the only one to have suffered at the hands of the state. China also has an authoritarian policy towards the TibetansChristians and the Hui nationals.

In September 2017, leaders from five religious communities, including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity, had assured the country’s government that they will “Sinicise” their religion, reported Global Times.

ThePrint’s YouTube channel is now active and buzzing. Please subscribe here.

Categories: 
Share/Save