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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2553

China bans fasting during Holy Ramadan, again!

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

China’s policy towards Islam and Muslims has been much worse than that of its military ally Russia which somewhat tolerates Islamic practices especially in Muslim nations within the federation. But Chinese government perhaps fears and therefore hates Islam and also targets its own Muslim population, denying them fundamental religious rights. In fact, Russia has been at war with Chechen Muslims but their approach towards Islam is somewhat neutral and tolerable.

In a crude authoritarian way, China has over taken even a racist Thailand in attacking the Uighur Muslims for their religious briefs. Even though it pursues capitalist path of development in a wholesale manner, China still insists that Islamic faith is in conflict with communism. Hence the Chinese state ban on Islamic fasting, thereby making Muslims feel insecure!

Chinese regime, as usual, has imposed a deadly ban on Islamic fasting during this Holy month of Ramadan. China has banned civil servants, students and teachers in its mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open. Muslims say that all these anti-Islam problems started after September 11 as the veto member China, like its ally Russia, found a useful weapon in Muslims to attack in order to come closer to USA.

Most Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month, which began on June 18, but China's ruling Communist party is officially atheist and for years has restricted the practice in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. Officials in the region's Bole county were told: "During Ramadan do not engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities," according to a local government website report of a meeting this week. "Food service workplaces will operate only normal hours during Ramadan," said a notice posted last week on the website of the state Food and Drug Administration in Xinjiang's Jinghe county. Each year, the authorities' attempt to ban fasting among Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang receives widespread criticism from rights groups.

Uighur rights groups say China's restrictions on Islam in Xinjiang have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.

China says it faces a "terrorist threat" in Xinjiang, with officials blaming "religious extremism" for the growing violence. "China's goal in prohibiting fasting is to forcibly move Uighurs away from their Muslim culture during Ramadan," said Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress. "Policies that prohibit religious fasting is a provocation and will only lead to instability and conflict."

As in previous years, school children were included in directives limiting Ramadan fasting and other religious observances. The education bureau of Tarbaghatay city, known as Tacheng in Chinese, this month ordered schools to communicate to students that "during Ramadan, ethnic minority students do not fast, do not enter mosques ... and do not attend religious activities".

Similar orders were posted on the websites of other Xinjiang education bureaus and schools. Officials in the region's Qiemo county this week met local religious leaders to inform them there would be increased inspections during Ramadan in order to "maintain social stability", the county's official website said.

Ahead of the holy month, one village in Yili, near the border with Kazakhstan, said mosques must check the identification cards of anyone who comes to pray during Ramadan, according to a notice on the government's website.

Communist party controls not only Muslims but also their religious activities during Holy month. . The Bole county government said that Mehmet Talip, a 90-year-old Uighur Communist Party member, had promised to avoid fasting and vowed to "not enter a mosque in order to consciously resist religious and superstitious ideas".

Imposition of ban on Islamic fasting has been going in China for many years, especially since Sept-11 hoax happened in USA the authorities, seeking to make Muslims become atheists, have intensified the anti Islamic measures against Muslims.

Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on Uighur Muslims during the month of Ramadan, banning government employees and school children from fasting, in what rights groups say has become an annual attempt at systematically erasing the region's Islamic identity. Chinese authorities have justified the ban on fasting by saying it is meant to protect the health of students, and restrictions on religious practices by government officials are meant to ensure the state does not support any particular faith.

Yet in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, China's westernmost city, close to the border with Tajikstan and Kyrgyztan, Uighur Muslims say the restrictions have backfired. Not only have locals become more observant of Islamic practices, but many have found ways to flaunt Chinese laws restricting everything from who may attend the mosque, to which copies of the Quran are read.

The soldiers pile into trucks and move to the city's commercial centre down the road, where police frisk shoppers at the entrance to a shopping mall. Across Kashgar, security forces have been deployed to thwart potential attacks by Uighur militants seeking to wrestle control of Xinjiang province from Beijing.

Home to some of China's largest deposits of oil, natural gas, and coal, Xinjiang has a majority Muslim Uighur population - a Turkic ethnic group with a language and culture closer to Central Asia. Before the region was absorbed into the People's Republic of China in 1949, almost everyone here was Uighur, but the numbers have have since declined, dropping to below half by the year 2000, as tens of millions of Han Chinese - the majority population of mainland China - were encouraged to settle here by the government.

That demographic shift, which accelerated in the 1990s as Beijing began to develop Xinjiang, combined with Chinese laws restricting Islamic practices by Uighurs and the 1997 execution of 30 Uighur separatists by Chinese authorities, triggered a wave of violence by militants that has left hundreds of people dead, mostly civilians.

Last year, a suicide bomber killed 39 people in the provincial capital of Urumqi, and police claimed to have killed 13 men who attempted to ram an explosives-laden vehicle into their office near Kashgar. The deadly violence - including an attack by knife-wielding men at a train station in Kuming that killed 29 in March - has sparked a massive crackdown by Beijing, with authorities announcing the convictions of more than 400 people across Xinjiang. Last Wednesday, Kashgar authorities announced 113 people had been sentenced for crimes, including supporting terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination. "The government says every Uighur, if they have a beard or wear a hijab, they are a terrorist," said Abdul Majid, who owns a mobile phone shop near People's Square.

He says the last time tensions were this high was in 2009, after 184 people died in clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi.

A world away from Kashgar's commercial centre lies the city's heart: a nearly 2,000-year-old Uighur quarter that is currently being rebuilt, literally brick by brick, by mostly Han Chinese migrant workers. Kashgar's ancient mosques are being restored and the homes in the old city re-imagined with hints of Central Asian architecture and with help from the Chinese government. It's part of a programme that authorities say is aimed at making the area earthquake-resistant. But not everyone is happy about the renovations.

The attempt to clamp down on religious expression has backfired in Kashgar, with more and more locals flaunting the restrictions. Nearly every business in Kashgar's old city is closed during the hottest part of the afternoon when Al Jazeera visited this week during Ramadan. In the evening, throngs of young women in headscarves or full face veils pass signs posted at Kashgar's main hospital reminding them veiled women cannot enter.

Along with government employees, children under the age of 18 are barred from attending mosques, yet dozens of men attending night prayers at one of Kashgar's medieval mosques have brought along their children. Toddlers line up next to the adults, imitating their movements during prayers.

For centuries, parents sent their children to maktaps, part-time schools at the mosque, where they memorised the Quran - but this practise, along with most organised religious instruction, is now prohibited in Xinjiang.

Asked if Uighurs are forgetting how to recite the Quran as a result, Abbas called his eight-year-old son over and, after some coaxing, convinced him to recite a chapter from memory. "They want to cut our children off from Islam," Abbas said. "We are not allowed to teach them the Quran, but we do, at home - secretly." It is not the only restriction that is being ignored by the Uighurs in Kashgar. "The Chinese don't want us to have kids, but we just pay fines or bribe people," says Abdul Razzak, who has five children - three more than allowed by law. His three extra children, two sons and a daughter have cost him around 60,000 yuan ($9,670) in fines. He said he is worried they will forget how to speak Uighur. Other restrictions - like the ban on fasting for schoolchildren - are more difficult to get around. Chinese authorities require that school teachers, who are barred from fasting themselves, also discourage students.

Meanwhile, certain styles of headscarf are still not acceptable to authorities. "The abaya was very popular here, starting four or five years ago," said Abdul Majid, a 20-something Uighur who imports women's clothes from Turkey. "But last year, police started bothering women, so now, I can't find anyone who wants to buy them." Under Chinese law, only state-approved copies of Islamic literature like the Quran are allowed. "If they catch you with a different version, a different translation, or a book from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, you go to jail," explained the owner of a small bookstore across the street from the Id Kah mosque, who asked not to be named.

One is not very sure if China hates Islam and attacks Muslims because it is a communist country or it does so despite being a communist nation.

It, however, makes no difference since Islam as well as Muslims remains the target of attacks!

- Asian Tribune –

 China bans fasting during Holy Ramadan, again!
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