China forces Muslims to sell alcohol and cigarettes

22nd May 2015

Nadine Osman

Authorities in China have ordered shopkeepers and restaurateurs in a village in the mainly Muslim province of Xinjiang to sell alcohol and cigarettes in an attempt to weaken Islam in the region.

Muslims (most of whom ethnic Uighurs) in the village of Aktash that failed to obey and promote the products in “eye-catching displays” were threatened with closure and prosecution.

Government employees and children have been barred from attending mosques or observing Ramadan. In many places, women have been barred from wearing face-covering veils, and men discouraged from growing long beards.

Communist Party official Adil Sulayman said many Muslims had stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes from 2012 “because they fear public scorn,” while many locals had decided to abstain from drinking and smoking.

Sulayman said authorities in Xinjiang viewed non-smokers as practising “a form of religious extremism.” They issued the order to counter growing religious sentiment that was “affecting stability,” he said.

“We have a campaign to weaken religion here, and this is part of that campaign,” he said.

The notice ordered all restaurants and supermarkets in Aktash to sell five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes and display them prominently. “Anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action pursued against them,” the notice said.

Around 60 shops and restaurants in the area had complied with the Government order, and there were no reports of protests.

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