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Chinese Muslim children banned from attending religious gatherings

23rd Feb 2018
Chinese Muslim children banned from attending religious gatherings

Meng Yihua

Amid increasing crackdowns on the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, Western China, the authorities have turned their attention to another of the Muslim ethnic minorities, the Hui.

Children belonging to the Hui ethnic Muslim community have been banned from attending any religious events over the winter break in China. The announcement was made by a district educational bureau in Gansu province, and school students were notified that they should not enter religious buildings, nor read scriptures in class.

Although restrictions of this nature are already in place in Xinjiang, Muslims in other parts of China have thus far remained largely free. These new restrictions are a result of the increased fear of the Muslim influence in China, potentially due to violent uprisings by the Uyghurs in Western China.

Xinjiang has seen an increase in violence in recent years due to tensions between the majority Muslim Uyghurs, native to the region, and the Han Chinese, who the Government has been increasingly resettling in the region. Xinjiang, a large region in Western China, is home to abundant natural resources, including oil and gas, making it a region of particular interest to Beijing.

Government policies have been seeing an increasing erosion of both religious and cultural freedoms for the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, and the official line claims that such policies are necessary to tackle the ‘terrorism’ in the region. Experts recognise that the resentment among the locals and the resulting violence is an obvious result of the Government’s hard-line policies that are seeing the lives of Uyghurs suppressed.

The Hui and Uyghur minorities are among the ten ethnic Muslim minority groups in China, which recognises a total of 55 ethnic groups after the majority Han Chinese.

While the Uyghurs are similar in appearance, culture and language to their Turkic neighbours, the Hui community more closely resembles the Han majority. Their physical, cultural and linguistic assimilation makes them difficult to distinguish from a Han Chinese and has left them largely free to practice Islam. Gansu, a province neighbouring Xinjiang, is home to approximately 1.6million Hui Muslims but has now come under scrutiny as the authorities fear the rising influence of Islam in China.

The notification was posted online by the education bureau of Linxia, a district within Gansu, and authorities added that teachers and pupils should work to strengthen political ideology and propaganda. Despite China’s official stance claiming religious freedom for all, the law also states that religious education should not interfere with state education, allowing authorities to use this as a justification for their policies.

[Map of China. Wikivoyage. Peter Fitzgerald and Claus Hansen/Creative-Commons]

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