Re­li­gious free­dom in Xin­jiang

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Sultan M Hali

ex­ploited by vested in­ter­ests to urge the Uyghurs to strive for their rights, which caused some in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment dealt with the sit­u­a­tion in two ways, firstly, devel­op­ment projects were in­tro­duced for the up­lift of the re­gion in­clud­ing guar­an­tees for em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Uyghurs. A mega project is the ad­vent of the New Silk Road or One Belt One Road, which passes through Xin­jiang and is likely to ben­e­fit the peo­ple im­mensely. Sec­ondly, the law en­forc­ing agen­cies cracked down on the trou­ble mon­gers with an in iron fist to en­sure peace and tran­quil­ity.

Re­spect for and pro­tec­tion of free­dom of re­li­gious be­lief is a long-term ba­sic na­tional pol­icy of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The Con­sti­tu­tion of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China clearly stip­u­lates: “Cit­i­zens of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China en­joy free­dom of re­li­gious be­lief. No state or­gan, pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tion or in­di­vid­ual may com­pel cit­i­zens to be­lieve in, or not be­lieve in, any reli­gion; nor may they dis­crim­i­nate against cit­i­zens who be­lieve in, or do not be­lieve in, any reli­gion. The state pro­tects nor­mal re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties. No one may make use of reli­gion to en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties that dis­rupt pub­lic or­der, im­pair the health of cit­i­zens or in­ter­fere with the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem of the state.”

The fac­tual po­si­tion is that dur­ing the holy Is­lamic month of Ra­madan whether to close or open halal (Mus­lim food) restau­rants is com­pletely de­ter­mined by the own­ers them­selves with­out in­ter­fer­ence. There are mosques with a tra­di­tion of hav­ing if­tar (the evening meal when Mus­lims end their daily Ra­madan fast at sun­set) and a num­ber of re­li­gious be­liev­ers pro­vide free if­tar to fast­ing peo­ple. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments en­sure that all re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing Ra­madan go Email: sm_hali@ya­ on in an or­derly man­ner.

On July 3, 2015, dur­ing Ra­madan, a 6.5-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Hotan Pre­fec­ture. The gov­ern­ment car­ried out res­cue work while at the same time promptly set­ting up tem­po­rary sites to en­sure prayer, fast­ing and other nor­mal re­li­gious life for re­li­gious be­liev­ers in the dis­as­ter-hit ar­eas. On the evening of July 17 (the eve of Eid ul-Fitr), prin­ci­pal Party and gov­ern­ment lead­ers of Xin­jiang had if­tar with Is­lamic per­son­ages and Mus­lim rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all eth­nic groups to wel­come Eid ul-Fitr, at­tract­ing wide at­ten­tion and praise from all sec­tors of so­ci­ety.

Dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val, Eidul-Adha, Eid ul-Fitr and other ma­jor tra­di­tional fes­ti­vals, all eth­nic groups can en­joy statu­tory hol­i­days and be supplied with spe­cial food­stuffs. Spe­cial ceme­tery ar­eas are al­lo­cated for some eth­nic-mi­nor­ity groups who tra­di­tion­ally bury their dead in the ground. Re­li­gious and cul­tural her­itages are ef­fec­tively pro­tected. A to­tal of 109 re­li­gious and cul­tural sites in Xin­jiang, in­clud­ing Id Kah Mosque in Kash­gar, have been des­ig­nated as cul­tural relics’ sites un­der the pro­tec­tion of the au­ton­o­mous re­gion and the state. Among the 109 sites, 46 are key cul­tural relics sites un­der the pro­tec­tion of the state, and 63 are un­der the pro­tec­tion of the au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Many an­cient re­li­gious books, in­clud­ing the Bi­og­ra­phy of the Prophet (Qis­sasul An­biya) have been in­cluded in the Cat­a­log of Na­tional Rare Books of China. Spe­cial funds have been al­lo­cated to pro­tect and holy books, such as the Ko­ran and “The Prophet Muham­mad: A Bi­og­ra­phy”, which has been passed down from his­tory. In­tan­gi­ble cul­tural heritage items re­lat­ing to reli­gion are also un­der ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion and in­her­i­tance.

Re­li­gious clas­sics and books have been trans­lated and pub­lished, in­clud­ing the Ko­ran and Se­lec­tions from AlSahih Muham­mad Ibn-Is­mail alBukhari, in the Uyghur, Han Chi­nese, Kazak and Kir­giz lan­guages. The New Col­lec­tion of Waez’s Speeches se­ries and the mag­a­zine China’s Mus­lims are com­piled and pub­lished, with a to­tal cir­cu­la­tion of over 1.76 mil­lion. From 2014 to 2015, Xin­jiang has dis­trib­uted 43 Is­lamic pub­li­ca­tions in dif­fer­ent lan­guages of mi­nor­ity eth­nic groups, to­tal­ing over one mil­lion copies, in­clud­ing over 230,000 copies of new Ko­ran and over 29,000 copies of Ba­sic Knowl­edge of Is­lam, both in the Uyghur lan­guage. The China Is­lamic As­so­ci­a­tion pro­vides a Uyghur-lan­guage ver­sion of its web­site. The Xin­jiang Is­lamic As­so­ci­a­tion pub­lishes the mag­a­zine Xin­jiang Mus­lims in the Uyghur, Han Chi­nese and Kazak lan­guages, pro­vid­ing free copies to mosques and cler­i­cal per­son­nel. It has also opened the “Xin­jiang Mus­lims” web­site in the Uyghur and Han Chi­nese lan­guages. Re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions hold train­ing classes on re­li­gious knowl­edge and eti­quette for be­liev­ers.

The prov­ince has es­tab­lished nu­mer­ous madaris, where the cur­ricu­lum com­prises re­li­gious stud­ies along with science and tech­nol­ogy dis­ci­plines. Since 2001 Xin­jiang has sent more than 70 re­li­gious school stu­dents and cler­i­cal per­son­nel to Egypt’s Al-Azhar Uni­ver­sity, Pak­istan’s In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Uni­ver­sity and other over­seas col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties for fur­ther study, with a view to im­prov­ing their re­li­gious knowl­edge and teach­ing level. Un­der the pre­vail­ing mi­lieu, it would be un­fair to claim re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion in Xin­jiang or lend cre­dence to pro­pa­ganda to ma­lign the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. —The writer is re­tired PAF Group Cap­tain and a TV talk show host.

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