Religious freedom in Xinjiang
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.