China re­stricts Ramadan fast­ing in far western re­gion

The China Post - - FEATURE -

China has banned civil ser­vants, stu­dents and teach­ers in its mainly Mus­lim Xin­jiang re­gion from fast­ing dur­ing Ramadan and or­dered restau­rants to stay open, of­fi­cial web­sites showed as the holy month be­gan on Thurs­day.

Most Mus­lims are re­quired to fast from dawn to dusk dur­ing the month 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.

“Food ser­vice work­places will op­er­ate 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.

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.

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

China says it faces a ter­ror­ist threat in Xin­jiang, with of­fi­cials blam­ing “re­li­gious ex­trem­ism” for 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 are a provo­ca­tion and will only lead to in­sta­bil­ity and con­flict.”

Go­ing one step be­yond sim­ply dis­cour­ag­ing gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to forgo fast­ing, po­lice and court of­fi­cials in Awat county were or­dered to “take the lead in teach­ing fam­ily mem­bers not to fast and not to par­tic­i­pate in Ramadan-re­lated re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties,” ac­cord­ing to a post on China Le­gal Media.

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 with 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.

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.”

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