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Global Times US Edition - - EPTH -

in­clud­ing pic­tures of guests wear­ing tra­di­tional ing or Is­lamic ar­chi­tec­ture, es­pe­cially the Si­noArab Axis. The Sino-Arab Axis is a scenic spot in Yinchuan erected to com­mem­o­rate the good re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and the Arab world. At the Axis, a cres­cent moon sculp­ture and Is­lamic-style pav­il­ions are jux­ta­posed with tra­di­tional Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture. Liu, who does busi­ness with firms based in Arab coun­tries, said that he sup­ports the lo­cal gov­ern­ment’s mea­sures to counter the pan-ha­lal ten­dency but hopes they will not in­flu­ence Ningxia’s ex­changes with the out­side world. “Af­ter all, as an in­land re­gion, open­ing up to the out­side would boost lo­cal de­vel­op­ment,” Liu said. A Hui res­i­dent of Yinchuan told the Global Times that peo­ple out­side Ningxia may not un­der­stand daily life in the re­gion clearly. “Ha­lal food as well as Is­lam­ic­style ar­chi­tec­ture is nor­mal for a re­gion with many Hui. And in­stead of caus­ing trou­bles, the sit­u­a­tion in Ningxia has ac­tu­ally en­hanced eth­nic unity,” he said.

The anony­mous res­i­dent said that he no­ticed that the guide­boards once writ­ten in Ara­bic and Chi­nese were re­moved, which is “un­nec­es­sary” since Ara­bic was sim­ply there for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, not re­li­gious rea­sons.

He said he un­der­stands peo­ple’s wor­ries about re­li­gious extremism but said that any at­tempt to change Ningxia’s cur­rent sit­u­a­tion will fail.

Wor­ried watch­ers

While many Ningxia res­i­dents do not seem overly wor­ried about the role Is­lam is play­ing in pub­lic life there, sev­eral con­tro­ver­sies have led some out­side ob­servers to worry about where this trend may end.

The con­tro­versy trig­gered by ha­lal can­teens in Ningxia Univer­sity pushed the pan-ha­lal ten­dency in the re­gion into the lime­light. Many ne­ti­zens posted data on the grow­ing num­ber of mosques in the re­gion and a video of Hui chil­dren recit­ing the Ko­ran at a kinder­garten grad­u­a­tion per­for­mance was shared re­peat­edly.

Xi Wuyi, an ex­pert on Marx­ism at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences who has been a staunch critic of the pan-ha­lal ten­dency, has been closely fol­low­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Ningxia.

She told the Global Times that she was alarmed when heard about pro­posed leg­is­la­tion on the pro­duc­tion and man­age­ment of ha­lal food.

The State Coun­cil first tasked the Eth­nic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPC) to draft a na­tional reg­u­la­tion on ha­lal food in 2002. The com­mit­tee sug­gested speed­ing up the pas­sage of the leg­is­la­tion in 2012 and 2015, say­ing that the leg­is­la­tion was “rea­son­able and nec­es­sary” as it is re­lated to “na­tional unity and so­cial sta­bil­ity.”

The draft­ing of a law on ha­lal food was not listed in China’s leg­isla­tive work plan for 2016, af­ter meet­ing a mixed re­ac­tion from the pub­lic and many schol­ars.

The na­tional leg­is­la­tion on ha­lal food “vi­o­lates the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion of State and re­li­gion” and if the bill is en­acted, it will in­ter­fere with the prac­tices of re­li­gious fol­low­ers in dif­fer­ent re­gions and may threaten “China’s na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy,” Xi said, adding the leg­is­la­tion on ha­lal food might also lead the pan-ha­lal ten­dency to ex­tend na­tion­ally.

Xi warned that pan-ha­lal is the first step to­ward re­li­gious extremism. “Re­li­gious extremism grad­u­ally per­me­ates into so­ci­ety by in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple’s ba­sic way of life. It will grad­u­ally strengthen re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism, pro­mote the pan-ha­lal ten­dency and even­tu­ally re­al­ize the politi­ciz­ing of re­li­gion,” she said.

“It is not easy to de­fine the gen­er­al­iza­tion ten­dency in a re­li­gion. But there should be some lim­its on a re­li­gion when it en­ters into a so­ci­ety. Once a re­li­gion in­vades pub­lic life too much, it shows the gen­er­al­iza­tion ten­dency. For ex­am­ple, if a Bud­dhist asked all nonBud­dhists to be­come veg­e­tar­ian, we could call it pan-Bud­dhism,” Li Xiang­ping, a re­li­gious stud­ies pro­fes­sor at East China Nor­mal Univer­sity in Shang­hai, told the Global Times.

Li Xiang­ping said that the ex­pan­sion of any re­li­gion in so­ci­ety might hurt other groups’ in­ter­ests and cause con­fronta­tion. “But the cur­rent dis­cus­sions on re­li­gious is­sues in China lack rea­son­able in­ter­ac­tions,” he said.

“Ne­ti­zens who make anti-Mus­lim com­ments dur­ing the dis­cus­sions about the pan-ha­lal ten­dency have mis­un­der­stand­ings about the re­li­gion, in­clud­ing link­ing it to extremism and ter­ror­ism. And the stigma­ti­za­tion of Is­lam is wrong,” an ex­pert on re­li­gious stud­ies who asked for anonymity told the Global Times.

The ex­pert said that there is an in­creas­ing tide of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, es­pe­cially on so­cial media, with some ne­ti­zens call­ing Is­lam the “green dis­as­ter.”

“Is­lam is not ter­ror­ism. It is not the re­li­gion’s prob­lem, it is be­cause some ter­ror­ists and ex­trem­ists are us­ing the re­li­gion to in­sti­gate be­liev­ers to com­mit ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” he said.

Vis­i­tors walk in front of the Yinchuan Nan­guan Mosque in North­west China’s Ningxia Hui Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion.

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