Crack­down on Islam spreads across China

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News -

In China’s north­west, the govern­ment is strip­ping the most overt ex­pres­sions of the Is­lamic faith from a pic­turesque val­ley where most res­i­dents are de­vout Mus­lims. Au­thor­i­ties have de­stroyed domes and minarets on mosques, in­clud­ing one in a small vil­lage near Linxia, a city known as “Lit­tle Mecca.”

Sim­i­lar de­mo­li­tions have been car­ried out in In­ner Mon­go­lia, He­nan and Ningxia, the home­land of China’s largest Mus­lim eth­nic mi­nor­ity, the Hui. In the south­ern province of Yun­nan, three mosques were closed. From Bei­jing to Ningxia, of­fi­cials have banned the pub­lic use of Ara­bic script.

This cam­paign rep­re­sents the new­est front in the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s sweep­ing roll­back of in­di­vid­ual re­li­gious free­doms, af­ter decades of rel­a­tive open­ness that al­lowed more mod­er­ate forms of Islam to blos­som. The harsh crack­down on Mus­lims that be­gan with the Uighurs in Xin­jiang is spread­ing to more re­gions and more groups.

It is driven by the party’s fear that ad­her­ence to the Mus­lim faith could turn into re­li­gious ex­trem­ism and open de­fi­ance of its rule. Across China, the party is now imposing new re­stric­tions on Is­lamic cus­toms and prac­tices, in line with a con­fi­den­tial party di­rec­tive, parts of which have been seen by The New York Times.

The mea­sures re­flect the hard-line poli­cies of China’s leader, Xi Jin­ping, who has sought to re­assert the pri­macy of the Com­mu­nist Party and its ide­ol­ogy in all walks of life.

The cam­paign has prompted con­cerns that the re­pres­sion of Uighur Mus­lims in the west­ern re­gion of Xin­jiang has be­gun to bleed into other parts of China, tar­get­ing Hui and other Mus­lims who have been bet­ter in­te­grated than Uighurs into Chi­nese so­ci­ety. Last year, a top party of­fi­cial from Ningxia praised Xin­jiang’s govern­ment dur­ing a visit there and pledged to in­crease co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two re­gions on se­cu­rity mat­ters.

Haiyun Ma, a Hui Mus­lim pro­fes­sor at Frost­burg State Uni­ver­sity in Mary­land, said the crack­down was con­tin­u­ing a long his­tory of an­i­mos­ity to­ward Islam in China that has alien­ated be­liev­ers.

“The Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China has be­come the world’s fore­most pur­veyor of anti-Is­lamic ide­ol­ogy and hate,” he wrote in a re­cent es­say for the Hudson In­sti­tute. “This, in turn, has trans­lated into broad pub­lic sup­port for the Bei­jing govern­ment’s in­ten­si­fy­ing op­pres­sion of Mus­lims in the Xin­jiang re­gion and else­where in the coun­try.”

GILLES SABRIÉ NYT

Hui Mus­lims ear­lier this month leave a mosque in Linxia, a north­west­ern Chi­nese city re­ferred to as “Lit­tle Mecca.”

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