Crackdown on Islam spreads across China
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.”
Hui Muslims earlier this month leave a mosque in Linxia, a northwestern Chinese city referred to as “Little Mecca.”