- China cracks down on Islam and mosques as the Taliban talks peace with Beijing
- “Arabic a foreign language”, says China
- China bans “Halal” food across the land
New Delhi: The contrast could not have been starker: At a time the Taliban are talking to China over the vexatious Afghan issue, Beijing is going hammer-and-tongs against Islam, demolishing many mosques and imposing curbs on Muslims across the land, particularly the Uighurs.
According to media reports, a nine-member Taliban delegation met Deng Xijun, China’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in Beijing on Sunday, to discuss the terrorist group’s “peace talks” with the United States, which were recently called off abruptly by President Donald Trump after nine-rounds of failed negotiations as Kabul faced a series of terror attacks, killing many, including an American soldier.
The US-Taliban negotiations aimed at a deal to pave the way to a broader peace deal with the Afghan Government, ending a 17-year-long war, and phased return of American soldiers. While Mullah Baradar, the Taliban delegation leader, claimed they had reached a “comprehensive deal, China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to these claims. The Presidential election in Afghanistan is slated for September 28, amid revival of terror attacks.
In June, when another Taliban team met Chinese officials, Beijing supported the Afghans in resolving their issues, concerned as it was about the restive Xianjiang region on the borders of China and Afghanistan where the Uighur Muslims have allegedly been subjected to massive repression.
The Taliban-China talks came at a time Beijing is being accused of repressing the Muslims. Reports said in the north-west, the Chinese Government has destroyed domes and minarets of mosques in Muslim areas. Similar demolitions have been carried out in Inner Mongolia, Henan and Ningxia, which is home to China’s largest Muslim ethnic minority, the Huis, who number more than 10 million.
Authorities have destroyed domes and minarets on mosques, including one in a small village near Linxia, a city known as “Little Mecca.” In the southern province of Yunnan, three mosques were closed. From Beijing to Ningxia, officials have banned the public use of Arabic script.
The anti-Islam move is driven by the Chinese Communist Party’s fears that adherence to the Muslim faith could turn into religious extremism and open defiance of its rule.
Haiyun Ma, a Hui Muslim professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland, USA, recently said that “The People’s Republic of China has become the world’s foremost purveyor of anti-Islamic ideology and hate.”
At present, China has about 23 million Muslims, a tiny minority in a nation of 1.4 billion people. Among them, the Hui and the Uighurs make up the largest ethnic groups. Uighurs primarily live in Xinjiang, but the Hui live in enclaves scattered around the nation.
The restrictions they now face started in 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping first raised the issue of what he called the “Sinicisation of Islam,” saying all faiths should be subordinate to Chinese culture and the Communist Party. Last year, Xi’s government issued a confidential directive that ordered local officials to prevent Islam from interfering with secular life and the state’s functions.
The directive warns against the “Arabisation” of Islamic places, fashions and rituals in China, singling out the influence of Saudi Arabia, the reports said.
The directive prohibited use of the Islamic financial system, barred mosques or other private Islamic organizations from organizing kindergartens or after-school programmes, and forbid Arabic-language schools to teach religion.
In Ningxia, the provincial government banned public displays of Arabic script, even removing the word “halal” from the official seal it distributes to restaurants that follow Islamic customs for preparing food. The seals now use Chinese characters. That prohibition spread this summer to Beijing and elsewhere.
Ningxia and Gansu have also banned the traditional call to prayer. Around historical mosques there, prayer times are now announced with a grating claxon. In Gansu, they tore off golden dome of a mosque they closed.
In Yunnan, amid protests, mosques were padlocked at three places that had been run without official permission.
Officials cite proliferation of mosques and the spread of “halal” practices into public life, saying they conflicted with the cultural values of the majority Han Chinese population. There are now more mosques in China than Buddhist temples: 35,000 compared with 33,500. In the last year, scores of mosques have been altered, closed or destroyed entirely, many of them in Xinjiang, according to officials and news reports.
In 1975, during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, the People’s Liberation Army surrounded Shadian, a mostly Hui Muslim town in Yunnan province where residents had protested the closure of mosques. Clashes led to a massive military intervention that razed the town and left more than 1,600 people dead, according to reports.
Mosques that violate laws such as building codes will be closed, officials said, adding schools and universities will not permit religious activities.
“Arabic is a foreign language,” the government said about the restrictions on public signage, adding that they had been imposed “to make things convenient for the general public.”