According to Daily Mail, China has taken its crackdown on the ethnic Muslims of its border province of Xinjiang to a whole new level, targeting now even the personal religious space in the intimacy of their houses. The Xinjiang region, China’s westernmost province that borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, is home to some 11 million Uighur Muslims and other small groups of ethnic Muslims among Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Mongolian communities.
The Chinese authorities of the province are forcing the Muslims to handover the copies of Quran, Islam’s central religious text, and any other related religious symbol the Daily Mail report says.
What is more disturbing is the fact that the order also includes to surrender even the prayer mats that are used to offer Namaaz (prayer). The warnings are being issued in neighbourhoods, in mosques and through social media platforms like WeChat and non-compliance means harsh punishment.
Chinese authorities of the region earlier this year started a campaign ‘Three Illegals and One Item’ to confiscate illegal religious items. Quran copies more than five year old were being seized as authorities blamed them of having extremist content. And now this new order means a blanket ban on all Koran copies.
“Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Quran and the special mats used for Namaaz”, the Radio Free Asia (RFA) wrote on which the Daily Mail report based.
Dilxat Raxit, World Uighur Congress’ spokesman, told RFA that “reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week that every single ethnic Uighur must hand in to authorities any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayer mats and anything else bearing the symbols of religion otherwise there will be harsh punishment.”
China has already banned its civil servants in the region from taking part in religious activities, even if it means fasting during Ramadan, a ban that was extended to students as well. Muslim attire like veils and religious symbols like keeping beard are already banned and authorities regularly come up with lists of overly religious and splittist Muslim names for newborns to be banned.
In April this year, authorities came up with a “List of Banned Ethnic Minority Names” that asked the Muslim parents to desist from choosing names like Muhammad, Medina, Mecca, Islam, Quran, Imam, Hajj, Jihad, Arafat and Mujahid. The directive banned over two dozen such names which could be used to fan religious and divisive agenda.
The list further expanded the one notified in 2015 which banned names like Saddam, Hussein, Laden, Fatima, Amanet, Muslime among others. The directive didn’t stop at naming the newborns only. It further said, “If your family has circumstances like this, you should change your child’s name.”
The authorities at that time had issued a warning that the Muslim families not complying with this directive would not get ‘hukou’, the registration of their households that gives them access to state benefits of childcare, health, education and employment.
Xinjiang, China’s North-western province, that is also known as Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, borders eight countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. It came on the radar of the Chinese authorities, especially after the widespread riots in its capital city Urumqi in July 2009 between the Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese that saw around 200 dead and some 2000 injured. Ethnic Han Chinese are around 40 percent of Xinxiang’s population.
China considers Islamic terrorism emanating from Xinjiang destructive enough to become a full blown separatist movement and does all to curb its spread, especially after reports that the Islamic State (ISIS) is eyeing the region to recruit fighters and expand its base.
According to Amnesty International, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, shooting and torture followed the Urumqi riots. China maintains a strong vigil in the region with large rallies of security forces to intimidate the minds who dare to think otherwise.