China’s treatment of Muslims differs from region to region, and from ethnicity to ethnicity. Though the Hui people generally receive the most permissive treatment of all Muslim populations in China, they still face some restrictions - albeit based on geography more than anything else. Meanwhile, Uyghur Muslims feel the brunt of most of the Communist Party’s repressive activities, in part because of their unique historical and cultural heritage.
China asserts that its activities against Uyghur Muslims are justified because of concerns about terrorism. Fair-minded observers argue that China’s assertions about the danger of terrorism are exaggerated and in many cases without foundation. The Chinese Communist Party’s repressive and discriminatory policies have only succeeded in further isolating a population that is simply striving to live and let live. Furthermore, the Chinese government’s actions are exacerbating the very problem that the authorities claim they are trying to solve. The result is that moderate voices are being squeezed out as the Chinese Communist Party attempts to strip religion out of the Uyghur culture in violation of basic human rights protections.
The stark reality is that life in Xinjiang for the historic Uyghur majority – now a minority in their own land – has become increasingly difficult. The Chinese Communist Party’s main concern is ensuring that it can control any social movement that could risk challenging its hold on any particular region.
However, as the Chinese Communist Party cracks down on religion, Uyghur Muslims increasingly turn toward their religion as a source of strength, which in turn leads to even more restrictions on the practice and teaching of Islam in Xinjiang. Much like in Tibet, what is occurring in Xinjiang is a form of cultural genocide.
The following are the types of policies that China has implemented in Xinjiang in order to repress any manifestation of the native Islamic religion:
- Imams are forced to tell children that prayer is harmful for the soul while taking an oath to not teach Islam to anyone under the age of 18.
- The wearing of any clothing that symbolizes Islam is greatly restricted, with Muslim Uyghurs being jailed for multi-year terms just for growing beards or wearing veils.
- Uyghur mosques are banned from using speakers for the call to prayer, even in predominately Muslim neighborhoods.
- Government employees, teachers, and students are banned from observing Ramadan, with some educational institutions threatening expulsion for anyone who attempts to fast during Ramadan, while increased surveillance of those entering mosques takes place.
- Certain Muslim names are banned from use, while increased restrictions are also placed on the use of the Uyghur language.
Further, the Chinese government has enacted other programs and policies targeted at the Uyghur population as a whole:
- Political indoctrination classes, restrictions on free movement, mass jailing, and retaliation by authorities are resulting in an agricultural crisis because they are inhibiting many Uyghur Muslims from planting or harvesting crops.
- The Chinese Communist Party requires Uyghur Muslims to carry a convenience contact card when traveling outside of their home town, listing phone numbers for one’s landlord and local police station.
- The Chinese government offers cash, housing, and health subsidies for inter-ethnic marriages between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in an effort to dilute the Uyghur culture.
- Uyghur property has been seized to give to new Han migrants, with no compensation given to the victims of this practice.
- The Chinese government provides subsidies and grants for new, Han-owned businesses, while not making the same programs available for Uyghur operations.
This is just a sampling of the types of abuses that the Chinese government is unleashing on Uyghur Muslims. For a more thorough treatment of this issue, please view the following:
Uyghur Human Rights Project – Report:
Sacred Right Defiled; China’s Iron-Fisted Repression of Uyghur Religious Freedom
Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress – Speech:
Religion with “Chinese Characteristics”: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China
Al Jazeera – Report:
Muslims in China and their Relations with the State
United States Department of Justice – Report:
Treatment of the Uyghur Ethnic Group in the People’s Republic of China