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China’s Ramadan Crackdown on Muslim Practices

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aleqm5joie3oh6v1j38p3jz0_lnehsqbbg.jpgIn something eerily reminiscent of what happened in Muslim Spain, the Chinese government is cracking down on Muslim practices. During this blessed month, they are banning women from wearing veils and men from growing beards – and in fact take the veils off and shave their beards if they already have them (!!).  Even restaurants which close during the day are being forced to stay open. In some places they are not even allowed to observe Ramadan, and schools are being forced to serve food/drink.

SubhanAllah, this is really sad news, and I was shocked when I read this. One thing that personally hits me about this situation, is not necessarily the hardship they endure (and may Allah(swt) grant them patience and victory, and make this a means of forgivness for them and reward them with Jannah) – but it makes me fearful for us Muslims who are not facing these hardships. Let me rephrase that: For the brothers and sisters there, being forced to not practice their religion, insha’Allah we hope that it is an excuse for them with Allah. However, what is the situation of those of us who are free to implement these practices into our lives, and yet we choose not to?

Before checking out the article also check out this short documentary showing Uighur Chinese Muslim minority here (the video has music and women without hijab, so I did not embed it here).

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Here is the article in full (originally from the New York Times),

September 9, 2008

Ramadan Curbs Imposed in China

BEIJING — Local governments in a Muslim desert region in western China have imposed strict limits on religious practices during the traditional Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began last week, according to the Web sites of four of those governments.

The rules include prohibiting women from wearing veils and men from growing beards, as well as barring government officials from observing Ramadan. One town, Yingmaili, requires that local officials check up on mosques at least twice a week during Ramadan.

The local governments administer areas in the western part of Xinjiang, a vast autonomous region that is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic people who often chafe under rule by the ethnic Han Chinese. In August, a wave of attacks swept through Xinjiang, the largest surge of violence in the region in years. Some local officials blamed the instability on separatist groups, and the central government sent security forces to the area.

The limits on religious practices put in place by local governments appear to be part of the broader security crackdown. The areas affected by the new rules are near Kuqa, a town struck by multiple bombings on Aug. 10.

It was unclear whether the rules would be relaxed after Ramadan, a holiday that some Islamic extremists have used elsewhere as a symbolic backdrop for attacks on their perceived enemies. It was also unclear how the Chinese authorities intended to enforce the rules, which appeared to run the risk of antagonizing devout Muslims who present no obvious security threat.

The Web site of the town of Yingmaili lists nine rules put in place to “maintain stability during Ramadan.”

They include barring teachers and students from observing Ramadan, prohibiting retired government officials from entering mosques and requiring men to shave off beards and women to doff veils. Mosques cannot let people from outside of town stay overnight and restaurants must maintain normal hours of business. Many restaurants close in daytime hours during Ramadan because of the sunrise-to-sunset fasting.

In nearby Xinhe County, the government has decreed that Communist Party members, civil servants and retired officials must not observe Ramadan, enter mosques or take part in any religious activities during the month. Worshipers cannot make pilgrimages to tombs, so as to “to avoid any group event that might harm social stability,” according to the Xinhe government’s Web site.

In addition, children and students cannot be forced to attend religious activities, and women cannot be forced to wear veils.

County rules also emphasize the need to maintain a strict watch over migrant workers and visitors from outside. Companies and families who have workers or visitors from outside the county are required to register the outsiders with the nearest police station and have the outsiders sign an agreement “on maintaining social stability.”

Some of those rules are similar to ones implemented in Beijing right before the Olympic Games began in early August.

Shayar County, which includes the town of Yingmaili, said on its Web site that migrants must register with the police, and that any missionary work by outsiders is banned. Even outside Ramadan, China is wary of missionaries doing any kind of work in the country.

The city of Artux is also preventing its teachers and students from observing Ramadan. As a result, schools have to keep serving food and water, city authorities said. As with the other governments, the overall goal is “to maintain social stability during Ramadan.”

In some parts of the world, militants see Ramadan as a good time to carry out attacks because they believe achieving martyrdom during the holy fasting month is an especially sacred act.

In Iraq, religious extremists carried out waves of bombings during Ramadan in recent years. But the Chinese government has not presented any evidence showing that separatists in Xinjiang might do the same this year.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Yasir Qadhi

    September 8, 2008 at 7:07 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    Last semester I took an entire class at Yale entitled ‘Islam in China’. What an eye-opener! Islam has been in China from the very first century of the hijra; there are masjid that are still active that have been established thirteen centuries ago.

    Yet, the brutal crackdown that they are now being subjugated to, by the Chinese government, is largely being ignored by the media, for two reasons:
    1) the almost complete control that the Chinese government has over the media; even foreign reporters are monitored, and getting visas is almost impossible.
    2) the fact that it is politically expedient to ignore that large segments of Muslims (millions, to be precise) are actually suffering great amounts of repression in the modern world. Who wants to hear that Muslims are being terrorized – that won’t sell papers!

    For those who are interested, I recommend the following books:
    1) Familiar Strangers, by Jonathan Lippman
    2) Oasis Identities, by Justin Rudelson
    3) Muslim Chinese, by Dru Gladney (def a sourcebook!! the first two are easier to read)

    I’m really interested in going to China (the Xinjiang province and the ‘Silk Route’)…perhaps we should arrange a trip. Anyone interested?!

    Yasir

  2. iMuslim

    September 8, 2008 at 7:32 PM

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

    Shaykh Yasir, if you are serious… I have wanted to go on this organised tour of Muslim China ever since I learnt about it, nearly two years ago.

    If MM arranges a trip, I am so there, insha’Allah! Even if I have to bag myself a new mahram especially for the trip, haha.

  3. Hidaya

    September 8, 2008 at 8:05 PM

    I am down for a trip to China, i would love to meet Niqabi Chinese (they look sooooooooooooooooooooo beautiful mashaAllah (i saw them on Pak TV when they came to Pakistan (via road) to go to Hajj …and even the Chinese men with beard looked amazing …

    I was so moved by their dedication , i mean they travel by road to come to Pakistan and then go to Saudi …It probably takes them months to complete with journey ..

  4. AbdulNasir Jangda

    September 8, 2008 at 8:06 PM

    It is very sad to hear about Muslim brothers and sisters suffering, especially in regards to their Deen. The Prophet (pbuh) used to make Duaa, “Oh Allah do not test us in our Deen”. We should make Duaa for them in this blessed month.

    Shaykh Yasir, as for the visit to China, I’m on-board as the Hanafi guide for the group (Chinese Muslims mostly follow Hanafi Fiqh).

  5. ExEx Blogger

    September 8, 2008 at 8:29 PM

    @ YQ

    Nice idea if you’re planning on marrying another wife.

  6. Yasir Qadhi

    September 8, 2008 at 8:32 PM

    Chao: Leave it to you to divert the topic of ANY discussion to marriage!

  7. AnonyMouse

    September 8, 2008 at 8:41 PM

    May Allah make have mercy on Muslims in China, and around the world, who are being oppressed; and answer their du’aas in this month as both the du’a of the fasting person and the oppressed one are answered.

    Actually, I’ve been hearing/ read quite a bit about Islam in China lately, masha’Allah. There is a cassette tape lying around my house somewhere on the subject – I’m afraid I haven’t listened to it properly yet – and I was supposed to write a short post on the increased pressure on Chinese Muslims esp. due to the Olympics (may Allah forgive me, I got busy with other things and never got around to it).

    May Allah grant them all strength and increase them in their emaan and ‘ebaadah, and remove the tyrants from their positions of rulership, ameen.

  8. AnonyMouse

    September 8, 2008 at 8:44 PM

    Oh, and if a trip to China is being arranged, alHamdulillaah I’ve got my mahaarim handy! :D

  9. Sana K

    September 8, 2008 at 10:14 PM

    My husband told me about what was happening to the Chinese Muslims when he read something about them during Olympic time. He mentioned something about the torch being carried through a predominantly Muslim province and how many of the Muslimeen were trying to speak to journalists to get news out about their oppression by the government. Unforutnately, the gov’t was step ahead and kept our brothers and sisters at bay.

  10. Um Salamah

    September 8, 2008 at 11:21 PM

    SubhanAllah.

    All the oppression that is happening in China and the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and other -istan Muslim countries is quite under-reported and thus ignored and the suffering/pleas of the people are forgotten. I have always known of atrocities and human rights violations occuring in those areas, but SubhanAllah its difficult and frustating on our efforts to help them……esp with the govn’t and military crackdowns on humanitarian and relief organizations as well as journalists and reporters. May Allah grant them victory soon iA, and punish those who commit injustice and spread oppression. Ameen.

    Recently, in terms with the Olympics there has been many injustices slapped upon the Uighur Muslims as well as other poor Chinese citizens, such as demolishing homes/suburbs to build the giant rec structures in the name of Peace & Unity! There was an old masjid that was destroyed mercilessly to the ground, Hasbuna Allah wa Ne’3ma al-Wakeel………….read the Reuters report below.

    BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese authorities in the restive far western region of Xinjiang have demolished a mosque for refusing to put up signs in support of this August’s Beijing Olympics, an exiled group said on Monday.

    The mosque was in Kalpin county near Aksu city in Xinjiang’s rugged southwest, the World Uyghur Congress said.

    The spokesman’s office of the Xinjiang government said it had no immediate comment, while telephone calls to the county government went answered.

    “China is forcing mosques in East Turkistan to publicize the Beijing Olympics to get the Uighur people to support the Games (but) this has been resisted by the Uighurs,” World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said in an emailed statement.

    Beijing says al Qaeda is working with militants in Xinjiang to use terror to establish an independent state called East Turkistan.

    Oil-rich Xinjiang is home to 8 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs, many of whom resent the growing economic and cultural influence of the Han Chinese.

    Dilxat Raxit added that the mosque, which had been renovated in 1998, was accused of illegally renovating the structure, carrying out illegal religious activities and illegally storing copies of the Muslim holy book the Koran.

    “All the Korans in the mosque have been seized by the government and dozens of people detained,” he said. “The detained Uighurs have been tortured.”

    The Olympic torch relay passed through Xinjiang last week under tight security, with all but carefully vetted residents banned from watching on the streets and tight controls over foreign media covering the event.

    (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

  11. usman

    September 8, 2008 at 11:24 PM

    may allah help our Chinese brothers and sisters

  12. RightfullyDepressed

    September 8, 2008 at 11:29 PM

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakatu,

    Brothers and sisters, I must say I am a little vexed with the festive atttude (road trip to China!) in an obviously serious situation that requires not gaiety but a serious response from the Ummah. Unfortunately, I have grown accustomed to passiveness on the part of most muslims. We ought to realise, if its them now, it will sure as h*ll be us later.

    Apologies for the sour tone…any assurances, though?

    Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu

  13. Yasir Qadhi

    September 8, 2008 at 11:34 PM

    Salaam Aalikum

    @ RightfullyDepressed: I think you’re reading in something that’s not there. What better way to understand their situation, and to marvel at the success of Islam in the farthest regions of the world, than by going their yourself? Also, perhaps we can establish ties with groups and organizations and do what we can on this side of the world to help out, if only be advertising their plight?

  14. RightfullyDepressed

    September 9, 2008 at 12:05 AM

    Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu

    @YQ

    Now that you put it that way, it sounds a little more appropriate, barakallahu feek.

  15. Ahmad AlFarsi

    September 9, 2008 at 9:02 AM

    Worshipers cannot make pilgrimages to tombs…

    Little does the Chinese govt know that in their attempt to oppress the Muslims of China, they actually ended up doing nahi of a munkar. Just trying to see the bright side inshaAllah.

  16. Abu A'isha

    September 9, 2008 at 9:12 AM

    I have had some very close friends who are Hui (basically Han Chinese who a long time ago embraced Islaam) and meta few Uyghurs over here in Australia, but the closest I got to meeting so many Chinese brothers was during Hajj. I met possibly 100’s of Hui Muslims over there, and even though my Mandarin wasn’t near as good as I wish it could be, I really enjoyed meeting and interacting with them.

    If anybody is seriously planning a trip, in recent years it has been very safe to vist Xinjiang, and foreigners are usually granted full safety from the government, however do be aware that some foreigners have ended up under arrest or have completely dissapeared in recent raids.
    It is indeed a shame that so many Muslims live in this area, and have been Muslims since the time of the Sahaaba and the Tabi’een, yet whilst they are under such oppression many of us are left unaware of their plight.

    Don’t forget that islam-qa.com has also added a section in Uyghur, and al-Hamdulillaah many books and audious are being produced at the moment. There is indeed a resurgence of Islamic revival in Xinjiang and the other nationalist groups are joing them and abandoning their forner ideologies.
    May Allaah strengthen our brothers and sisters in China and grant them patience and victory.
    !رەقىبنىڭ بىشىنى كەس، قانىنى چاچ

  17. tabman

    September 9, 2008 at 10:03 AM

    ok to make some of you envious :P I’ll Inshallah be going to Beijing within few months for a job but I’m a little intimidated by the language barrier and Muslim life style there.

    As far as this NYTime article is concerned, I have a link with someone in Xinjiang and as soon as I read it on MM, I emailed the person with this link and article and the person replied:

    “it is absolutely not true”

    Now I don’t know who to believe :)

    Sheikh Yasir, I might just be your host in china :)

  18. Omer

    September 9, 2008 at 10:20 AM

    there is a Chinese brother Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang go to to see http://www.hajinoordeen.com who sells beautiful islamic art. He also speaks very fluent arabic too. I believe he was at ISNA this year. He could be our tour guide in china :)

    -Omer

  19. MR

    September 9, 2008 at 11:53 AM

    IN 2002, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd’Allah took some Muslim Americans on a Tour in China:
    http://www.nawawi.org/eventsandtrips/index_china.html

    Also, someone from China commented on my blog when I blogged about this (I did not see this post until after I posted it yesterday):
    http://www.mujahideenryder.net/2008/09/08/ramadan-banned-in-china/#comment-118897

  20. AnonyMouse

    September 9, 2008 at 1:18 PM

    I had an idea! For those fortunate MM readers who are able to travel to various countries and check out the Muslim communities there, why not record your experiences and send it along to us at MM? We can put up our very own Islamic travel guide! Let us know about the real deal on the ground, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

    So, brother Tabman, are you interested?

  21. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    September 9, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    bismillah. ameen to the duas supporting the Muslims in china. may Allah subhanahu wata ala guide the chinese govt. to a more reasonable policy that correctly balances their security concerns with the needs of devout chinese Muslims who only want to live peacefully as good citizens and practice their faith correctly.

    with respect to the author, i don’t really see the situation as eerily similar to what happened to Muslims during the reconquista. if anything, the policies are more reminiscent of too many “Muslim” countries like Libya for one and Turkey for another. and I LOVE Turkey, alhamdolillah. just try to be a Libyan in Libya with a beard. seriously. and try upholding your basic rights as an educated Muslimah in Turkey — no problem unless you want to wear hijab.

    the regulations in uyghur regions appear to me to be imposed by bureaucrats dealing with an insurrection-element, bureaucrats who are not aware of how much more instability their policies will cost them. in that sense, it’s like they hired members of the bush administration…

    on the whole, i sincerely believe that the situation of Muslims in communist china is head and shoulders above that of Muslims in the soviet era and better still then that of Muslims in the current russian federation.

    so perhaps what would most help our brothers and sisters there are our sincere duas and our patient attempts to help the chinese government see how much more they can accomplish by strengthening peaceful, law-abiding, islam-practicing chinese muslims.

  22. Abu Bakr

    September 9, 2008 at 2:37 PM

    Assalamu alaykum

    Unfortunately, our brothers in Xinxiang have been suffering these sorts of restrictions for years now. One can go back and read old reports on Amnesty International and other human rights’ group websites to see what I mean.

    For those who are interested, I recommend the following books:
    1) Familiar Strangers, by Jonathan Lippman
    2) Oasis Identities, by Justin Rudelson
    3) Muslim Chinese, by Dru Gladney (def a sourcebook!! the first two are easier to read)

    Is there one in particular you would reccomend. Can I infer from your statement that the third book would be a sufficient source if a person wanted just one book on the subject?

  23. Some more info

    September 9, 2008 at 2:39 PM

    Here are some facts about Islam/Muslims in China, which are contrary to the common knowledge!

    -Muslims in China are not only in the western region and they are not only from a particular ethnic group.
    -You can find more Halal restaurants in the major cities of China than in other major cities in the US or Europe.
    -There are villages and neighborhoods full of Muslims.
    -Islam and Muslims have had major influences in China and can be found today in Chinese food, language, literature, sciences, and crafts.
    -The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty was a “closet” Muslim, who left a 100-word poem praising the Prophet (SAW) and he built an idol-free temple, where you can still visit today in Beijing.

  24. tabman

    September 9, 2008 at 7:17 PM

    @AnonyMouse Inshallah when I go to china I do have a self plan to blog about my experiences in china as a Muslim I’ll surely try to contribute to MM, there is this blog by a chinese muslim studying in USA that started few months back:

    http://islaminchina.wordpress.com/

    The author had this to say about Muslim in china:

    “Regarding the stories about Muslims in China, it varies from region to region. China is a very big country and Muslims from different ethnic groups are treated differently. The stories that you have heard were most likely about Muslims from the Western part and they are from a different ethnic group related to the Turks. The Muslims whose first language is Chinese are treated comparatively well. Plus if you come from a foreign country then you will be treated differently and may be better”

    As far as exposure about Islam in China is concerned I think it is very less. When I started searching about “Muslim life in China” I was scared hearing the stories and wandering even if it is a place to go or not but seems like the ground stories are different.

  25. Isa Graham

    September 9, 2008 at 10:59 PM

    as-salaamu’alaikum,
    I also found myself using Jonathan Lippman at times whilst at University

  26. Isa Graham

    September 9, 2008 at 11:00 PM

    Some of the brothers had bought years back and even just last weekend some books on the subject by Muslim authors but one brother was so bold to say one author was a “storyteller”. May Allaah help us!
    If those books are of benefit, I will post them (In shaa Allaah)

  27. Abu 'Umar

    September 9, 2008 at 11:25 PM

    Here is an excellent summary on the situation of Muslims in China by Fahad Ansari: The Plight of the Uighurs: China’s Muslims Suffering As Much As the Tibetans.

  28. LOL

    September 9, 2008 at 11:55 PM

    Clearly no such thing as freedom of speech……

  29. Imtiaz

    September 10, 2008 at 11:32 AM

    I am so down for china tours…

    DUDE IMAGINE THE MILES THAT YOU WILL RACK UP !

  30. Andre Gumilang

    September 11, 2008 at 1:12 PM

    Salaam,
    are those muslims being oppressed, besides China, and elsewhere, when they are unable to practise Islam, are they required to migrate?

    If yes, is there any Muslim country that wants to take them in?

    If no, can someone with contacts with Saudi Arabia Government, check what is their view on the plight of these muslims who might want to migrate from their respective country?

    wa salaam.

  31. sisterindeen

    September 12, 2008 at 12:46 AM

    A ~3 min video which poignantly captures the situation of our dear sisters and brothers in China this Ramadan:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EU0EQlmfDY

    May Allaah protect them and give them ‘ajr for their patience, ameen.

  32. Hidaya

    September 13, 2008 at 6:37 PM

  33. Trapped In This Dunya

    September 14, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    Subhanallah that video seriously shock me! I cant believe Muslim leaders could possible be seating around watching this and doing nothing about it. May Allah help us and protect another Andulsia from occuring. This is so sad may Allah protect us.

  34. ibn bukhari

    September 17, 2008 at 1:28 AM

    salaam
    although I am different nationality than the uighurs, ( almost the same though… see username), my parents were born and raised in china,( xinjiang). alhamdullillah, they fled before it got terrible… and i mean terrible in the late 70’s. you will never read about the people forced to eat pigs, shaykhs beards being burned in public, torture ( and i mean real torture like throwing people in boiling water)… the problem is that its hard to flee they dont let people out, and what the chinese are doing now is moving tons of ethnic chinese people into the muslim areas and bascially makiing them lose thier deen by marrying these flilthy mushriks, and getting them involved in the lifestlye. Shaykh YQ if you want more in depth detailed info, you know who to contact from Tayybah in NY.

  35. T.J.

    August 8, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    I am inpressed with china for taking a stand against ramadan from being practiced. I wish the United States would do the same, then maybe they’ll all leave..

    • Amad

      August 9, 2010 at 12:24 AM

      TJ, do you want a one-way ticket to China, esp. considering how impressed you are with their human rights track-record?

      I think you don’t deserve to be in our great country. I never thought I would say this, but “Go home (to China)” (home is where your heart is!).

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