Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chinese government restricts Ramadan

The following article is from today's edition of The New York Times.
Basically, Communist Chinese governments are cracking down on Muslims practicing Ramadan. The following things have been put in place:

1. A ban on teaching Islam or Koran.
2. No students may fast.
3. No teachers may fast.
4. No Hijabs.
5. No Beards.
6. No out of town guests in Muslim homes.
7. No closure of restaurants for prayer or for fasting purposes.
8. No visits to Muslim gravesites.
9. Muslim school students are 'educated' not to fast.
10. Muslim government employees are forced to 'sign' an agreement not to pray, fast, or visit Mosques.

Ramadan Curbs Imposed in China
Published: September 8, 2008

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 dispatched 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 Yingmaililists 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. Worshippers 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.

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