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Author Topic: Ramadan Curbs Imposed in China  (Read 629 times)
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« on: Sep 09, 2008 07:39 AM »


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Ramadan Curbs Imposed in China
By Edward Wong

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/world/asia/09china.html?ex=1378612800&en=fb4483091da547ed&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

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 separatist groups for the instability, 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, an observance 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. Because of the sunrise-to-sunset fasting, many restaurants would normally close during daytime for Ramadan.

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 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 the county. Companies and families that have workers or visitors from outside the county are required to register the outsiders with the nearest police station and have them sign an agreement “on maintaining social stability.”

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 was banned.
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