In a crackdown against “religious extremism” civil servants, students and teachers in China’s Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, have again been banned by the Chinese government from fasting during Ramadan.
Muslims are generally required to fast from dawn to dusk during the Islamic holy month which began yesterday evening, but China’s ruling Communist party is officially atheist and has restricted the practice in Xinjiang for several years. Human rights groups have labeled the ban “religious repression” aimed at preventing Muslims from “instilling religion” into public bodies.
The Independent reports that Uighur leader, Dilxat Raxit, sees the move as China’s attempt to control the Uighur’s Islamic faith and warned that the restrictions would force Muslims to resist Chinese government rule even more.
Clashes with Chinese authorities have killed hundreds in recent years. The government has blamed separatist Uighurs for terrorist attacks on both civilians and government institutions, but the group accused Beijing of exaggeration and consistently denies involvement. Nevertheless the ruling Communist Party is wary of religious activities serving as a rallying point for opposition to one-party rule, both in Xinjiang and neighbouring Tibet, and enforces the ban on Ramadan accordingly.
In previous years authorities in parts of Xinjiang held celebrations to mark the founding of the Communist Party at which free food was distributed as a test of whether Muslim guests were fasting. This year Muslim-owned shops and restaurants have again been ordered to continue selling cigarettes and alcohol over the course of the month or face closure.
Chinese authorities do not limit their restrictions to Ramadan, other expressions of Islam in Xinjiang have been banned in recent times such as women wearing veils and young men growing beards.