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China Passes Burqa Ban in its Largest Muslim City

The Chinese regional government of Xinjiang, the nation’s westernmost province, has approved a ban on burqas in its capital, Urumqi. The capital is the nation’s most Muslim-populated city; the law would prevent women from wearing the garment in public.

The proposal to ban burqas in the city first surfaced in December, when Urumqi’s local government approved of the ban. It would not take effect until the regional government of Xinjiang approved of it, however, which occurred this week, according to state media outlet Tianshan News. Xinhua has reported the news in English, and notes that the government sees this explicitly as a measure against radical Islam. The report argues that “burqas are not traditional dress for Uygur women, and wearing them in public places is banned in countries such as Belgium and France.” Burqas seen in public in China are mostly “forced,” the report continues, and banning the burqa would help curb potential terrorist attacks.

Xinjiang had already made it illegal for those wearing “Islamic clothing” or sporting large beards to ride public buses, fearing that allowing Muslims to travel on public transportation in light of the railway attack would expose too many people to possibly becoming victims of terrorist attacks. The Chinese government also banned public observances of Ramadan, including fasting, as well as banning individuals from practicing any religion in public owned spaces in Xinjiang, citing “an increasing number of problems involving religious affairs.” That law also explicitly banned the viewing or distribution of jihadi propaganda.

The move is seen as part of an increasingly expansive campaign against radical Islamist terrorism in China. The campaign has grown rapidly since Muslim Uyghur separatists attacked a railway station in Xinjiang last year. Those arrested for involvement in that attack were paraded publicly for trial and convicted, and dozens of other convictions and executions followed, including the execution of 13 individuals in June for a series of activities described as “terrorist” by the government.

In a column this month, state news outlet Xinhua ran an editorial christening the war on terrorism the “People’s War,” using Maoist terminology to argue that China must spearhead efforts against terrorism internationally.

Police activity to curb alleged terrorists in Xinjiang has since escalated. This week, Chinese officials announced that six people had been shot dead in Xinjiang on suspicions of terrorist activity. Officials claimed, according to Tianshan, that the six individuals were attempting to detonate a bomb when they were killed.

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