China has just banned the burqa (ambulatory body bag and face mask) in the mainly Muslim province of Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The government has also banned Islamic head coverings and beards in an effort to contain restive Islamic fundamentalism (“political Islam”) from turning into a full-scale Jihad against the state.
“Beijing blames Islamist separatists for several deadly bomb and knife attacks that have killed hundreds of people in the past two years,” Reuters notes. According to experts and exiles, China’s “heavy-handed policies” may be the cause of ethnic and religious unrest.
Communism still views religion as the “opiate” of the people and as having the dangerous power of dividing a citizen’s loyalty between private faith and the state. Thus, China has controlled permitted religious practices–but it has also jailed clerics, instituted bans, restricted certain religious practices entirely. In neighboring Tibet, occupied by China, Buddhist monks, nuns, and former nuns have immolated themselves in protest to the “brutal repression” of their religion.
While I do not agree with many of China’s policies, their ban on face veils, body bags, and beards in public may make sense. Many European cities and countries have also banned the face veil (with varying degrees of success).
Communist Russia was unsuccessful in holding back the tide of political Islam in Afghanistan. Although they did offer education and other benefits to poor people, including women, the Afghan mode of resistance was associated with the burqa, the turban, and the beard. China is well aware of this.Interestingly, both Tunisia and Turkey have bans on hijab (head covering) in public schools, universities, and government buildings; Morocco has no such ban but it discourages women from wearing Islamic head or face coverings.
Do followers of radical, political Islam who believe in holy war (Jihad) against “unbelievers” tend to face-veil their women? According to Samia Labidi, the answer is yes.
There is also this: Face veils and burqas are not mandated by the Qu’ran. “Modesty” is mandated for both men and women. There are serious security risks associated with face veils (niqab) and burqas (head, face, and body bags). Recently, in Abu Dhabi, an American woman was stabbed to death by a woman wearing a burqa. In addition, face masks are, in my view, a violation of both woman’s rights and human rights.
If someone is living in France or China, what does it mean that they want to look as if they are living in the Arab Middle East, following protocols with links to jihadism that are not mandated by the Qu’ran? Does it mean they are signaling a hostile separation from the state–one that seems to inevitably lead to Jihad terrorism?
China is not known as a bastion of religious freedom or of other human rights. Although religious freedom is a constitutional right, nevertheless, the atheist, communist, Chinese government has been persecuting, outlawing, and limiting Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Falun Gong, and Taoist practices for many years.
Islamic practice have been similarly treated. There are anywhere from 21 to 50 million Muslims, mainly located in four northwest provinces of China: Ningxia, Quinghai, Gansu (where Hui/Han and some Uyghur Muslims live), and Xinjiang (where mainly ethnic Uyghur Muslims live).
Many Uyghur Muslims were once part of Eastern Turkistan.
As Westerners, we value the post-Enlightenment principle of freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. Islam does not honor anyone who leaves the faith and views doing so as a capital crime. For this reason alone, Islam is radically different than other world religions. Today, most Muslim countries do not allow non-Muslims to practice their religion; on the contrary, over the centuries, Muslims have persecuted, exiled, and slaughtered Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Ba’hai, “politicals,” and the wrong kind of Muslims.