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Ramadan in China: Razed Mosques, Praying Restrictions, ‘Concentration Camps’ for Muslims

This picture taken on June 26, 2017 shows police patrolling as Muslims leave the Id Kah Mosque after the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uighur population have stifled life …
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty
EDWIN MORA

Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang province are facing tight restrictions and other tribulations at the hands of communist officials intent on erasing their religious and ethnic identity by destroying their worshipping sites and forcing them into “concentration camps” as others around the world mark the holy month of Ramadan.

Turkey is the only prominent Muslim nation to speak against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) crackdown on the mainly Uighur (or Uyghur) Muslims that make up the majority of residents in Xinjiang, the largest province in the country.

On Monday, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported:

As Muslims worldwide began a month of abstaining from food or drink from dawn until sunset for Ramadan Monday, Uyghurs chafed under tough Chinese controls over observations of the annual Muslim holy month in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

[Communist] authorities in Xinjiang have typically forced restaurants to stay open and restricted access to mosques during Ramadan to discourage traditional observation of the holy month, and in recent years authorities’ have tried to ban fasting among Uyghurs, drawing widespread criticism from rights groups.

The RFA report came on the same day that an investigation by the Guardian shed light on China’s evil endeavor to raze the mosques of Xinjiang.

Citing satellite imagery of the locations of dozens of mosques and shrines, the Guardian reported on Monday:

Out of 91 sites analyzed, 31 mosques and two major shrines, including the Imam Asim complex and another site, suffered significant structural damage between 2016 and 2018.

Of those, 15 mosques and both shrines appear to have been completely or almost completely razed. The rest of the damaged mosques had gatehouses, domes, and minarets removed.

A further nine locations identified by former Xinjiang residents as mosques, but where buildings did not have obvious indicators of being a mosque such as minarets or domes, also appeared to have been destroyed.

That means China has partly or wholly demolished more than two dozen Islamic religious sites since 2016 alone. Beijing intensified its crackdown on Muslims in 2017. the U.S. Department of State acknowledged.

Last Friday, Randall Schriver, the assistant U.S. secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, indicated to reporters that the number of Muslim detainees at the “concentration camps” may have more than tripled from at least 800,000 at the end of 2018 to “likely closer to 3 million” now.

On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, described the 3 million figure as “simply not true.”

China has repeatedly denied assertions by the U.S. and the United Nations that it has forced Muslim minorities into re-education or mind-transformation centers where they face systemic torture, disappearances, executions, and arbitrary detentions in the name of communist indoctrination.

After initially denying the overall existence of the facilities, Beijing claimed that the“concentration camps” – estimated to number up to 1,200 – are legal “vocational” centers used to combat the “three evils” of religious extremism, ethnic separatism, and violent terrorism,

Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, told RFA:

The entire Muslim world has started fasting and praying. But unfortunately, the Uyghur Muslims under China’s draconian rule can neither fast nor pray during this Ramadan.

It is not just Uyghurs’ Islamic faith that is under Chinese attack but also their very existence as a unique indigenous people.

The international community needs to take action for China locking up millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps. And the Muslim world, especially OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], should hold China accountable for its anti-Islamic policy and crimes against humanity.

OIC is an international organization consisting of 57 member states, including 53 Muslim-majority countries.

Pakistan, a member of the international body, has defended the actions against Muslims by its ally China. OIC member Turkey, however, has blasted China over the mistreatment of Muslims.

Uighurs share cultural and linguistic similarities with other Turkic ethnic groups.

Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told RFA:

While the Muslims around the world are enjoying their religious freedom and peacefully celebrating Ramadan, the Uyghur Muslims of East Turkestan have been denied by China their legitimate right to celebrate, pray and fast.

This is the third consecutive year that Uyghur people, who accepted Islam as a state religion more than a thousand year ago, have not been able to celebrate Ramadan because of Chinese government’s anti-Islamic and anti-Uyghur policies.

He echoed Hassan’s calls for international pressure on China to halt its Muslim crackdown.

Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, denied that China is preventing Muslims from observing Ramadan.

He wrote on Twitter, “Muslims are free to fast in Xinjiang,” adding, “restrictions are with Communist Party members, who are atheists; government officials, who shall discharge their duties; students who are with compulsory education & hard learning tasks.”

The top Pentagon officials’ characterization of the Muslim detention centers as “concentration camps” has angered China.

Referring to Shriver’s assertion that Beijing is holding prisoner up to 3 million Muslims, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday, “The comments made by the relevant US individual are a gross interference in China’s internal affairs. China deplores and firmly opposes them.”

While most Muslims follow peaceful Ramadan traditions, many jihadis believe it is especially heroic and exceptionally rewarded by Allah to die a martyr during the holy month.

Some Uighurs have joined jihadi groups and threatened China. This year, Ramadan began on May 6 in most Muslim countries.

China has reportedly forced some Uighur Christian converts into the concentration camps. Beijing has reportedly expanded its Muslim persecution beyond Xinjiang.

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