As part of China’s ongoing and escalating crackdown on it Uighur Muslim minority population, it has ordered the removal of Arabic script and symbols associated with Islam from halal restaurants, shops, and food stalls in the capital. Beijing officials are demanding any images associated with Islam, such as the crescent moon and the word “halal” written in Arabic, be removed or hidden from view.
The SUN (h/t Maurice) Eleven restaurants and shops in the Chinese capital selling halal products said government workers instructed their employees to cover up their signage, Reuters reports. One manager of a Beijing noodle shop said he was told to cover up the “halal” in Arabic on his shop’s sign, and was watched by the official while he did it.
One employee at a halal butcher shop accused authorities of “erasing” Muslim culture.
The campaign against Arabic script and Islamic images is the latest in a string of attempts by officials to stymie any form of religious freedom or expression in the country.
It marks a new phase of an expanding national effort to “Sinicize” its Muslim population. The drive has gained momentum since 2016, aimed at ensuring religions conform with mainstream Chinese culture. Middle Eastern-style domes on many mosques around the country have also been removed in favour of Chinese-style pagodas.
Muslims have come under particular scrutiny since a riot in 2009 between mostly Muslim Uighur people and majority Han Chinese. Spasms of ethnic violence followed the riot in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Uighur minority.
Some Uighurs, chafing at government controls, carried out knife and crude bomb attacks in public areas and against the police and other authorities. In response, China launched what it described as a crackdown on Islamic terrorism in Xinjiang.
The government says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to stamp out religious extremism. Officials have warned about creeping Islamisation, and have extended tighter controls over other Muslim minorities.
Analysts say the ruling Communist Party is concerned that foreign influences can make religious groups difficult to control.
One would think the outcry from the Muslim world over China’s escalating crackdown on its Muslim minority would be enormous. It isn’t.
In fact, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — a 57-Muslim country consortium that calls itself “the collective voice of the Muslim world” issued a report saying that it “commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China.”
MUCH MORE ABOUT China’s Uighur Muslims