Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Observed by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, Ramadan is sacred and is marked by piety and sacrifice.
For 30 days, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex, from dawn to dusk. They pray, they donate to charity, and they practice self-reflection. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three-day festival – Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays.
When more than 1 billion Muslims – Islam is the world’s second largest religion – across the world fast, pray and love, can their religious celebration be a threat to social peace and harmony?
China, an atheist-come-hide-under-the secular banner nation, thinks so.
According to a recently issued notice titled “2017 Work Conclusion on the Stability Maintenance of Xinjiang during the Ramadan Period,” the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Aksu has adopted several “stability maintenance” measures to “ensure social peace and harmony” during the holy month of Ramadan (to be observed from May 26 to June 24).
As per a World Uyghur Congress report, restaurants have been ordered to stay open as part of the directive, suggesting efforts to undermine the Muslim tradition of fasting:
“The bureau, which regulates business and alcohol licenses for restaurants, will strengthen leadership, control, and inspection in the county, and widen the scope of propaganda to focus on prevention.
“Additionally, the bureau plans to strictly enforce leading cadres on duty, have cadres stand on 24-hour uninterrupted guard, ensure the rotation of guards, check the bags, and question and register all visitors.
“Temporary evening security checkpoints will be set up to ensure that all vehicles, individuals, and suspicious things are inspected and recorded.”
— Harun Elbinawi (@ELBINAWI) June 3, 2017
The authorities are also forcing Communist Party activists in Baicheng County to do marathon shifts in public buildings in the Xinjiang province of northwest China – a predominantly Muslim Uyghur community with 8 million residents – making fasting all but impossible.
Meanwhile, students in Hotan County are asked to gather on Fridays to “collectively study, watch red [communist propaganda] films, and conduct sports activities in a way to enrich their social life during the summer vacation.”
A Chinese official from the Zawa Township, speaking on condition of anonymity, was quoted as saying:
“Teachers, public servants and employees in the service sector are not allowed to fast during Ramadan. It is strictly prohibited and if they are found fasting during this period, they will be dealt with.”
Is China inadvertently punishing 8 million pious Muslims in a collective push against radical Islam?
Well, it appears the Chinese government is intentionally demonizing and suppressing ethnically distinct Uyghur Muslims. Xinjiang borders several Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, where ISIS, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda have strongholds. It is rumored these terrorist groups have recruited thousands of Uyghur Muslims to fight their war of extremism.
China has banned burqas, “abnormal” beards, Muslim baby names, & fasting on Ramadan. Why haven’t the oppressed Muslims suicide bombed China? pic.twitter.com/nAHMyekYDn
— Isaac Cohen (@IHWCo) June 2, 2017
But as The Independent reports, Uyghur Muslims have suffered years of repression as Communist China has tried for decades to wipe out religious expression and replace religious observance with allegiance to the Communist party.
“In March, China banned burqas and “abnormal” beards, and a month later banned Islamic baby names. Earlier this month, it was revealed that police in the region had purchased $8.7m (£6.7m) worth of equipment to analyze DNA from its citizens. Last year, Uyghurs reported that officials were asking for DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records when they applied for a passport or to go abroad.”