Egypt's Azhar University slams China's oppression of Uighurs

Egypt's Al Azhar University has slammed the Chinese government for banning Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang from observing Ramadan

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Egypt's Al Azhar University has condemned China for preventing Muslims in the western province of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan, from fasting and practicıng the very basics of their religion during the month of Ramadan.

Students, teachers and government officials from the Muslim Uighur community will be prevented by the Chinese authorities from fasting this year, conforming to a new law which was introduced last year.

The Muslim holy month began on Thursday and Muslims around the world will observe it by abstaining from eating and drinking during the day.

The statement issued by Al Azhar on Friday also reiterated rejecting all forms of oppression of the Muslim Uighurs people, who are native to Xinjiang, and the confiscation of their religious rights and personal freedoms.

Al Azhar additionally called upon the international community to intervene immediately to stop these violations that are contrary to all international norms and conventions, which ensure that every individual has the right to exercise acts of worship and religious rituals.

Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, where China's repressive policies - including controls on religion and Uighur culture - have intensified.

Analysts say most of the economic benefits of the strategic region, which is crucial for China's growing energy needs, have gone to the Han Chinese - the country's biggest ethnic group - stoking resentment among Uighurs.

In Jinghe county, halal restaurants have been ordered to stay open during Ramadan. In Maralbexi county, the Communist party has banned "having faith, attending religious activities and fasting."

"China is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramadan approaches. The faith of the Uighurs has been highly politicised, and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance," the World Uyghur Congress spokesperson Dilxat Raxit said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The Communist party has also recently ordered Uighurs to stock and sell alcohol and cigarettes in attractive displays, despite the fact that many Muslims consider it a sin to sell alcohol for religious reasons.

Uighurs are subjected to discrimination in many respects, including being prevented from practising their faith openly, the banning of beards and headscarves and being prevented from teach their children the Quran. Officials and people younger than 18 are banned from participating in religious activities.

Rights groups believe Beijing is trying to systematically erase the region's Islamic identity but Uighur Muslims reportedly say that the restrictions have backfired and they have in fact become more religiously observant.

Xinjiang, on the borders of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, is the historic home to the Uighur people who speak a Turkic language.

TRTWorld and agencies