Ramadan fasting ban continues for China's Uighurs

With Ramadan just around the corner, Chinese authorities step up curb on religious practices in Xinjiang, with students and civil servants ordered not to fast

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

China will impose the restrictions on Uighur Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) this Ramadan, including the repeat of a ban on fasting for students, teachers and government officials which was introduced last year.

The authorities of the Muslim province are stepping up controls on the Islamic faith, Reuters has reported, demanding that party members, civil servants, students and teachers do not fast during Ramadan.

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

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