The Chinese government has embarked on a new policy, creating a Chinese form of Islam which includes influences on the beliefs and religious practices of Muslims to reflect state narratives.
China has approved a law to ‘improve’ its policy of creating a Chinese form of Islam, whichis set to impact thesignificant Muslim population in the communist country.
According to the Global Times, the English-language state-owned daily, state-sanctioned representatives from local religious associations ineight Chinese provinces discussed a five-year plan on the ‘sinicisation of Islam’ - the attempt to construct a form of Islam more in line with official state ideology.
The effort comes as an ambitious bid to ‘redefine’ the practices of Islam and ‘align’ the beliefs of Muslims with the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) policies and traditional Chinese culture.
Islam entered China through trading routes and merchants, with first contact established in the 7th Century,and hasbeen part of Chinese society for more than 1,000 years.
The head of the China Islamic Association, a state-sanctioned body, appealed to the different local organisations toimplementthe measures,combiningsocialist core values, laws and traditional culture in lectures to Muslims,by providing them with the necessary indoctrination.
Journalists David Gitter and Julia Bowie criticised the ‘sinicisation policies in an article for the Tokyo-based The Diplomat, stating: “The various comments by these officials [of the CPC) ... will play a key role in ramping up pressure on religious groups. The sinicisation campaign will be directed at members of all religions, and will focus on … theological changes.”
‘Sinicization’ of religions communities
The vice dean of the China Islamic Institute said that ‘sinicization of Islam’ and Muslims in China has ‘matured’ since China’s president Xi Jinping came up with the state policy in 2015.
‘Books and any kind of material will be used as sources in mosques in this year - to have a better understanding of ‘Islam sinicization’’, said the vice dean.
‘Sinicization’ of religious beliefs reached a new level for the Chinese government. In September 2017, five religious community leaders agreed ‘to the direction of religions to integrate them with Chinese culture’.
Michael Clarke from the Australian National University in Canberra told the Foreign Policy Journal that “the ultimate aim seems to be the Sinicization of these [East Turkestan and Hui] regions and ethnicities. ..since 1949, China has wanted to integrate … ethnic groups of Xinjiang into the ‘unitary, multi-ethnic state’ of China.”
There are over 30 million Muslims living in China, mostly in the western province of Eastern Turkestan. Hui and Uyghur ethnic minorities are China’s two major groups who are also part of the Muslim community in the country.