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China’s War against Islam: From ‘mosque rectification program’, to Quran being burnt, pork being fed, Namaz and Hijab being banned and more

China's war on Islam includes a total ban on religious education, harsh suppression of religious scholars, burning of the Quran, destroying mosques and cemeteries, changing prayers and zikr, forbidding the hijab, eliminating Islamic customs, forbidding learning Arabic, erasing the Muslim identity of Uyghur children and more.

The Center for Uyghur Studies (CUS) published an 88-page detailed research paper on April 28, 2023, highlighting the scale of the Communist Party of China’s transnational war against Islam and resultant repression of Uyghur Muslims with a particular focus on the Chinese government policies in East Turkestan, more commonly known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.

The report titled, “Islamophobia in China and Attitudes of Muslim Countries”, highlights numerous instances of China’s war against Islam. It also talks about how Muslim nations have maintained studious silence at China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Chinese-occupied East Turkestan or the Xinjiang province.

The research looks at the historical and systemic attempts made by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to “sinicize” Islam and Muslims from the inception of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The paper also details the numerous facets of China’s conflict with Islam in East Turkistan during the past seven decades, most recently starting in 2017.

It also looks at China’s disinformation tactics in the Islamic world and the several propaganda techniques the Chinese state uses to keep Muslims from publicly criticising their treatment by China due to their religion. The report concludes with a chapter on the OIC’s failure to address the Uyghurs and the attitudes of Muslim-majority nations towards the Uyghur Genocide.

Uyghurs are a Turkish-Muslim ethnic group living in Xinjiang, the largest and most western of China’s administrative regions surrounded by Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The Xinjiang autonomous region in China has had a long history of discord between the authorities and the Uighur population.

Islam and China

The research paper highlights how in China, Islam has been regarded as a foreign religion that came from outside China. Hence, there has been a view that Muslims as foreigners and backwards. Talking about how it originated, the research suggests that the hate for Muslims in the country began in 1949 with the emergence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and only worsened during the past 70 years of the CCP rule.

The report said that dislike for Islam in China is at extremely high levels. The issue was made worse by the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the Chinese state media. A favourable and acceptable international climate for dislike towards Islam in China was also created by the “Global War on Terror” that was declared following the 9/11 attacks.

Since Xi Jinping took office, the PRC’s hostility towards Muslims has increased. Particularly, the CCP’s work conference on religious affairs that took place in 2016 marked a high point in the specific dislike for Islam. Chinese authorities have initiated a statewide crackdown on different religions, especially those that are considered foreign (like Islam and Christianity).

Persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang seen as the most radical form of Islamophobia in China, says research

The research report by the think tank suggests that the most extreme manifestation of dislike for Islam in China has been the actions taken by Chinese authorities against Uyghur Muslims in East Turkestan or Xinjiang. Millions of Muslims have been imprisoned by the Chinese authorities under the guise of “re-education and rehabilitation,” and thousands of mosques have been razed in East Turkestan. Chinese authorities compare Islam to an “infectious disease” and Uyghur Muslims to “infected people,” highlighting the need to eradicate the faith, read the report.

The report explains the extent of the exploitation of Uyghur Muslims by Communist China 

The report states that Muslims in China have experienced discrimination as a result of the Chinese government’s overt and covert support of incidents where men and women wearing the hijab are mocked, barred from public spaces like hospitals and hotels and even denied employment. Muslim categorization of food as halal or haram is fiercely opposed. Islamic attire and customs are attacked and shunned because they were seen as foreign by Chinese society.

This research piece further highlighted how the practice of discrimination against Muslims in China, particularly with regard to the Uyghurs in East Turkestan, has assumed the shape of a government policy.

The anti-Islam campaigns initiated by the Chinese authorities

In their report, the researchers discuss how the Chinese government has been attempting to eliminate Islam since its presence in the Xinjiang province. It highlights the various anti-Islam campaigns, which include a total ban on religious education, harsh suppression of religious scholars, burning of the Quran, destroying mosques and cemeteries, changing prayers and zikr, forbidding the hijab, eliminating Islamic customs, forbidding learning Arabic, and erasing the Muslim identity of Uyghur children, carried out over the years by the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Xi Jinping.

Prohibition on preaching Islam: The report states how Muslims of East Turkestan are not able to learn and teach their religion. Following the occupation of East Turkistan in 1966 until today, Muslim children are being mandatorily raised with communist ideology and Chinese culture at state schools. Chinese communists mandate that Muslim children learn atheism and communist ideology while closing down Islamic schools (Madarsa), eradicating Islam from the educational system.

After CCP assumed power in 2014, the Chinese government imprisoned Uyghurs who studied in Muslim-majority nations like Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and mandated those who were still there to return. They also placed state officials in Uyghur homes to monitor them round-the-clock and completely forbid the parents from teaching their children Islamic practises like Namaz and the Quran.

A demolished mosque in Kashgar City of East Turkestan (Source:

In 2017, a large number of Uyghur students at Al-Azhar University were forcibly returned to China by the Chinese authorities with the assistance of the Egyptian government.

Suppression of Maulvis: As the leadership views Islamic practices as crimes and the religious leaders as criminals, religious scholars are the group in Xinjiang that faces the harshest treatment at the hands of the Chinese communist regime. The report used data released by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), which confirms that as many as 1,000 imams have been detained since 2014 as a result of their affiliation with Islamic teaching. Most of those arrested were sentenced to 15-20 years or life in prison terms.

The report further adds that since 2017, there has been a significant upsurge in the targeting of Islamist scholars. Many Uyghur imams and clerics have been detained, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps in 2017. Those who weren’t in jail were forced to sing and dance in support of the communist party in front of the public.

Uyghurs Cleric dancing and singing in praise of CCP (Source:

Burning of the Quran: The report highlights yet another strategy the CCP government employs in its war against Islam, which is the burning of their religious texts and the Quran. The report said that this practice has increased manifolds since 2014.

During China’s recent campaign against Islam in East Turkestan, people who did not voluntarily turn over religious materials to the police were subjected to severe punishments when they were found. Because of their fear, Muslims in East Turkestan were sometimes forced to dispose of the Quran by dumping it into rivers.

Since 2017, all Islamic textbooks and materials have been outlawed in China. All the religious literature and materials were gathered and burnt. Those who had such items were detained or transferred to jails or concentration camps.

Destruction of mosques and cemeteries: Chinese authorities also destroyed mosques or transformed them in addition to suppressing Imams. When the “Cultural Revolution” took place between 1966 and 1976, the policy was at its strictest.

In 2017, the process of demolishing mosques began once again. Under the “Mosque Rectification Programme,” the Chinese government led by Ji Xingping destroyed a large number of mosques throughout East Turkestan. Experts at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) estimate that 16,000 mosques have been destroyed since 2017, 8,500 of which have been entirely destroyed. This number accounts for 65% of the mosques in East Turkestan.

A mosque with its dome and minarets removed

Thousands of mosques have also been transformed into pig barns, restaurants, etc. The mosques that are left standing are exclusively retained for tourist and propaganda purposes; it is not permitted to enter them to perform religious services.

Zikr or prayers altered to venerate Ji Xingping: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forbade Uyghur Muslims from worshipping Allah and replaced the phrases in their prayers and Zikr (remembrance of God) scripts with those that honour Xi Jinping and the CCP.

In addition to mandating Imams to dance and sing communist songs, Chinese authorities have started efforts that mock Islam and Muslims. Anti-Islam signs and slogans have been plastered all over Xinjiang’s streets since 2017.

In prisons and concentration camps, these practices are all too common. The Muslim inmates are required by the prison and camp guards to thank the communist party and Xi Jinping after meals and to praise them before meals. Those who resent this are punished and denied food. Inmates are made to denounce Islam and make derogatory remarks about the Prophet.

Banning Hijab: Chinese oppression of Uyghur Muslims has been known for a long time. Earlier the Chinese police had imposed a dress code for Uyghur women, under which Muslim women are not allowed to wear long dresses. In 2020, photos appeared on social media showing police cutting the dresses of Uyghur women for being “too long”. It was also reported that Han Males are sleeping on the same bed as Uyghur Muslim women in China whose male family members, often husbands, are locked up in ‘re-education camps’ in conformity with a diktat by the Chinese regime.

In 2017, all Hijabi Uyghur women were sent to prisons and concentration camps. The “Qaraqash List,” a leaked document from the Chinese government, claims that many Uyghur women were imprisoned in concentration camps in the county of Qaraqash for donning the hijab.

Uyghur Muslims not allowed to follow Islamic traditions: Under the pretext of “fighting religious extremism and terrorism,” the Chinese government has since 2014 banned all religious practices. For instance, Islamic naming ceremonies, marriages, funerals, and Quranic recitations for the deceased have all been outlawed.

Arabic banned in China: Learning and teaching Arabic is deemed “religious extremism” in the post-2014 crackdown, and those who had done so in the past have been detained by the government. In East Turkestan, studying Arabic is currently strictly prohibited. Except for the government-run “Xinjiang Islamic Institute” (which was only left because the Chinese government needed to train imams loyal to the CPP and spread their message towards the Islamic world), there is not a single Arabic language school in the Xinjiang province.

Uyghur children’s Muslim identities being erased: One of the most anti-Islam efforts carried out by the Chinese communist state as part of the war against Islam in East Turkestan is the complete erasure of the Muslim identity of Uyghur children. Uyghur parents are sent to jails or concentration camps by the government, which forces their kids into state orphanages and boarding schools. Children are raised in these orphanages totally in accordance with communist ideology, transforming them into Han Chinese. Even the children’s Uyghur names are changed.

Uyghur Muslim children dressed in Han cultural clothing celebrating the Chinese new year

Chinese govt promotes ‘assimilation’ by forced Uyghur Muslim-Han intermarriage: On 16th November 2022, Uyghur Human Rights Project published a report on the measures taken by the Chinese government to promote intermarriage between Uyghur Muslims and Han Chinese ethnic groups. The means employed by the Chinese government consist of both incentivization and coercive actions underlines the report.

Since 2017, China has restricted or banned ethnic customs and Islamic religious rituals among the mostly Muslim Uyghurs in what they say is an effort to stamp out “religious extremism.”

Chinese regime forces Uyghur Muslims to eat pork under the initiative of ‘free food’: In 2020, an educator and medical doctor named Sayragul Sautbay revealed in a new book how Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang are forced to eat pork.

It is notable that pork is strictly prohibited in Islam, as it has been labelled as a Haram food.

Sautbay said that Muslims were made to eat pork, even outside detention camps. She informed that students in a school in Altay in northern Xinjiang were also force-fed pork and when many refused, the soldiers were sent in to take control of the situation. The educator stated that pork is being served to kindergarten children under the initiative of ‘free food.’ 

China using Uyghur Muslim spies to catch other Muslims who are violating ban on fasting during Ramzan

Last month a report emerged confirming that the Chinese authorities had employed spies to ensure that the Uyghur Muslims are not fasting during Ramzan.

The report stated that the spies that Chinese officials refer to as ‘ears’ are recruited from regular civilians, police officials, and members of neighbourhood committees, citing a police officer from a region close to Turpan, or Tulufan in Chinese, in the eastern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“We have many secret agents,” the police officer told Radio Free Asia. As part of broader attempts to denigrate Uyghur culture, language, and religion, China started arbitrarily imprisoning Uyghurs in ‘re-education’ camps in 2017 and also prohibited them from fasting throughout Ramadan.

Additionally, the Chinese authorities banned most Uyghurs from praying in mosques, and even in their homes, during the Eid-ul-Fitr.

Despite such ‘atrocities’, China has not faced any repercussions for its ongoing totalitarian policies, which are most affecting the Uyghurs. The Islamic world, which has surrendered itself to the Chinese whims, has maintained a tight lip against China.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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