China’s Communist Party has banned children from engaging in all religious activities in China’s “Little Mecca,” prompting fears that the government is eradicating Islam.
The Chinese government has cracked down on public Islamic practices in the region of Linxia, known as the “Little Mecca” of China and home to the ethnic Hui people. The government mandated that all mosques must fly national flags, forbade them from issuing the daily calls to prayer, and banned children younger than 16 from participating in religious studies and activities. Local Hui Muslims said they fear that China will implement restrictions and surveillance similar to those authorities have enacted against ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang in an attempt to secularize the region. (RELATED: China Jailing Even Mild Critics Of Its Crackdown On Muslims)
“The winds have shifted. Frankly, I’m very afraid they’re going to implement the Xinjiang model here,” a local imam, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. “They want to secularize Muslims, to cut off Islam at the roots. These days, children are not allowed to believe in religion: only in Communism and the party.”
The Chinese government has enacted similar but more severe restrictions in Xinjiang, such as outlawing beards and forbidding the owning and selling of Korans. Authorities say the restrictions are meant to route out “separatism” and “religious extremism” and to stem terrorist activity. Locals in Linxia insist, however, that their brand of Islam is different from the one practiced by Uyghur Muslims.
“They believe in Islam too, but they’re violent and bloodthirsty. We’re nothing like that,” Ma Jiancai, a Muslim local in Linxia, told AFP.
Locals see the ban on religious activities for children as a way to wipe out the practice of Muslim traditions and the availability of Islamic teachers within a few generations.
“We’re scared, very scared. If it goes on like this, after a generation or two, our traditions will be gone,” said Ma Lan, a caretaker for one of the local mosques, according to AFP.
William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, affirmed that line of thinking, saying that the Chinese government focused its restrictions on minors “as a way to ensure that faith traditions die out while also maintaining the government’s control over ideological affairs.”
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