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Innovation??? Thy name starts with ‘C’: In China, now mosques are getting Sinicized

Mosques in China have been undergoing renovations to become more Chinese while removing Arab-style features. Xining, also known as Sining, has been experiencing the ‘Sinicisation’ campaign. This is the capital of the Hui Muslim-dominated province of Qinghai in China. Xining’s population is made up of at least 16 percent of them. Among China’s 55 recognized ethnic groups, the Hui represent the largest Muslim population.

Nearly 10.5 million strong, they are China’s third-largest ethnic group. Since their version of Islam is reportedly compatible with Chinese concepts and practices, they are not persecuted by Chinese authorities like Uyghurs. It is portrayed as inherently Chinese, opposed to a foreign influence. The Chinese community speaks Chinese and even tries to act and look like the Chinese. However, Beijing has been pressing for more. They want to eradicate everything Islamic. The intolerance now includes Islamic architecture.

In Xining, the 700-year-old Dongguan mosque famous for its white and green dome surrounded by tall minarets has now disappeared. The mosque was completely renovated in the 14th century. Today, it resembles a Communist party office. As part of its drive for national unity and integration, China destroyed the dome and tore down the minarets of the mosque throughout the year. Hui Muslims are compelled to agree since any protest could result in imprisonment or incarceration in one of the ‘re-education camps’.

In the same city, another mosque has also been remodeled. In a similar fashion to what had happened to the Jiaman mosque in Kira, the domes, minarets, and Arabic calligraphy have been replaced with Chinese texts and architectural elements. Historically, it was a prominent place of prayer for Muslims. Today it stands hidden behind high walls of Communist party propaganda, with no indication that it was ever a religious site. The Weizhou grand mosque in Ningxia has been completely ‘sinicized’. Islamic calligraphy has been replaced by Chinese writing and the mosque’s domes and minarets have been replaced with tiled pagodas.

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The ‘sinicisation’ campaign has primarily affected Xinjiang. The region is the most militarized in China. China used the pandemic as an opportunity to further consolidate its control over the province. The region is now cut off from the rest of the world. As of Thursday, a group of 43 UN member nations had called on China to allow ‘immediate, meaningful and unhindered’ access to Xinjiang. They asked Chinese authorities to allow independent observers to visit the area, including the UN high commissioner for human rights. Four countries signed the statement.

China, however, has not responded. China has denied allegations of human rights violations and said they are being politically exploited by western nations. ‘The US and a few other countries are desperately trying to mask their own terrible record on human rights,’ Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, said.


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