Wednesday, August 15, 2012

China Bans Muslims from Fastingduring Ramadan

Beijing: China has banned Muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang from fasting during the month of Ramadan. The government says the move is motivated by health concerns, but others say it is a campaign to secularize the Muslim minority that can spread violence. Guidance posted on several government websites called on Communist Party leaders to restrict Muslim civil servants, students and teachers from observing fast, visiting mosques and performing other relihious activities during the holy month. The statement posted on the Xinjiang government website urged party leaders to bring “gifts” of food to local village leaders to ensure that they were eating during Ramadan. A statement from Zonglang township in Xinjiang’s Kashgar district said that “the county committee has issued comprehensive policies on maintaining social stability during the Ramadan period. “It is forbidden for Communist Party cadres, civil officials (including those who have retired) and students to participate in Ramadan religious activities,” said the statement. There is “a much more public and concerted effort” than in previous years and in some cases Communist Party leaders are delivering food to village elders to try to get them to break their fast, according to Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology at Pomona College in California and an expert on China’s Muslim minorities. Regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin was quoted in the state-run Global Times newspaper Friday as saying authorities encourage people to “eat properly for study and work” but don’t force anyone to eat during Ramadan. Xinjiang is home to about nine million Uighurs, largely a Muslim ethnic minority, many of whom accuse China’s leaders of religious and political persecution. Long- simmering resentment among Uighurs over rule by China’s Han majority and an influx of migrants has sporadically erupted into deadly violence that claimed 200 lives in July 2009. World Uyghur Congress, an exiled rights group, warned the policy would force “the Uighur people to resist against the Chinese rule even further.” “By banning fasting during Ramadan, China is using administrative methods to force the Uighur people to eat in an effort to break the fasting,” said Al-Jazeera has quoted group spokesman Dilshat Rexit as saying.

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