Top officials in China’s Communist Party have warned of the rise and spread of Islam, and are employing hardened rhetoric against what they label “Islamic extremism,” while taking measures to stop violence.
Heavy policing in highly-Muslim regions could lead to an overly authoritarian state that begins to further erode freedoms and civil liberties in order to quell the perceived threat of Islam.
China has taken radical measures before, including banning “civil servants, students and teachers in its predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open.”
The Xinjiang region, the northwestern-most region which borders many Islamic nations and has a predominantly Muslim population, has increased surveillance and patrols to attempt to combat perceived Islamic extremism.
Many attendees of a Beijing meeting between government officials from every region of the country, expressed concerns about the Muslim population in China. Sharhat Ahan, a top party official in Xinjiang, warned that Islamic extremism and the “international anti-terror situation” is destabilizing China, and 0fficials from another predominantly Muslim region, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, also warned of extremism.
Mohammed al-Sudairi, an expert on Islam in China, and a doctoral student at the University of Hong Kong, stated “there’s a strengthening trend of viewing Islam as a problem in Chinese society.”
Sudairi commented further, “Xi Jinping [China’s President] has been quite anxious about what he saw as the loss of party-state control over the religious sphere when he entered power, which necessitated this intervention. I don’t think things will take a softer turn.”
Hundreds of Chinese citizens have been killed in violent attacks in Xinjiang. As a result of these attacks, the Chinese government has heightened security measures; activists believe will quell the cycle of “repression, radicalization and violence.”
President Jinping has also advocated sinicization, which is defined as “a process whereby non-Han Chinese societies come under the influence of Han Chinese state and society. Areas of influence include writing, diet, economics, industry, language, law, lifestyle, politics, religion, sartorial choices, technology, culture, and cultural values.”
Photo Credit: Bloomberg
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