Action needed to prevent religion’s intervention in politics

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/11 22:33:40

"Political Islam's parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country," announced Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Friday, after his government decided to shut down seven Turkish-backed mosques and expel up to 40 foreign-funded imams. Against the backdrop of a worldwide resurgence and politicization of religion, this is a decision of alerting significance.

Politicization of certain religions is on the rise and presents a challenge to today's world in the form of a political awakening of religious groups and their interference in many countries' politics and foreign affairs.

A worldwide resurgence of religion emerged amid increasing globalization. This religious revival represents strong backlash by certain theocratical nation states, ethnicities and religious groups after a prolonged period of marginalization. Now, the trend is posing a severe test to many nations' governance and social stability.

In China, politicization of religion is also quietly rising. A growing number of products printed with the "halal" label have emerged in markets, including, but not limited to food. Halal clothes, napkins and even makeup are also mushrooming. The concept of "halal" is overly generalized and many Muslims nowadays do not dare to buy or use non-halal merchandises.

To cap it all, some people from villages in the south of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region feel quite reluctant to move into housing built by local government, because they think the buildings are not "halal." Moreover, they don't buy articles for daily use produced outside the region for the exact same reason.

Those promoting pervasiveness of halal in the marketplace are attempting to profit off the faith of Islamic followers who are taking steps toward secularization, further aiding in pulling them back to strict religious rules or even religious extremism.

Therefore, China has taken steps to curb religious extremism, including a ban of religious veils or "abnormal" beards. Not surprisingly, a number of Western media outlets condemned the move as a violation of human rights and religious freedom. They also ranted and raved about Beijing's initiative that all mosques in the country should raise the national flag.

However, the development of any religion must be in line with the values, society and culture of its home country. In religious venues, people are believers, but when they step out of their respective places of worship, they are employees, students or CEOs, all of whom must abide by the rules of the society in which they reside. Efforts need to be made to maintain the current inclusive atmosphere while watching out for religious politicization.

Austria's approach mirrors Europe's vigilance and reminds all secular states to articulate their stance against religions' intervention in politics. Real actions should be made by the world, including China.

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