Xinjiang Muslims observe Ramadan

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/21 1:03:01

Fasting ban applies to atheist Party members

The Muslim practice of fasting during Ramadan in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is proceeding without government interference as authorities have only imposed an exemption from this practice on Party members, civil servants and underage students.

As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan enters its third week, thousands of Muslims continue daily prayers at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, China's largest mosque.

Abdulkadir Sawut, the mosque's deputy head, said the local government conducted a thorough inspections of firefighting equipment as well as on food, gas and water supplies to ensure that  religious activities are carried out smoothly, a WeChat account affiliated with the Xinjiang Daily reported.
Traffic police officers began working at 6 in the morning at intersections near the Id Kah Mosque to help ease the congestion as people swarm into the mosque for their morning prayer before sunrise.

In Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, mosques receive more visitors during Ramadan.

An employee at Fengxiang Mosque in Urumqi, surnamed Bai, told the Global Times that the number of people praying at the mosque fluctuates on a daily basis, but in general more people visit the mosque during the holy month.

"Religious activities are not interrupted or interfered with in any way," Bai said.

In southern Xinjiang's Hotan, employees from the sub-district government offices help maintain order at Jiamai Mosque, which becomes extremely short-staffed during Ramadan when as many as 10,000 local Muslims come to pray every day, said Assistant Imam Abdulrahman Ibrahim.

Hotan government has also made travel arrangements for elderly religious personnel, the Xinjiang Daily's WeChat account reported.

Some local authorities have improved security during Ramadan.

In E'min County, Tacheng, community officers held a meeting on June 1 to arrange for round-the-clock security patrols in the local mosque to "prevent hostile forces from sabotaging religious activities during Ramadan with violence, arson, poisoning or other forms of attacks," news website reported.

In July 2014, then Id Kah Mosque Imam Jume Tahir, 74, was stabbed to death by terrorists after he led early morning prayers.

His death came two days after dozens of terrorists killed 37 civilians in a series of attacks at the local government office and police stations on July 28, 2014, the last day of the holy month that year, in Shache County, Xinjiang.

Separation of religion, politics

This year, Xinjiang's government reiterated its call on Party members, civil servants and underage students not to fast.

Political scientists and legal professionals said they view the rules as a reflection of the spirit of China as a secular country, which means religions and politics must remain separate.

Daiyimik Diwana, a deputy head of Taxkorgan Township in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang, told the Global Times that daily work at the township government office is carried out as usual during Ramadan, and that civil servants are urged not to fast for fear that refraining from eating and drinking would interfere with their administrative duties.

China has clearly stipulated for decades in its political discipline that members of the Communist Party of China are atheists and cannot profess a religion.

Liu Gang, an education official in Awat County, southern Xinjiang's Aksu, told the Global Times on Monday that underage students are forbidden to fast over health concerns.

Liu said Ramadan does not interrupt educational activities, including a bilingual speech contest for middle and high school students across Xinjiang.

Xinjiang's laws state that no person or organization is allowed to induce or force minors to participate in religious activities. China's Education Law also states that education and religion should be separate, and that religion should not interfere in educational activities. 

On June 2, China released a white paper on religious freedom in Xinjiang that says China fully respects its citizens' religious needs, and the freedom of religious beliefs in Xinjiang today "cannot be matched by any other period in history."

It also states that the Chinese government firmly opposes any attempt to politicize religious issues, in reference to protests and a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry last year that Turks are "saddened by reports of Uyghurs being banned from fasting."

Xinjiang is home to China's largest Muslim population. It currently has 24,800 religious venues, including 24,400 mosques.

Newspaper headline: Xinjiang observes Ramadan

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