Ningxia changes halal label amid pan-Islam backlash

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/26 19:53:39

Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has moved to rectify the halal food label by using pinyin instead of Arabic and reconstructing Islamic-style buildings amid discussions around pan-Islam tendencies in the region.

Residents from Wuzhong and Yinchuan confirmed to the Global Times on Monday that restaurants and food stands are required to replace the halal food label which has the Chinese characters for "halal food" and Arabic on them into a new one.

The new label includes the Chinese characters for "halal food" and the pinyin of "NING XIA" and "QING ZHEN SHI PIN" on it.

The drive covers many places in Ningxia and owners who did not immediately replace the previous halal food label need to cover them up, according to the public WeChat account "islamRay."

There are also pictures circulating online, showing notices hanging in supermarkets in Yinchuan which say that some food products had been removed from the shelves to replace the halal food label.

An employee at the Yinchuan-based Islamic Association of Ningxia told the Global Times that the ongoing drive did not affect their daily lives but declined to comment any further.

In recent years, Ningxia has been the center of controversy over pan-Islam tendencies as some experts suggested that the Ningxia government should take measures against the pan-halal tendency and Islamic thought influenced by theologies common in Arab nations, which is referred to as Arabization.

Changing the halal food label is not the only step Ningxia has been taking.

Netizens started to post pictures of the reconstruction program on the Sino-Arab Axis on March 17, and some welcomed the move.

The Sino-Arab Axis is a scenic spot in Yinchuan built in 2016 to commemorate the good relationship between China and the Arab world. At the Axis, a crescent moon sculpture and Arabic-style pavilions are juxtaposed with traditional Chinese architecture.

According to a release sent to the Global Times by the publicity department of the Party Committee of Jinfeng district in Yinchuan, the previous Arabic-style architecture would be changed into traditional Chinese style in an effort to "create a happy, harmonious and unified atmosphere."

Yang Faming, head of the Islamic Association of China said that the whole society should keep alert as some problems appeared in fields related to the Islamic religion, including some mosques have tended "Arabization," the pan-halal tendencies appeared in some fields and religion starts to interfere with residents' social life, reported.

"Changing the new halal food label aims to rectify the halal food market and stop the pan-halal food tendency. The move is in accordance with China's laws and policies on religious freedom," Li Anping, former deputy secretary-general of the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA), told the Global Times.

However, Li said that pan-halal critics should not go too far. "Our attitude toward Islam should not go to extremes. The laws and relevant regulations should be the criteria in dealing with religious issues," Li said.

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