Xinjiang counties identify 75 forms of religious extremism

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-25 0:38:02

Calling officials traitors, quitting alcohol seen as warning signs in brochure

Authorities in Ili prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region hold a public hearing Tuesday at a stadium to pronounce sentences for 55 involved in terrorist activities. Photo: China News Service

Some areas of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region plagued by increasingly frequent terrorist attacks have recently begun to distribute brochures meant to educate the public on how to identify extreme religious activities, and advise them to call police if they observe any telltale signs.

Authorities in Bole, located in the northwest of Xinjiang, recently had social workers study the brochure, which lists 75 specific forms of extreme religious activities, reported the news portal

The brochure describes the major advocates of extreme religious activities and some of their behavioral markers.

According to the brochure, religious extremists usually exhibit abnormal behaviors vis-à-vis traditional customs and the current legal system.

For example, acts that reject local-level officials and Party members as "heretics" or "religious traitors" could be seen as a sign of extreme religious activities, said the brochure.

It also said that intentionally expanding the definition of "Muslim," pushing others to drop smoking and alcohol use for religious reasons, or boycotting normal commercial activities as "not halal" could be seen as signs of possible extreme religious activities.

A decision to drop out of school to study religion, or an entire family suddenly deciding leave home or move their household registration for no apparent reasons were two other possible signs.

Other parts of Xinjiang besides Bole have taken similar steps to educate local residents.

A police officer in Shanshan county, administered by the city of Turpan, told the Global Times that his department began distributing brochures to local residents in June with the cooperation of local governments.

"Similar brochures were also disseminated in other counties. As Xinjiang is facing tough problems with stability, local governments are trying to find various ways to tell residents how to identify extreme religious activities," a citizen in southern Xinjiang's Hotan, surnamed Sun, told the Global Times. Sun was in charge of illustrating similar brochures for Luopu county.

Sun said that contents of the brochures identify legal religious activities and extreme religions behaviors, as well as the harm they can cause.

"All the examples were from real cases," said Sun, adding that his county has seen some residents begin to actively file reports. 

As terrorist attacks on authorities and civilians have increased during the past few years in Xinjiang, local authorities and scholars have also seen a rise in religious extremism. Some members of local ethnic minorities have been told by religious extremists not to smile at weddings or cry at funerals. Some extremists have even classified grapes into halal or non-halal, according to a report in the Xinjiang Metropolis Daily newspaper.

Local governments have done their utmost to encourage the region's Uyghur ethnic minority to eschew religious extremism.

"Apart from brochures, entertainment activities like dancing competition were held in Luopu as a part of getting rid of religious extremist ideas," Niu Changzhen, an official who works in Hotan, told the Global Times, adding that local residents were passionate about such activities.

"The brochures have been spread around Xinjiang and have even made it to Gansu and Qinghai provinces," an anonymous police officer from Xinjiang told the Global Times.

The police officer said that he expects the brochures to catch on throughout China, as there is a tendency toward extremism in Muslim populations nationwide.

"The brochures aim to provide guidance and references for members of the public wishing to file a report about extreme religious activities, in an effort to encourage more people to offer information on suspicious activities," Turgunjun Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

However, Tursun warned that some of the definitions, particularly those related to smoking, are not clear enough and may be biased, which may not be well-received by local ethnic minority members.



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