In what is seen by some as a risky campaign to secularize the
Muslim minority, China is discouraging
Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang from fasting during
Ramadan, though the government says the move is motivated by
Several city, county and village governments in Xinjiang have
posted notices on their websites banning or discouraging Communist
Party members, civil servants, students and teachers from fasting
during the religious holiday, according to a report by Associated
Muslims around the world abstain
from food and drink from dawn to dusk during the 30-day period.
Regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin was quoted in the state-run Global
Times newspaper yesterday as saying authorities encourage people
to “eat properly for study and work” but don’t force anyone to eat
Xinjiang is home to the traditionally Muslim Uighur ethnic group.
Long-simmering resentment among Uighurs over rule by China’s Han
majority and an influx of migrants has sporadically erupted into
Separatist sentiment is rife, with some Uighurs advocating armed
rebellion. A smaller fringe has been radicalized by militant calls
for Muslim holy war and trained in camps across the border in
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In July 2009, rioting between Uighurs and Han Chinese killed
nearly 200 people in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. Uighur activists
say the riots were the result of decades of pent-up frustration
with Chinese rule.
China has responded by boosting police presence and restricting
the practice of Islam — moves that have further alienated many
Uighurs and ratcheted up tensions.
Over the last few months, authorities in Xinjiang have stepped up
a campaign against illegal religious schools, which they believe
are fomenting extremism and separatist thought.