Chinese Hui Muslims halt demolition of mosque

Govt, however, says, 8 domes of Weizhou Grand Mosque will be removed soon

Beijing: Chinese officials have delayed the plan to demolish a newly-built mosque in the country’s North West after hundreds of ethnic Hui Muslims held sit-in protests in what is said to be the largest standoff in Beijing’s efforts to clampdown on Islamisation, reports said on Friday.

A huge crowd of ethnic Hui Muslims, the second largest Muslim group after Uygurs of Xinjiang, gathered in the square outside the Weizhou Grand Mosque thwarting plans by the local government to demolish the mosque.

The mosque is an imposing white structure topped with nine onion-shaped domes, crescent moons and four towering minarets. The government’s order to demolish the mosque sparked an outcry in the Hui Muslim community, with many questioning why the authorities did not stop construction of the mosque earlier.

The local county head on Friday came to the mosque, urging everyone to go home and promised that the government would not touch the newly-built structure until a reconstruction plan has been agreed upon by the townsmen, local sources said.

Reason behind the stand-off

  • The stand-off in Weizhou in Tongxin county in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is the latest and possibly the largest conflict in a recent campaign to rid the region of what Beijing regards as a worrying trend of Islamisation and Arabisation, as the ruling Communist Party doubles down to ‘Sinicise religion’.
  • ‘Sinicise religion’ is a policy introduced by President Xi Jinping to bring religious groups in line with the Chinese culture and under the absolute authority of the CPC.
  • An official notice by the Weizhou government had given the mosque’s management committee a deadline to demolish the building by August 10.
  • The committee was asked to demolish the mosque on the grounds that it had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits. If the management committee failed to comply, the government would ‘forcefully demolish it according to the law’, the notice had warned.
  • But the government said that after days of negotiations, it had been agreed that the government would not demolish the mosque, reports said.
  • Construction of the mosque was completed in 2017. It replaced an earlier structure that had been built to replace Weizhou’s 600-year-old Chinese-style mosque.

20 million Muslims reside in China

  • According to reports, China has at least 20 million Muslims. Both Uygurs and Hui Muslims have a population of about 10 million each. China is currently carrying out massive crackdown against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement in the volatile Xinjiang province.
  • Since Xi took power in 2013, he has been emphasising on the Communist party’s reinforcing its ideological roots of Marxism, including adherence to atheism. As the government deepens its crackdown on Uygurs – another Muslim group the Huis are also being targeted.
  • Several mosques in Nigxia have been ordered to cancel public Arabic classes, while a number of private Arabic schools have been told to shut down. Unlike Uygurs who are of Turkik origin with ethnic ties to Turkey, Huis have been largely left in peace to practise their faith.
  • Most of them speak Mandarin and apart from the white caps and headscarves worn by the more traditional members of the ethnic group, they are indistinguishable from the majority Han population.

(With agency inputs)

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