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Updated: September 20, 2013 00:59 IST

Flag in mosques stirs anger in China

Ananth Krishnan
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A flag placed in a mosque in Xinjiang region. Photo: Uighur online
The Hindu A flag placed in a mosque in Xinjiang region. Photo: Uighur online

A Uighur website, Uighurbiz.net, posted a photograph of a Chinese national flag placed above the prayer area of a mosque in Aksu, a county in Xinjiang’s western Uighur heartland.

A move by authorities to place the national flag in the prayer area of a mosque in the far-western Xinjiang region has brought criticism from the local Muslim Uighur ethnic group and ignited fresh debate over the Communist Party’s religious policies.

Ilham Tohti, a Beijing-based Uighur professor of economics, who teaches at the National University of Minorities and is a prominent advocate for Uighur rights, on Thursday described the move as part of a policy by the government “to dilute” religious beliefs in Xinjiang.

A Uighur website, Uighurbiz.net, posted a photograph of a Chinese national flag placed above the prayer area of a mosque in Aksu, a county in Xinjiang’s western Uighur heartland.

Provincial government officials could not be reached for comment on whether the move was part of a change in official policy. Thursday was a holiday for government offices in China on account of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The article on the Uighurbiz website said the move had been enforced in many mosques in Aksu.

Mr. Tohti told the website he saw the campaign as an attempt “to boost patriotism”, but one that violated the religious autonomy that is granted under law to Muslims. Under the regional ethnic autonomy law, the State cannot interfere in religious practice.

The Xinjiang government has, however, in recent months put in force a slew of religious restrictions, Mr. Tohti noted, pointing to recent public campaigns in Hotan, in southern Xinjiang, warning people against wearing “religious clothing”, such as veils, and also asking men to not grow beards. Mr. Tohti said the moves were likely to further anger the community, against the backdrop of recent unrest in Xinjiang.

In an earlier interview with The Hindu, Mr. Tohti said government policies were fuelling tensions.

Widening disparities

The development approach, he said, had been focused on merely achieving rapid growth based on utilising the region’s rich energy reserves, and resulted in widening disparities between local Uighurs and the growing number of majority Han Chinese migrants.

He called for a more inclusive approach to growth and for easing religious restrictions, including recent bans on students and teachers in universities from fasting during the month of Ramadan.

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I'm for personal freedom of religion in public places, without any place for national flags or
politics of the nation. Be it a mosque or a temple, church, synagogue, gurudwara or any
place of worship, the person of faith should be left alone to fulfil his inner peace. National
flags have nothing to do here, it is only with ulterior motives that politicising takes place.

from:  Rajan Mahadevan
Posted on: Sep 20, 2013 at 11:51 IST

Communism has always maintained hostile attitude towards religions. In the past it has destroyed House of Worship, Hindu
Temples, Mosques and Churches. It believes religion is the opium of the people. "The 1978 Constitution of the People's Republic of China" has guaranteed 'FREEDOM OF RELIGION' with number of restrictions. With war on 'TERRORISM' going on throughout the world, Muslim Mosques, Muslim Woman Full Face Veil, etc., are considered as mark of separation. Xinjiang region where Uighur Muslims amount to about 9 million in population has seen many
sensitive activities and authority is not comfortable and often
impose restrictive policies to be followed by Uighur Muslims in the interest of the State that STATE IS SUPREME,RELIGION COMES NEXT.

from:  MUBARAK PATEL
Posted on: Sep 20, 2013 at 05:29 IST
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