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Chinese Muslim pressure penetrates into Hui minority heart

Hope faded in April. Government cranes began to appear ominously over the Hui mosques. A social video has emerged on social media showing workers dividing the golden dome of the Gajuan mosque, then smashing it into a prayer hall. Local Hui saw an unmistakable metaphor: The Communist Party, which had once dealt with religious life with a light touch, now ran roughly over it.

"The women wept; others like me couldn't believe what was happening, "says Ma Ha, a 40-year-old owner of a noodle shop. "We have had 40 years of religious freedom. The winds are changing. "

Under its leader Jinping, the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to assimilate ethnic minorities and abolish religions, as Islam considers itself a bearer of foreign influence. Over the course of two years at the Xinjiang border, China has sent hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of Uighurs to what they call re-education centers where they learn to abandon their religion and culture and accept new state-prescribed identities as secular Chinese. [1

9659002] This tide of Sinisation, as Chinese politicians call it, is increasing across the country. A recent unaccompanied trip through Gansu, a corridor that once housed the caravans of the Silk Road and Islam in imperial China, has unveiled an accelerating campaign to assimilate another Muslim minority, Hui, a Chinese-speaking nation with no recent separatism or extremism.

The Hui campaign does not include mass internment or comprehensive digital surveillance, the most striking aspects of Xinjiang's repression. But it is a purge of ideas, symbols, culture, products – anything that is considered non-Chinese.

The Chinese database tracks applications, location of cars and even electricity use in the Muslim region

The domes and minarets are closed by mosques and replaced by curved Chinese roofs. News programs are forbidden from displaying pedestrians wearing Hui's traditional skulls or veils. Arabic script is banned in public areas, so virtually every restaurant has a facade in the sun, with dark marks where the word 'halal' is cut down.

Strict new quotas stifle religious education to the extent that some Hui intellectuals predict people could become largely non-religious, like most China, in two or three generations.

Pressure is mounting against the Hui, the distant descendants of Persian merchants, at a time when the Communist leadership is fueling nationalism among the ethnic majority of the Han. Support popular support. In employee statements, on television and in billboards, one common refrain is the "Chinese Dream" – Xi's vision of restoring China's historical strength and wealth, culture and pride.

"In fact, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people is a xenophobic kind of nationalism – narrow-minded," said Li Yongfei, an East China native and one of Hui's last dissident writers. "Everything that is defined by them as coming from abroad, they seek to eliminate administratively."

Directive of the Communist Party of April 2018, received from the advocacy group of the World Uighur Congress, based in Germany, has shown the party's central leadership to instruct. local authorities to abolish what he sees as increasing "Saudi" and "Arab" influence in architecture, clothing, religious practices and language.

Although the contents of the directive are confidential, government departments throughout the country have issued general statements confirming that they comply with its directives.

The 22 million followers of Islam are not the only people touched by China's aspiration for assimilation. Christian church tombs and crosses have been taken down all over the country. When party bosses inspected the Tibetan regions in August, they told local officials to apply "important words for their religious work," to strengthen control of the monasteries, and to "direct efforts to demystify religion."

Ambitious social reengineering will be seen as one of Xi's legacies, said Vanessa Frangville, a professor of Chinese studies at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

By restricting religion, the party "eliminates potential adversaries of power," Frangville said. "To control the whole population through technology and ideology is what leaders dream of."

"We have been regressing for 40 years."

For centuries, Gansu has been a country of transition. In the hills where the Tibetan mountains line the prairies, the expanding Tibetan monasteries carry more weight than the emperors of distant Beijing. In the valley of the Daxia River, Sufi preachers and pious warlords turned an old hub of the Silk Road, called Linxia, ​​into the Hui bastion decades before the communists crossed in 1949. Today, Beijing wants to feel its influence. [19659002] Recently, a local imam put a visitor past a flagpole with a waving red Chinese banner that officials insisted on installing earlier this year. Along the courtyard wall, propaganda bulletins remind the worshipers of their greatest loyalty: the communist state before Allah.

"Islam has been in China for 1300 years. Apart from the 10 years since the Cultural Revolution, it has always been handed down generation after generation without interruption, "said the imam, who, like almost everyone in Gansu, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation. "We Regressed 40 Years to the Cultural Revolution."

Sitting in his classroom, where the number of religious students has dropped 90 percent in one year with the entry of new quotas, the imam talks about how the Qur'an is forbidden and local publishers who printed hadiths – collections of Prophet Muhammad's sayings – were imprisoned.

Angered by the speech of the Uighur activist, Chinese students in Canada contact their consulate, film presentation

The most destabilizing, according to the imam, is a sense of foreboding.

Hui's employees feel uncertain about how to please the central government, so they err on the side of caution, the imam said. Everyone else – from affluent Hui businessmen to poor farmers – felt "completely paralyzed," he said.

"Xinjiang's policy already applies here. At least we're moving in that direction, "the imam said. "We are Chinese born and raised. Our passports are Chinese. Our ancestors are Chinese. How do you want to be more Chinese? "

Down the alley of the Linxia Binet Mosque, one of at least three in the city facing what euphemistically called" renovation "employees, a worker by the name of Ma Hooney appeared to be strained as he talked about moving the sands.

Residents were worried about the new restrictions, which reduced the size of the madrassa class to 30 – a quota imposed by random checks, Ma said. Young people under the age of 18, like his 9-year-old daughter, were forbidden to step inside the mosque's yard.

"We know that leaders have their reasons," Ma said. "But how do we pass on our traditions? It feels like we're going to disappear. "

American Model

In 2008 and 2009, China was shaken by competitive riots in Tibet and Xinjiang that left hundreds of khan, Uighurs and Tibetans dead.

In the following years, remarkably open discussion about China's ethnic politics flourished on campuses, in magazines, even on television. Two of the most influential voices were Hu Angang, a conservative intellectual at Qinghua University in Beijing, and Hu Lianhe, a middle-level official who subsequently rose in the ranks of the Communist Party.

In 2011, both unconnected Hus teamed up to publish essays criticizing longstanding policies recognizing the 55 ethnic minorities in China, offering them preferential treatment on issues such as college admissions and segregated regions, in which people are such as the Uighurs and Tibetans lived with some autonomy.

Hus noted that religious and ethno-nationalist impulses play a role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, a cautionary tale obsessively studied by the Chinese Communist Party. They called for an "upgrade" of policies and outlined a model they believed China should take into account: the United States.

"The policy for early melting of boilers. , was a powerful policy of Anglo-Saxonization that predominantly assimilated other ethnic groups into Anglo-Protestant groups, it said in a document tracing waves of immigration to the United States from southern Europe and later Latin America. "Although the norms of pluralism have become very strong in recent years, the fact remains that ethnic differences tend to disappear."

China notes "very happy life" in Xinjiang after holding 1 million Uighurs

Articles spark controversy in China. But today they are the most cited documents on the subject, said Hu Angang. They helped drive Hu Lianhe to become a senior employee; last year, he defended Xinjiang's Chinese policy before the United Nations Group in Geneva.

In interviews and emails, Hu Angang stated that his ideas were often misunderstood in the West. He does not support forced assimilation, he said, but the wisdom of China's ethnic policies has been proven by data showing the standard of development in Xinjiang and Tibet, outstripping neighboring countries plagued by poverty and chaos.

'Ethnic harmony and social stability is the greatest, most important public good, but invisible and intangible as clean air. "

Quiet death

Weeks after Lyxia was stunned by the video of grieving pilgrims shouting at their crushed mosque Gajuan, a retired village Party secretary sat at a nearby farmhouse, picking up a plate of stewed chicken.

Has China Attacked Islam? Nonsense, he said.

First, he said, the Linxi government paid for the restoration of the Gajuang Mosque – with a Chinese-style roof. The workers dropped the dome, but it was an accident. And the video, which went viral, was uploaded by the naughty young Hui, who has since been punished with 24-hour detention and released. The party was not only sympathetic, he said, but lenient.

"Why is the dome so important?" Said the clerk as he tossed his boot over his coat and removed his Hui hat in favor of a sun hat, "I can change my hat." You can exchange the dome. The government does not say that you cannot be a Muslim or force you to be a Buddhist or a Christian! "

Residents expressed concern about the direction in which things were going, he acknowledged, but quickly rejected the thought. "I tell people they have to trust me, we're not in danger," he said. "And people believe me."

The bottom line is that China has the right to do things its own way, he said.

"How Can Americans Teach China about Religious Freedom?" "How Many Muslims Have Killed America in Iraq and Afghanistan? If you ask the Muslim world if they prefer America or China, I believe they would say China. "

In a high-rise neighborhood near the modest center of Lynxia, ​​Suleiman, a public sector employee of the 30s, said local government officials and Communist Party members, most of whom are Hui, were caught in a relationship.

Party members and government officials are forbidden from worshiping the Hajj, which is a duty of every Muslim, according to Suleiman. to take off their hats when they meet officials

Suleiman said government policies seem almost light in comparison to rhetoric in Chinese social media, where popular Khan nationalist accounts often sound warnings about Sharia law, halal food and other alleged Islamic conspiracies corrupting China

Chinese Christians are also under pressure from the state, Suleiman said, but there seems to be no widespread antipathy toward Christians, no explosive potential.

In the forbidding mountain areas of Central Asia, a quiet newcomer: Chinese troops

"I'm afraid that there will be a mass movement against Muslims someday," he said. "I am terrified because China has been easily conquered by mass movements since ancient times."

For a trip through Linxia, ​​where eight great mosques, a bazaar, and the estates of warlords that once formed the center of Hui's life must see [19659002] Along the highway approaching the city, a wall of black tarpaulin ideally blocks drivers from seeing the mosques of the mosque. On Main Commercial Boulevard, employees covered Islamic arches with Chinese-style stone slabs, chrysanthemum flowers. At a government-run museum, curators removed skulls and headscarves from dummies at the Hui Cultural Exhibit.

In an adjoining room, an exhibit on local history notes how mosques in the region were restored in the 1980s. This misses some of the context: many were destroyed earlier, in 1957, by communist jealousy during a mass fierce uprising by President Mao Zedong.

The Hansi Hui does not tolerate violence today, but only a silent death, Suleiman says, "We are slowly boiling like frogs."

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Today's coverage by mail correspondents around the world

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