Uighur Muslims suffer under religious repression

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SHAFAQNA – URUMQI – As China increases its crackdown on Xinjiang Muslims, a UN investigator has criticized its anti-Muslim policies as “disturbing”, warning against increasing harassment and intimidation of Muslims in the far western region.

“I heard, also, very disturbing stories about harassment, for instance, intimidation during Ramadan — children in schools were expected to break their fasting on Ramadan,” Heiner Bielefeldt, a UN human rights investigator, was quotes by Reuters on Wednesday, March 11.

Citing cases of discrimination against Uighur Muslims, Bielefeldt, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said that China’s actions against the Uighurs were “a major problem”.

Last week, a top communist party leader in Kashgar warned against donning the Islamic headscarf, describing the city as a “frontline” in its battle against extremism.

Earlier in December, China banned the wearing of Islamic veiled robes in public in Urumqi, the capital of the province of Xinjiang.

The law in the predominantly Muslim region came as Beijing intensified its so-called campaign against “religious extremism” that it blames for recent violence.

The UN investigator has also criticized china’s attempts to control the reincarnation of Tibetan monks.

Beijing was “really destroying the autonomy of religious communities, poisoning the relationship between different sub-groups, creating schisms, pitching off people against each other in order to exercise control,” he said.

Bielefeldt said he believed Beijing’s crackdown on freedom of religion stemmed from nervousness from an “authoritarian” government of people coming together “outside of official channels.”

“The Chinese government is a superpower in many regards but is weak in terms of democratic legitimacy,” he said.

Uighur Muslims are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Xinjiang, which activists call East Turkestan, has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.

Earlier in 2014, Xinjiang banned the practicing of religion in government buildings, as well as wearing clothes or logos associated with religious extremism.

In August, the northern Xinjiang city of Karamay prohibited young men with beards and women in burqas or hijabs from boarding public buses.

Police have also raided women’s dress shops in the province to confiscate full length robes, AP reported.

In 2013, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – which is listed as a terrorist group by the UN – produced 107 terror-related audio and video materials.

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