Thousands of ethnic minority Muslims defy Chinese authorities in defence of mosque

Chinese Muslims. Image credit Pixaby

IBNS: A large number of ethnic minority Muslims surrounded a mosque in southwestern China recently as they tried to stop the attempt by authorities to remove its dome and minarets, media reports said.

The apparent alteration of a mosque belonging to the Hui ethnic group in Najiaying village, Yunnan province comes amid a sweeping campaign unleashed by China’s leader Xi Jinping to “sinicize” religion, reports CNN.

The policy aims to purge religious faiths of foreign influence and align them more closely with traditional Chinese culture – and the authoritarian rule of the officially atheist Communist Party, the American news channel reported.

In recent years, authorities have removed overtly Islamic architecture – destroying domes and tearing down minarets – from more than a thousand Hui mosques across the country, Hui activists told CNN, with the Najiaying mosque being one of the last holdouts.

Now, the “sinicization” campaign appears to be finally coming for Najiaying – a historic home to the Hui and an important hub for Islamic culture in Yunnan, an ethnically diverse province on China’s borders with Southeast Asia.

However, the attempt has received fierce backlash from locals.

Videos posted on social media and geolocated by CNN show residents clashing with lines of police officers in riot gear, who blocked off the entrance to the mosque and pushed back the crowd with shields and batons.

Residents shouted back in anger, with some hurling water bottles and bricks at the police, the videos show.

“This is our last bit of dignity,” a local witness told CNN. “It’s like coming to our house to demolish our home. We can’t allow that to happen.”

The source, who declined to be named over fears for personal safety, told CNN thousands of Hui residents – including men and women, elderly and children – had gathered around the mosque on Saturday, under the close watch of more than 1,000 police officers deployed nearby.

“After arriving at the mosque, we realized that they had driven the cranes into the compound and were ready for the forced demolition,” the source said, adding that scaffolding had already been erected around the mosque.

#EthnicMinorityMuslims; #China; #DefenceOfMosque