China intensifies assimilation campaign against Muslim children

    WORLD  18 June 2024 - 19:58

    In an article published by Foreign Policy, it is highlighted that Beijing's crackdown on Islam is increasingly targeting children. Caliber.Az provides an analysis of the article.

    On March 15, during Ramadan, Muslims in Yuxi, Yunnan province, received a WeChat message from the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, authorizing surveillance of fasting among schoolchildren. The notice instructed government bodies to investigate minors' participation in fasting and religious activities, emphasizing the separation of education and religion.

    The Hui, an ethnic Muslim minority in Yuxi with deep historical roots in China, are at the center of a nationwide Sinification campaign that began after the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 2016 forum on religious work. President Xi Jinping emphasized the need for religious groups to align with CCP leadership and Chinese culture. This campaign promotes the assimilation of all ethnic minorities into Han Chinese culture.

    Initially, the campaign focused on removing Arabic halal signs and altering mosque architecture to prevent "Saudization and Arabization." Now, it includes profiling Hui youth under the guise of separating religion from education. Techniques first used on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, such as high-tech surveillance and mass incarcerations for religious practices, are now being applied to the Hui. The "People's War on Terror" in Xinjiang is cited as a precedent for these measures.

    Reports indicate that surveillance methods from Xinjiang, like "convenient police stations," are spreading to other provinces, and party cadres from Ningxia are undergoing anti-terrorism training. The infamous 2015 "watermelon incident" in Xinjiang, where Muslim students were coerced into breaking their fasts, serves as a reminder of the intensified surveillance that followed.

    Despite constitutional claims of religious freedom, Islam faces severe restrictions in China. Muslim funerals are restricted, and Hui children are barred from religious studies. In 2016, Gansu province banned Islamic teachings in nursery schools, citing the principle of separating religion from education. This rationale has been used to shut down Hui-run childcare centers and religious schools across several provinces.

    Efforts to separate minority children from their faith and culture extend beyond the Hui. In Inner Mongolia, children face restrictions on learning their language and history, while in Tibet, children are sent to boarding schools to learn Mandarin. Uyghur children, whose parents are detained, are placed in indoctrination centers.

    In Shadian, a Hui community in Yunnan, surveillance and restrictions on Islamic practices in schools have intensified since a 2014 knife attack in Kunming, attributed to Uyghur separatists. Local policies now prohibit veils for teachers and restrict religious expressions in schools.

    Xi Jinping’s absorption of the State Administration of Religious Affairs into the United Front Work Department in 2018 marked a shift from administrative to ideological control of religion. The Chinese Islamic Association’s policy plan on Sinification emphasizes patriotic education and the separation of religion from education.

    In Shadian, the policing of Islam among children is pervasive. Religious retreats are restricted, and madrasas are secularized. This form of Sinicization is driven by Xi’s focus on indoctrination, as emphasized in his 2018 national education conference speech. Advanced surveillance technologies, initially used in Xinjiang, are now being implemented nationwide.

    For instance, Hikvision's technology, used to track ethnic minority students' fasting, is being introduced in schools across China. Such measures indicate a grim future for China's ethnically Muslim youth, who, even if they abandon their faith, remain alienated and suspect in Chinese society.

    Caliber.Az

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