China pushes the ‘Sinicization of religion’ in Xinjiang, targeting UyghursMay 22, 2022
When Erkin Tuniyaz, chairman of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), visited the largest mosque in Urumqi before the Eid al-Fitr holy day marking the end of Ramadan, he used the opportunity to promote Beijing’s policy of assimilation of non-Chinese people in its far western regions.
“According to the arrangements and invitation of the autonomous region party committee, we must hold absolutely tight to the plan for Sinicizing the Islamic religion in Xinjiang and actively take the lead in fitting the Islamic religion into socialist society,” he said at the Noghay Mosque, as quoted in an April 30 article by Xinjiang Daily.
Though the 19th-century mosque is technically open, the complex is cordoned off with fences and barbed wire. In recent years, Chinese authorities removed the Arabic shahada, or testament of faith from above the entrance gate to the building — the largest mosque in Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi) — also known as the Tatar Mosque.
They also installed a security checkpoint next to the gate where Muslim worshippers must pass facial recognition scanners to verify their identities as uniformed guards look on.
A few days before Erkin made his statement, XUAR Party Secretary Ma Xingrui commented on China’s political strategy in the region, reemphasizing the concepts of “the shared sense of belonging of the Chinese nation” and “ethnic fusion” in an April article in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Ma proposed strengthening assimilative policies in the XUAR along with the further tightening of the CCP’s religious policy by Sinicizing Islam.