Uyghurs Losing Circumcision Traditions Under China’s Xinjiang PoliciesJanuary 29, 2021
Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are severely restricting the Islamic tradition of circumcision, either by delinking its religious significance or banning it outright, according to officials.
A “stability” officer in Suydung (Shuiding) township, in Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Qorghas (Huocheng) county, told RFA that one of the points of education she and her colleagues give to residents is that they should not take part in religious circumcisions.
According to the woman, once they reach the age for circumcision, boys are taken to a designated hospital in nearby Ghulja (Yining) city, where the operation is performed. Family gatherings, prayers, and neighborhood celebrations, all part of the religious and social fabric, are reportedly prohibited on the day of the circumcision.
“You are supposed to have it done at government-sanctioned hospitals,” she said. “It is prohibited to do the ritual at home with religious rites.”
The officer said authorities have even put heavy restrictions on visits to those young boys who have been circumcised in government-approved hospitals.
Would-be visitors to their hospital rooms are required to first register themselves with the neighborhood community center. If there are more than 10 visitors to a single child, the parents will be punished, perhaps even with detention in a camp or other center.
“They told us if relatives come, the number should not exceed 10, and we should report it to the government,” she said.
“We were told that if there are visitors to see the child, we should register them, otherwise there will be a problem … that they will be sent for ‘re-education.’”
A civil servant in the seat of Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture confirmed that religious life-cycle ceremonies, including circumcisions and weddings, are also heavily restricted in her region of the XUAR.
When asked whether such events can be performed under the guidance of an akhun, or Muslim officiant, she confirmed that doing so “is not allowed” in Kashgar.
Earlier reporting by RFA has confirmed that religious wedding rites, nikah, have been heavily restricted in parts of Kashgar for at least the past two years.
Historically, Uyghur couples have performed nikah on the morning of their wedding, gathering with their immediate families, as well as their best man and maid of honor, in the presence of an akhun. Multiple wedding receptions—complete with food, dancing, and merriment, and attended by extended family and members of the couple’s social circle—typically follows during the same afternoon and evening, or over the course of subsequent days.
But sources told RFA in August last year that after the internment campaign began in 2017, authorities began pushing couples to wed solely by obtaining an official marriage license and without nikah, which they identified as a sign of “religious extremism.”