China forbids Uyghurs from fasting during Ramadan again

Muslims praying in a mosque. Image: Reuters

DHARAMSALA, 8 May: The Chinese Government has forbidden Uyghur Muslims from fasting and religious practices by Islamic minorities during Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer.

Renewing what has become its annual policy, Chinese Government enforced the restrictions in the Muslim-majority Western province of Xinjiang from practising Roza, the dawn-to-dusk fast observed for the entire holy month of Ramadan which began from Sunday.

The Chinese authorities have called fasting — along with other displays of religious affiliation including beards, headscarves, regular prayers and avoidance of alcohol; a “sign of extremism”, the abc.netau reported citing an Amnesty International report.

“Any of these can land you in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps, which the government calls ‘transformation-through-education centres'”, the report said.

While restrictions on Ramadan fasting in schools and government offices have existed for decades, mass surveillance and detentions have intensified over the past three years in an effort to stop families from adhering to Muslim traditions even within their own homes, the report said citing Alip Erkin, an exiled Uyghur media activist.

Meanwhile, China’s National Religious Affairs Administration were unavailable for comment while China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang has maintained that China administers religious affairs “according to the law”, the report added.

Condemning the restrictions, activists across the globe have called for a #FastFromChina in retaliation to the ban, calling on Muslims and human rights supporters to refrain from buying Chinese products in order to support China’s repressed Muslim minorities, the report added.

“China is the only place in the world where Muslims are not allowed to fast,” said a post on the Save Uighur website announcing the campaign while others urged people who care for freedom of religion to not buy any Chinese products during the month of Ramadan.

China has around 20 million Muslims spread throughout the country, only a portion of which are Uyghur. The crackdown on Ramadan fasting came days after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)singled out China for its attacks on religion and human rights in its newly released annual report.

In its 20th annual report, released on 29 April, the Commission offered a bleak picture of oppressed conditions for practising faith for believers of all stripes in the world’s most populous country and called for greater action, both from the United States and the international community, in pursuing greater protections for people of faith.

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