David Stroup, Creator supplied
Within the usually quiet metropolis of Xining, capital of northwest China’s Qinghai province, on a regular basis interactions between town’s ethnic teams – Han Chinese language, Hui Muslim, Tibetans, Turkic Salars and others – normally move with out battle or fanfare. However because of the municipal authorities’s controversial demolition of the doorway corridor of town’s well-known Dongguan Mosque, one of many largest in China, town finds itself squarely within the cross-hairs of a nationwide marketing campaign to make Islam extra Chinese language or “sinicise” it – in official language, “to information Islam to be appropriate with socialism”.
The elimination of the “Arabic-style” domes and minarets from the entrance gate of the mosque has sparked backlash from native residents, and even captured the eye of overseas diplomats. The story of the Dongguan’s renovation indicators the enlargement of an ongoing crackdown on Islam in China, which has so far largely been enacted towards Uyghurs and different Turkic Muslims.
On July 9 2021, pictures of a discover from the Xining municipal authorities saying the renovation of the entrance gate of the Dongguan Mosque circulated on social media websites corresponding to Sina Weibo and Zhihu. Related adjustments have been enacted on the metropolis’s different mosques – at the least ten of which stand within the metropolis’s central Chengdong District, alone. Twitter customers in Xining documented and shared pictures of those adjustments as they swept throughout town.
The displeased response of the native Hui Muslim group – which contains 16% of Xining’s inhabitants – was palpable. On July 15, a lady sporting a hijab prostrated herself in prayer on the road in entrance of the mosque whereas she sobbed. Captured on video, the girl’s lone protest unfold on-line, inspiring a cartoon that went viral.
However protests proved futile. On September 13 a tweet from Christina Scott, the British deputy head of mission to China, who was visiting town, in contrast the photograph of the constructing in a current guidebook which displayed its Arabesque options, to the present state of the constructing, denuded of its dome and minarets.
The sinicisation of Dongguan Mosque suggests a worrisome development towards a state-driven, coercive assimilation of Muslim minorities by the ruling Chinese language Communist Celebration.
Marketing campaign of sinicisation
The demolition of the entrance gate has occurred towards the backdrop of a a lot bigger crackdown on Islamic id unfolding throughout China. Probably the most notable elements of this marketing campaign have occurred within the space China refers to because the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Area as part of the so-called “Individuals’s Warfare on Terror”, a repressive marketing campaign that criminalises many elements of on a regular basis non secular behaviour. Turkic Muslims have been detained in focus camps, sentenced to prolonged jail phrases, and subjected to pressured labour.
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For Hui communities, this crackdown has resulted in foreclosures of non-state permitted expressions of religion. Inside get together speeches have likened Islam to a “virus”. It’s this mentality that drives the regime to curtail overtly Islamic structure in public areas.
The Nanguan mosque in Yinchuan underwent the same transformation in 2020. Linxia Hui Autonomous County in Gansu eliminated loudspeakers (normally used to broadcast the decision to prayer) and Arabic indicators from mosques in June of 2018. In December of the identical yr, three mosques in Yunnan have been demolished, having been declared “unlawful unregistered buildings”.
By late 2019, studies from Henan, and Shandong pointed to the nationwide enlargement of the marketing campaign. Even outlets and eating places have seen their Arabic signage sinicised.
Centre of Islam
The symbolic significance of the Dongguan mosque is difficult to understate. Politically, the Dongguan has lengthy represented energy throughout the area. Once I visited the world a number of years in the past to analysis my forthcoming e book, Pure and True: The on a regular basis politics of ethnicity for China’s Hui Muslims, one of many folks I interviewed referred to the neighbourhood it dominated because the “de-facto Islamic capital of China”. The realm is residence to numerous companies, eating places and cultural sources. The mosque gives lessons in Arabic and posts assortment packing containers for donations to charitable initiatives.
As a spot of worship, the Dongguan is the one Yihewani mosque in Xining that holds weekly Friday afternoon prayers. As many as 70,000 folks attend in a typical week, spilling out into the road. Throughout Ramadan, greater than 200,000 folks may collect for Friday prayers, with Eid celebrations drawing as many as 300,000.
Friday prayers on the Dongguan Mosque have been seen as distinguished examples of cooperation between native authorities and the mosque. The native authorities assisted in crowd administration by sending visitors officers to direct heavy visitors on the road throughout prayers.
Even the although the mosque’s entrance gate, a current addition constructed within the early Nineties, is just not by any means a “heritage” function, it nonetheless stands as a visual cultural image on the group’s coronary heart. The truth that it’s being stripped of iconography which visually hyperlinks it to Islam is jarring. The emotional influence of this determination on group members will undoubtedly be important.
The way forward for Islam in Hui communities
To this point, sinicisation has been met with little resistance. In August 2018, in rural Weizhou township, east of Qinghai, the proposed demolition of the group’s Grand Mosque sparked demonstrations by the clergy in protest. Whereas the constructing was in the end spared from complete demolition, it’s “Arabian-style” architectural options have been sinicised, its dome eliminated and remodelled with a Chinese language-style roof.
On my go to in early 2016, residents of Weizhou expressed pleasure of their mosque as an indication of their group’s ascent to reasonable prosperity from the depths of rural poverty. The demonstrations of 2018 spoke to the residents’ shock that their image of profitable cooperation with the state could possibly be focused for demolition.
Because the sinicisation marketing campaign arrives on the doorstep of China’s most distinguished and culturally vital mosque, such sentiments of discontent will solely enlarge. In enacting aggressive measures of standardisation the get together threatens to undermine the soundness it seeks to protect. The demolition of the entrance gate prompted frustration and mobilisation, suggesting that robust currents of dissatisfaction run beneath the floor.
David R. Stroup has acquired funding from the Fulbright Basis.