Chinese authorities have stepped up a crackdown on Muslim communities in southern Hainan province, closing Islamic schools and replacing religious slogans with official nationalistic posters, according to news reports.
At least two Islamic schools in the provincial capital Sanya had been shut in the past two years, while female students wearing headscarves were barred from entering schools, the New York Times reported.
Signs posted on shops and homes that read “Allahu akbar,” meaning God is greatest, were covered with posters touting the “China Dream,” a propagandist slogan promoting nationalism, the report said.
New mosques had to reduce their size, and construction of those with Arabic features such as domes and minarets had been halted, the report said.
Restaurants also received orders to remove the Chinese characters for “halal” from their signs and menus, according to Voice of America.
The hostile measures reversed official policies several years back that were supportive of local Muslim communities and their connection with Islamic groups in other parts of Asia, religious leaders and residents in Sanya were quoted as saying.
The tightened restrictions on Hainan came as part of a wider anti-Muslim campaign across China, chiefly in the northwestern Xinjiang region. Since 2009, when a clash took place in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, authorities have been targeting Muslim groups in the name of curbing extremism and terrorism.
China’s Communist Party was working to assimilate Muslims into mainstream Han Chinese culture as state leaders saw cultures different to their own as a threat to their rule, independent commentator Gu Yi, who is Muslim, told VOA.
Efforts to sinicize Chinese Muslims would create a different identity that set them apart from other followers of the faith in the rest of the world, Gu said. The aim was to isolate Muslims in China from the ties and values shared by believers of the same religion globally, he said.
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