Beijing has vehemently denied that authorities have been ordered to seize copies of the Quran and other Islam-related items from Muslim residents in the restive western province of Xinjiang. Earlier this week, Radio Free Asia reported that officials across Xinjiang were threatening families and mosques that ethnic minority Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims would face harsh punishment if they did not hand in prayer mats and copies of the Quran. According to the World Ughyur Congress, the police were using WeChat, a popular social media platform, to issue these threats.
An estimated 10 million Ughyur Muslims live in Xinjiang. Over the past few years, several hundred people have died in violence blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, though rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies. These include restrictions on “abnormal” beards and the wearing of veils in public places. Refusal to watch state television or accept state education is also barred along with baby names with religious overtones such as Jihad, Imam and Medina.
In May, the World Uyghur Congress told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that the local government in Hotan had begun enforcing changes to lines recited during Friday prayers, and released photographs of documents which showed that the call to prayer across the prefecture was changed to: “We are the children of the motherland.
The motherland is great,” and that the Tasbih—a repeatedly uttered section of prayers such as “Allah is great” —has been changed to: “We give thanks to China. We give thanks to Chairman Xi.” Earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a “great wall of iron” to secure Xinjiang. As Xi prepares for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China which begins October 18 in Beijing, one can expect even more measures as he ensures that nothing in the region rains on his parade.