In the largest Muslim county in China, the Chinese government has banned children from attending religious events and classes that focus on the Quran. As per the state-run Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, students from the Linxia county in the province of Gansu cannot even enter religious buildings over their school break.
This county is home to many Hui, of which there are well over 10 million in China, and who are mostly Muslim. The Hui do also populate other countries like Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The majority of the Hui are Sunni. While official estimates figure there are around 21 million Muslims in China total, many would boost that number to 50 million or even more.
The Chinese government allows for religious freedom in their country — with some fine print. They only allow for “normal religious activity,” which means specific, registered places of worship that have been sanctioned and approved by the government.
This particular occurrence comes during the most recent wave of China’s attempts to stifle religious freedoms. Historically, the staunchly atheist and communist country has not only targeted Muslims — they have a long history of going after Chinese Christians as well.
In 2013, the Chinese government began a program removing crosses from churches across the country. They claimed it was “for the sake of safety and beauty,” but many saw it as an act to disallow religious expression. The “safety” issue was continuously harped upon, but how crosses are particularly unsafe compared to any other decoration is unclear.
However, going past the removal of crosses, many churches were simply destroyed instead, citing similar, vague reasons. Last June, Chinese officials dragged Christians out of a church in Shanggiu, Henan province, and beat them. 300 Police Officers were involved as they continued to destroy the church that was under construction, all because it was deemed an “illegal structure.” Apparently the church had not paid a vaguely described road fee of approximately $620.
Official estimates put just over 30 million Christians living in China, but most estimates say it is significantly more — they just don’t outwardly identify as such. Some estimates go all the way up to 100 million Christians.
Thoughts of the author:
While it may seem foreign to many Americans to be required to register your religion with the government, this is a common practice across the globe. It is a tool often used as tensions rise and fall, policies shift and bend — if the government needs some “ammunition” against their own people, it is likely they can use this to their advantage. I saw this in Pakistan with Sunnis and Shiites, and the west has a long and bloody history with this when it comes to Protestants and Catholics; however, those days in western culture have passed for now.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.