Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Hui fearful as PRC Sinicizes religion

‘STICK TO THE DIRECTIVES’:It came as a shock when earlier this year, the practices of China’s second-largest Muslim group were targeted alongside other groups

AP, JINAN, China

Butcher Ma Changli stands in his shop in the Islamic neighborhood of Niujie in Beijing on Dec. 7.

Photo: AP

Cui Haoxin (崔浩新) is too young to remember the days of his people’s oppression under Mao Zedong (毛澤東).

The 39-year-old poet was born after the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, when the Hui — China’s second-largest Muslim ethnic group — were among the masses tormented by the Red Guard.

In the years since, the Hui have generally been supportive of the government and mostly spared the kind of persecution endured by China’s largest Muslim group, the Uighurs.

However, there are signs that that is changing. Cui fears both that history might be repeating itself and for his own safety as he tries to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable.

In August, town officials in the Hui region of Ningxia issued a demolition order for the landmark Grand Mosque in Weizhou, although they later backed off in the face of protests.

More recently, authorities in nearby Gansu Province ordered closed a school that taught Arabic, the language of the Koran and other Islamic religious texts. The school had employed and served mainly Hui since 1984.

A CCP official from Ningxia visited Xinjiang, center of Uighur oppression, to “study and investigate how Xinjiang fights terrorism and legally manages religious affairs.”

The nation under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is clamping down on minorities, tightening control over a wide spectrum of religious and political activity.

In some places, a campaign to Sinicize religion has prompted authorities to seize Bibles, remove the halal designation from food products, demolish churches and strip mosques of loudspeakers, and Islamic crescents and domes.

Cui has spoken out against government intrusions. He is working on a novel with a nightmarish plot: Believers are brutalized by demons in a Cultural Revolution in Hell.

“The Muslims resisted and tried to protect the mosque,” he said, describing the work. “They failed.”

He worries that violence lies ahead.

“One has dignity. For a person, it is his or her bottom line,” he said. “If the persecution is too unbearable, if something happens, as I said, there could be a disaster.”

Cui speaks eloquently about his people, who claim descent from Persian and Arab traders who traveled to China 1,300 years ago.

The 10 million Hui living across China generally speak Mandarin — Cui is a former teacher of the standard Chinese dialect — and follow many Chinese cultural practices. They enjoy relative freedom of worship compared with the Uighurs, some of whom call the Hui tawuz, which means watermelon in the Uighur’s Turkic language.

“Green or Islamic on the outside, and red or communist on the inside,” University of Toronto professor Isabelle Cote wrote in a study on Uighur attacks on Hui in Xinjiang from 2009 to 2013.

Farther back, Hui served Chinese emperors as shock troops repressing Uighur rebellions.

In Beijing, Arabic signs mark Hui bakeries, teahouses, halal restaurants and a thousand-year-old mosque bustling with activity in the historically Islamic neighborhood of Niujie.

Ma Changli, who has run a butcher shop in the enclave for the past five years, said that police help provide security for Friday prayers at the mosque.

“Our country has always been pretty supportive to our worship,” the 39-year-old butcher said, standing in front of an Islamic inscription, and hanging lamb and beef racks.

While the Hui face prejudice from the Han Chinese majority, they are proud to be Chinese and have a “positive outlook for the future,” said David Stroup, a University of Oklahoma professor who met Hui across China in 2016.

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