In Brief

Chinese authorities launch anti-halal campaign

Government officers in predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang urged to speak Mandarin at work and in public

Authorities in China’s predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang have launched a campaign against halal products in a bid to stop Islam “penetrating secular life” and fuelling “extremism”.

The move follows months of persecution of the 12 million Muslims, most of them Uighurs, who live in the northwestern region. Communist party officials in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, are calling on government officers to strengthen the “ideological struggle” and fight “halalification”, or the “pan-halal tendency”, according to a notice posted on the city’s official account on messaging app WeChat.

This so-called tendency refers to the practice of “extending halal labelling – food that adheres to Islamic law – to non-food items to appeal to Muslim consumers”, says The Guardian. Officials and state media “say the growing number of products labelled halal allows Islamic rituals to penetrate secular life in China”, the newpaper adds.

Earlier this week, Liu Ming, secretary of the city’s Communist Party members group, led a meeting of party officials in an oath. A photo posted on the party’s WeChat account shows Liu speaking into a microphone, his fist clenched in the air, as he pledged: “My belief is Marxism-Leninism. I don’t believe in any religious belief. I must decisively fight against halalification to the end.”

The Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper says that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” is fuelling hostility toward religion. As part of the anti-halal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uighur head prosecutor, wrote an article for the newpaper, under the headline: “Friend, you do not need to find a halal restaurant specially for me.”

He argued: “We ethnic minorities have taken this respect for our eating habits for granted. We have not thought about respecting their eating habits.

“Changing eating habits has a significant and far-reaching impact for countering extremism!” 

Chinese citizens “are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control”, says Reuters.

The Chinese government has been subject to heavy criticism from international human rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as a million, mostly Muslim, ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Beijing has denied reports of “political re-education camps” but “evidence is mounting in the form of government documents and testimonies from former detainees”, says France24.

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