Xinjiang releases report on freedom of religious belief

▲Local residents who are involved in the tourism business play music for tourists in the old town of Kashgar, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, July 9, 2019.Photo:Xinhua

Recently, some anti-China forces from the US and Western countries have been wantonly spreading fallacies like Xinjiang “restricts freedom of religious belief,” “deprives ethnic minorities of their right to religious belief,” “demolishes mosques by force,” “persecutes religious figures”, and so on. Disregard of the facts, these groundless fallacies have severely hurt the feelings of people in the Islamic community and muslims in Xinjiang and have aroused our strong indignation and opposition. Hence grounded on our own experiences, we issue this report to show the real situation of freedom of religious belief in Xinjiang, so as to set the record straight.

I.The right to Freedom of religious belief is fully guaranteed.

Respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is the embodiment of the rule of law of socialism. It is clearly stated in the Constitution of PRC that the citizens of PRC “have the right to the freedom of religious belief”; “no state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or not believe in, any religion”; “the state protects normal religious activities,” and “no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.” China’s Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy and other laws stipulate that citizens have the right to vote and stand for election, the rights to education and equal employment, and are free from discrimination, regardless of religious belief, providing solid legal ground for people to exercise their political, economic, social and cultural rights.

While abiding by national laws, Xinjiang has promulgated and amended the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Religious Affairs and other relevant regulations on the administration of religious bodies, venues for religious activities, religious personnel, which define the rights and obligations of religious organizations, venues for religious activities and religious personnel. As an Islamic association, we establish mosques and apply for the registration of the mosques from the government through due formalities in accordance with the law. The government issues the land use certificate, housing ownership certificate, and registration certificate for each such venue. All the mosques across Xinjiang enjoy the right to establish democratic management organizations, manage their internal affairs, organize and conduct religious activities, receive donations, manage and use property, and initiate public welfare programs.

Muslims’ dietary habits, festivals, wedding and funeral practices, and customs and rituals are respected in Xinjiang. The production, processing, storage, distribution and selling of halal food are conducted in pursuant to the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Administration of Muslim Food. Ubiquitous across Xinjiang, halal restaurants or canteens are all available at government and public institutions, enterprises and schools. Special cemetery areas are allocated for ethnic-minority groups who traditionally bury their dead in the ground. Traditional practices of a religious nature, such as naming a child, funeral pray, burial, and holding Nazer (memorial activities), are respected by the government..Muslims are free to perform legal and normal religious activities such as fasting, attending religious services, chanting scriptures, and praying at will without any interference. During the Ramadan this year which happened amid the coronavirus epidemic, the government arranged medical staff to provide medical services at the mosques, supplying face masks and medicine, taking temperature, and disinfecting the facilities regularly, while providing the prayers with tea, naan and fruit for iftar.


II. Normal religious activities are carried out orderly.

Mosques are very important places for Muslims to carry out religious activities. It should be emphasized that there are a great number of mosques built in the 80s and 90s of last century or even earlier in Xinjiang, some of which were mudbrick houses, or rundown and narrow and small, or became dilapidated for not being well maintained and repaired, disqualifying them to be safe for religious activities, especially under harsh weather conditions, even posing a serious threat to the safety of Muslims when earthquake hits. In addition, some mosques were not reasonably designed, making it inconvenient for Muslims to carry out religious activities. In recent years, as efforts in urbanization and building new countryside intensifies, local governments fully taking Muslims’s appeals and applications into consideration, solved the problem of dilapidated mosque buildings with more rational layouts through rebuilding, relocating, and expanding them in the renovation of shantytowns and building beautiful villages in line with the local urban-rural development plans. Meanwhile, thanks to the strong support of the government, the conditions of mosques have been improved across the board: mosques have been equipped with running water, electricity, natural gas, radio and communications facilities. Roads leading mosques have been improved to make access easier, and medical and public services have been extended to mosques, greatly facilitating the Muslim people to pray. We are very happy about the changes.

In order to satisfy the demands of Muslims for religious knowledge, the Xinjiang Islamic Affairs Steering Committee has commissioned the translation and publication of religious classics, including the Koran and Selections from Al-sahih Muhammad Ibn-Ismail al-Bukhari, in Mandarin, Uygur, Kazakh, and Kirgiz languages, and compiled and printed the Collection of Waez’s speeches. All these publications are provided to religious staff members free of charge. Many ancient religious books, such as the Biography of the Prophet, have been included in the Catalog of National Rare Books of China. The government has allocated funds to protect and sort out the ancient books, such as The Koran and The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography. Religion-related intangible cultural heritage have been effectively protected and inherited.

In accordance with the Regulations on Religious Affairs issued by the State Council, governments at all levels in Xinjiang have taken effective measures to help religious organizations and religious schools improve their working and teaching conditions. As the new campus of Xinjiang Islamic Institute with an investment of more than 100 million yuan was completed in September 2017, and the institute’s eight branches in Ili, Changji, Urumqi, Turpan, Aksu, Kizilsu, Kashgar and Hotan have been built, an educational and training system that centers on the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and is supported by the eight branches has formed. Following the quota-fixed on-demand education principle that enrolls students with preassigned posts, these Islamic institutions formulate their teaching plans and objectives, making sure to produce competent reserves for the religious circles. China Islamic Institute, Xinjiang Islamic college and its eight branches have produced more than 4000 graduates consisting postgraduate, undergraduate, junior college, and secondary school students. Islam has been inherited and developed in Xinjiang in an orderly and healthy way.

All normal religious activities, such as praying, fasting, sermons and preaching, and religious festivals, that Muslims conduct either at mosques or in their own homes according to customary religious practices are exclusive affairs of the believers themselves. Since 1996, many Muslims have taken charter flights arranged by the government to make pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with medical services, translation and other services also being provided to them by the government, ensuring safe and orderly pilgrimages . Up to now, more than 50,000 Muslims have completed the Haji to Mecca.

The governments at all levels in Xinjiang takes great care of the clerical personnel, incorporating all of them into the social security system entitling to the medical insurance, old-age pension, serious illness insurance, and personal accident insurance and arrange a free physical examination for them each year. During the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Party and government leaders at all levels in Xinjiang visit religious circles, and pay regular visits to religious venues, making friends with religious personages, and helping them solve difficulties in work and life. Religious personages’ right to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs is fully guaranteed. More than 1,400 religious personages from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang serve as deputies and members of the people’s congresses and committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at all levels to exercise the right to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs.

▲People attend a culture and tourism festival themed on Dolan and Qiuci culture in Awat County of Aksu Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region, Oct. 25, 2019. Photo:Xinhua

III.Religious extremism has been curbed.

In the name of Islam, religious extremism is a tumor that by nature is anti-human, anti-society, anti-civilization and anti-religion. It is by no means Islam. For a long time, religious extremist forces deceitfully used believers’ religious identity to spread religious extremism, and wantonly distort religious doctrines and canons. They have bound extremism to religion, to religious believers, and to society as a whole. The regard those who do not follow the path of extremism as pagans, verbally assaulting , rejecting and isolating non-believers, Party members and officials, and patriotic religious individuals. They instigate their followers to overthrow secular political powers and establish theocratic states.

Being an important ideological root of violence and terror, extremism has been behind the thousands of violent and terrorist incidents in Xinjiang since 1990s. Religious extremist forces instigates its followers, especially young people, to “engage in a holy war and die for their beliefs in order to enter heaven”, turning some people into extremists and terrorists completely under their spiritual control. Some susceptible followers, no longer possessed any self-control, became extremists and terrorists who heartlessly slaughtered innocent people, including Islamic religious personnel and common Muslims. Numerous facts show that religious extremism has become a real danger that undermines national unity and ethnic solidarity, sabotages religious and social harmony, impairs social stability and peace in Xinjiang, and endangers the life and property of people of all ethnic groups.

By adhering to the fine tradition of patriotism, peace, unity, moderation, tolerance and beneficence of Islam in Xinjiang, we firmly distance ourselves from religious extremists and insist on exposing lies with proper beliefs and honest deeds. It was especially after the riot on July 5th, 2009 in Urumqi and the violent terrorist events on May 22nd, 2014 in Urumqi and July 28th, 2014 in Shache County, we organized the Islamic communities in Xinjiang to immediately declare their position and voice their views on these incidents, and condemn the crimes by laying bare the truth. We consciously integrate the contents of Islamic doctrines that are in line with the socialist core values and the fine traditional Chinese culture into the religious teaching and interpretation, guiding the Muslim people to establish correct attitude towards the country, history, Chinese nation, culture and religion, and effectively enhancing the national consciousness, civic awareness and sense of community of Chinese nation, so that they can consciously resist the infiltration of extremist ideas.

IV. Foreign exchanges are carried out in depth.

In recent years, while adhering to the principle of independence and self-management in terms of religious affairs, we have been engaged in active communications and exchanges with religious organizations around the world on the basis of mutual respect, equality and friendship, establishing, developing, and strengthening friendly relations with overseas religious circles. In 2016, famous religious figures from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries were invited to participate in the “International Seminar on Moderate Thoughts of Islam” in Urumqi; In 2019, the OIC delegation visited Xinjiang, and religious groups from Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan and other countries were invited to visit Xinjiang; In March 2019, the Council of foreign ministers of OIC adopted a resolution commending China’s efforts in providing care to its Muslim citizens.

We participate in extensive international religious academic and cultural exchanges. Representatives from Xinjiang religious circles have participated in many international academic meetings and seminars, and clerical personnel and students from religious schools in Xinjiang have won prizes at many international Koran recitation contests, demonstrating the sound cultural and academic foundation of Xinjiang religious circles. We strengthen exchanges with foreign Islamic colleges and universities. Since 2001, Xinjiang has sent more than 70 religious school students and clerical personnel to Egypt’s Al- Azhar University and Pakistan International Islamic University and other overseas institutions for further study, with a view to improveing their religious knowledge and teaching level. Tell stories of China’s policy of religious belief and its practice in Xinjiang well. Xinjiang has organized the “China Xinjiang Cultural Exchange Group” for exchanges with countries in the Middle East, Oceania, and Europe. Xinjiang religious delegations have participated in the “Chinese Islamic Culture Expo & Art Show” held by the Islamic Association of China in Indonesia, Turkey, and other countries, introducing the patriotism of Islam in China, and experience in resisting the infiltration of religious extremism.

Seeing the religious harmony in Xinjiang, some people in the United States became fretful, fabricating and selling a set of lies and fallacies in order to achieve their hidden agendas. In fact, the US itself is plagued with serious religious discrimination. In 2017, the president of the US signed the “Muslim Ban”, which aroused opposition from the international community. According to the relevant survey of the US, 75% of US adult Muslims said that there was a great deal of discrimination against Muslims in American society, and that 69% of the general public held the same view. 50% of American Muslims believed it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the US in recent years. In the US’s mid-term election in 2018 , more than one third of the candidates claimed that Muslims were born violent or imminently threatening and nearly a third called for the deprivation of Muslims’ basic rights or claimed that Islam was not a religion. We urge the US to pay more attention to religious discrimination on its own land, stop politicising religious issues, let alone desecrat the holy name of religion, because any rumor and slander cannot deny the fact that freedom of religious belief is guaranteed in Xinjiang.

Islamic Association of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

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