Ethnic minority Muslims in China unite to defend a mosque from government-led alterations, shedding light on the suppression of religious freedoms. Learn about their resistance against the “sinicization” campaign.
In a powerful act of resistance, thousands of ethnic minority Muslims in southwestern China have united to protect a mosque under threat from the government’s plans to modify its architectural elements. This movement is part of a broader crackdown on religious freedoms, driven by the implementation of the “sinicization” policy, which aims to align religious practices with traditional Chinese culture.
The mosque, situated in Najiaying village, Yunnan province, belongs to the Hui ethnic group and has become a symbol of resistance against government interference. This village holds historical significance as a center of Islamic culture in Yunnan, making it a focal point for opposing the alteration of Islamic architectural features in over a thousand Hui mosques nationwide.
Videos, verified by CNN, circulating on social media reveal clashes between residents and riot gear-clad police officers. The police blocked access to the mosque, leading to confrontations as outraged residents hurled objects at the officers. Tensions escalated further as worshippers demanded entry for their midday prayers, resulting in additional clashes.
According to an anonymous witness, thousands of Hui residents, including men, women, and children, gathered around the mosque. More than a thousand police officers closely monitored the situation. The witness also disclosed the presence of cranes brought in for forced demolition and scaffolding already erected around the mosque.
For a brief moment, the protesters achieved a temporary victory as they managed to enter the mosque when the police retreated. Throughout the following night and the next day, residents took turns guarding the mosque, fearing that authorities might return to demolish its central green dome and minarets.
Unfortunately, the situation took a turn for the worse as reports emerged of increased arrests by authorities. Fear spread rapidly, aggravated by internet shutdowns in many areas, surveillance drones, and repeated messages from loudspeakers urging protesters to surrender.
The Hui ethnic group, comprising approximately 11 million people, has become a target of the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on Islam, similar to the measures witnessed in Xinjiang. Hui activists argue that the government’s actions extend beyond altering mosque architecture and include restrictions on religious practices, such as the closure of Islamic schools and the prohibition of children from learning and practicing Islam.
The “sinicization” campaign has raised concerns among human rights organizations, who view it as an attempt to erase Hui culture and identity. Reports indicate that over 200 mosques in Yunnan have already lost their domes and minarets, with similar modifications taking place in over a thousand mosques in the northwest of the country.
Ma Ju, a Hui activist based in the United States, founded the Hope Umbrella International Foundation. He highlights the widespread fear experienced by Hui Muslims and emphasizes the severe restrictions imposed on attending mosques. Ma warns that the government’s ultimate objective is a policy of “cultural and religious genocide,” resembling the situation in Xinjiang.
Despite an uncertain future, a resident from Najiaying remains resolute in their fight for freedom of belief and the preservation of their ethnicity. They yearn for the world to understand their ongoing struggles and the impending challenges they face.
Amidst escalating tensions, the defiance displayed by thousands of ethnic minority Muslims in safeguarding their mosque underscores their unwavering commitment to their faith and cultural heritage. As the Chinese government’s crackdown continues to intensify, the destiny of religious freedoms hangs in the balance. Stand with #MuslimsInChina and support their struggle to protect their mosques.