BEIJING – In a fresh crackdown on religious freedoms, a new law banning “abnormal” beards and hijabs in Muslim dominant province of Xinjiang came into effect on Saturday, April 1, as Uighur Muslims accuse Beijing of eroding their culture and religion.
The new laws, titled “Regulations on Extremism of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,” were announced March 29, The BBC reported.
In addition to disallowing the wearing of long beards and veils, the new bans include the prohibition of the spreading “extremist ideas,” the use of the name of “Halal to meddle in the secular affairs of others,” and the “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervor.”
It is also now forbidden tfor homeschool children to refuse to watch state television, and to perform marriages according solely to religious rites.
The law didn’t explain these measures in detail or define what it means by “abnormal”, but the English-language state-run China Daily did say that long beards would be banned “as they are deemed to promote extremism.”
Dolkun Isa, Secretary General of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an exile group based in Germany, said that Chinese news coverage focuses on violence perpetrated by a tiny fraction of the population and “this shapes how some view Uyghurs generally — though clearly unfairly.”
According to official data, China has 23 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces.
Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China — up to 7.5 percent of the population.
Roughly half of Muslims live in Xinjiang, an oil-rich expanse of Central Asia where a cycle of violence and government repression has alarmed human rights advocates and unnerved Beijing over worries about the spread of extremism.
Chinese authorities impose restrictions on Uighur Muslim in the northwestern region of Xinjiang especially during Ramadan.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
China regularly vows to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang.
But experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur separatists, and that domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.