China Beer Festival Angers Muslims

BEIJING – A Chinese county in the far western Xinjiang district has sparked Muslims’ anger after holding a beer festival in the run-up to the holy fasting month of Ramadan, the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar.

“This is an open provocation to the Islamic faith,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The beer festival was held in Niya County in the deep south of Xinjiang, which is overpopulated by Muslims.

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“This beer competition was varied and entertaining,” the government said, noting that there were cash awards of up to 1,000 yuan ($161) for competition winners.

News about the event appeared in an article that was picked up on the regional government’s news website.

“Its aim was to use modern culture to brighten up the village’s cultural life, squeeze the space for illegal religious promotion … and guarantee the village’s harmony and stability,” the website said.

Coming a few days before Ramadan, the event was seen as challenging the Muslims’ fasting month.

Moreover, it followed reports that official notices demanded that Communist Party members, civil servants, students and teachers in particular not to observe Ramadan fast.

Every year, Chinese authorities have repeatedly imposed restrictions on Uighur Muslim in the northwestern region of Xinjiang every Ramadan.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

In December 2014, China banned the wearing of Islamic veiled robes in public in Urumqi, the capital of the province of Xinjiang.

The law in the predominantly Muslim region came as Beijing intensified its so-called campaign against “religious extremism” that it blames for recent violence.

Uighur Muslims are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Xinjiang, which activists call East Turkestan, has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.