After Locking Up Over Million Muslims In “Re-Education” Prisons, Beijing Launches A Five-Year Plan To ‘Sinicise’ Islam

 After Locking Up Over Million Muslims In “Re-Education” Prisons, Beijing Launches A Five-Year Plan To ‘Sinicise’ IslamAn Uyghur Muslim in China. (Kevin Frayer via Getty Images)

China will soon unveil a five-year plan to "Sinicize" Islam, the latest move by Beijing to recast the religion and make it compatible with Chinese socialism in consistent with the line advocated by President Xi Jinping last year, China’s main English newspaper Global Times has reported.

The move by Beijing comes amidst a massive security crackdown imprisoning millions of Uighur Muslims in the far-western Xinjiang region and putting them through indoctrination in “re-education camps”. In these camps, Muslims are lectured on communist ideology and made to sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party. Many are subject to forced labour, solitary confinement, beatings and minimal food.

At a seminar held in Beijing on Saturday (Jan 5), representatives from local Islamic associations from eight provinces and regions, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hunan, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces, discussed a five-year (2018-22) outline on the sinicization of Islam . They agreed that the outline is the basic policy for Islamic sinicization for the next five years, according to a statement published on the China Islamic Association's website.

Practising Islam has been banned in parts of China. Muslims caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab face the threat of arrest. Islamic religious schools and Arabic classes have been banned and children barred from participating in Muslim activities. Many mosques have been stripped of symbols like crescents and domes.

Global Times quoted Yang Faming, head of the China Islamic Association, as saying that relevant measures should be implemented, including the holding of lectures and providing training on socialist core values, laws and traditional culture, as well as guiding Muslims through vivid stories with a positive spirit.

China had earlier announced a five-year plan to ‘sinicise’ Christianity along with new rules on religious affairs. Over the past few months, thousands of ‘house churches’ have been shut down by authorities. Authorities seized Bibles even as e-commerce sites in China have pulled out the book from their websites. Christians in China have reportedly been holding their masses in secret amid the crackdown.

As part of the crackdown, Chinese authorities raided churches and enforced the demand that the practitioners and the churches be registered with the government. Several reports cited a case of a township where Christians were encouraged by the authorities to replace paintings of Jesus with portraits of Xi Jinping. The epicentre of China’s attack on Christianity has been its Christian heartland of Henan province. Several pastors have fled the country to the United States because of its religious policy. Out of the 200 million believers in China, 67 million are reportedly Christians. This has led to the crackdown on Christianity which is seen as being aligned with Western ideals.

President XI Jinping, a hardcore atheist and unapologetic Chinese nationalist, has outlined his vision to sinicise all faiths many times since he took office in 2013. Though, Communist Party Of China (CCP) has been moving in that direction for decades, it has put the pedal on accelerator since Xi’s ascension. Despite severe backlash, especially regarding CCP’s relentless crackdown on Christianity and Islam, the communist party hasn’t deterred in its conviction of painting all faiths with Chinese colours. Xi couldn’t care less about world opinion.

Last year, Xi said that religious groups must adhere to the leadership of the CCP, and support the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. He exhorted all faiths to merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China's reform and opening up drive and socialist modernisation. "We should guide and educate the religious circle and their followers with the socialist core values, and guide the religious people with ideas of unity, progress, peace and tolerance," he added.

Early last year, China made Pope Francis agree to its terms on appointments of bishops to the church in China. The pope is no longer final authority on deciding his own bishops in the communist country. He, instead, decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government and in addition to this genuflection also announced to sidelines two of his own loyal appointees who had no love lost with the CCP.

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