Apple has deleted Quran Majeed, a popular iOS app for reading and listening to the Quran, from the Chinese App Store. As reported, the company withdrew the app at the request of government officials.
The move is part of a larger effort in China to crack down on foreign content, or at the very least, make it more difficult for that content to exist within the Great Firewall.
In the face of increasing state compliance requirements, LinkedIn announced recently that it would be eliminating the Chinese version of its site by the end of the year.
According to the app's developer, Pakistan Data Management Services, Quran Majeed is free and "recognised by more than 25 million Muslim users around the world".
The Apple Censorship website, which monitors apps on App Store, was the first to detect the deletion of Quran Majeed.
As reported by BBC, the app was taken down after it was discovered to be hosting unlawful religious literature. In a statement, the developer said: "According to Apple, our app Quran Majeed has been removed from the China App Store because it includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities".
PDMS, whose app had close to one million users in China, said that it was working with China's Cyberspace Administration to remedy the issue.
Apple has been the subject of much debate over the years on how it complies with local laws. Many local content-focused regulations in some countries, according to critics, amount to censorship, and Apple is too willing to comply.
Apple claims that its first objective is to comply with the laws of the nations in which it operates, regardless of whether it agrees with the legislation or not.
Although China officially recognises Islam as a religion, it has also been accused of human rights violations and genocide against the Muslim-majority Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.
The tech giant’s human rights policy states: "We’re required to comply with local laws, and at times, there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right path forward. With dialogue and a belief in the power of engagement, we try to find the solution that best serves our users — their privacy, their ability to express themselves, and their access to reliable information and helpful technology.”
However, it is still not clear what rules the app has broken in China.
It appears that Apple's actions are consistent. According to a report by The New York Times, Apple will remove an app from China if it covers specific forbidden topics, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, as well as Tibetan and Taiwanese independence.
There are further problems for Apple as a corporation that leads to the company adhering to state regulations. It is reliant on its commercial relationship and sales in China. Taking a strong stand against the Communist government could jeopardise that.
The withdrawal of Quran Majeed from China's Apple App Store is not the only one. This week, Olive Tree's Bible App was also removed in China. According to Olive Tree, Apple pulled it down intentionally.
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