01/03/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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Ningxia: Muslims against police over mosque demolition

Hui Muslims living in the north-central and semi-desert province have traditionally been friendly to the government. More than a thousand police clash with residents in Taoshan. About 50 people are injured and 100 arrested, some sources say.
Hexi (AsiaNews) – More than a thousand police agents in anti-riot gear clashed with residents in Taoshan village, near the city of Hexi, in Ningxia, a semi-desert province in north-central China inhabited by ethnic Hui Muslims. The issue was the demolition of a local mosque. Unlike Uyghurs, Hui Muslims have traditionally been friendly to the government.

Local public officials confirmed the place of worship was demolished because it was deemed “illegal”. Sources cited by the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ICHRD) said that 50 people were injured and more than 100 detained last Saturday. Still more information is coming from the remote and sparsely populated province.

Hui Muslims are the area’s largest minority and have traditionally been friendly to the authorities. Unlike Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, Hui Islam is not anti-regime. The fact that on this occasion they openly challenged the regime is an indication that the government’s anti-religious crackdown is intensifying.

Hui religious practice is based on Qur‘anic teachings that focus on mosque prayers. Hui Muslims have traditionally shied away from politics or open criticism of the government’s religious policies. In fact, they have usually praised them for their openness, at least, until now.

In the past few years, China has become increasingly concerned that fundamentalism is growing among the hitherto “quiet” Hui and that it could fuel social tensions.

Once known for their liberal Islam, more and more people in Hui areas attend mosque prayers, more and more women are wearing the veil, and an increasing number of young people want to study Arabic and the Qur‘an.
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