by Mugdha Variyar, IBT
China is reportedly forcing officials in the restive Xinjiang region to swear that they will not fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Thursday.
Xinjiang is home to Uighur Muslims, and China has cracked down on the region ever since Islamist militants carried out deadly terror attacks in the recent years.
In continuation of last year’s ‘ban’ on Ramadan fasting, state websites have been putting up notices asking officials and civil servants, and even students and teachers, to not observe Ramadan, according to Reuters.
In some particularly restive counties in Xinjiang, officials have been asked to give assurances, orally and in writing, “guaranteeing they have no faith, will not attend religious activities and will lead the way in not fasting over Ramadan”, Reuters reported citing state media.
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims around the world, which involves fasting from dawn to dusk and offering prayers and reading the Quran over 30 days.
Apart from a ‘ban’ on fasting, China is also stoking religious sentiments by ordering halal restaurants to remain open during the day in the Jinghe county, while also ordering shops to continue selling cigarettes and alcohol.
China’s clampdown on the month of Ramadan in the restive region is being seen as a provocation for more unrest in the region.
China already ruffled feathers by imposing a ban on burqas in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi in December last year.
Around 20 million Muslims live in China, with eight million Uighur Muslims, who speak Turkish, concentrated in the Xinjiang region in the country’s northwest.