China must revoke fasting ban

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, MAPIM president | .

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organization (MAPIM) registers its strong objection and protest against the government of China which has banned civil servants, students and teachers in its mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open.

The China's ruling Communist party for years has restricted the practice in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. Even schools are ordered to communicate to students that "during Ramadan, ethnic minority students do not fast, do not enter mosques ... and do not attend religious activities". Similar orders were posted on the websites of other Xinjiang education bureaus and schools.

This does not only violates the human rights of its own citizen but also infringe on its very provision of religious freedom as stipulated in its constitution.

The instruction posted in the website of the state Food and Drug Administration in Xinjiang's Jinghe county that food service workplaces will operate normal hours during Ramadan is in itself an intimidation to the Muslims in the region who wants to observe the religious obligation of the holy month of Ramadhan.

We are shocked by the outright disrespect and denial of the religious rights of the Muslims in the website of the local government of Bole ,  saying "During Ramadan do not engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities,"

It is very clear that the restrictions on Muslim Uighurs is intended to eradicate the Islamic heritage that has been in existence in the Xianjiang province for centuries.

The Chinese government is ignoring the fact that China's restrictions on Islam in Xinjiang have added to ethnic tensions in the region, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.

The so call "terrorist threat" in Xinjiang, with officials blaming "religious extremism" for the growing violence , is an excuse for the authorities to continue its suppressive policies on religious minorities.Policies that prohibit religious fasting is a provocation and will only lead to instability and conflict.

We condemn the move by the Chinese authorities for this unacceptable policy . The announcement that there would be increased inspections during Ramadan in order to "maintain social stability", in one of the county's official website is tantamount to inviting a clash between the authorities and the Muslims. Such move is utterly un-intelligent and provocative.

Ahead of the holy month, one village in Yili, near the border with Kazakhstan, said mosques must check the identification cards of anyone who comes to pray during Ramadan, according to a notice on the government's website.

This whole exercise, to restrict Islam in China, is in contradiction with the standing provisions of the constitution.

After the birth of new China in 1949, the Chinese government formulated and implemented the policy of religious freedom and established a new relationship between politics and religions in accordance with the actual condition of the country. Chinese citizens are free to choose and express their religious belief as well as demonstrate their religious status. All religions are equally and coexist harmoniously with one another and there is so far no such thing as dispute among different religions. Religious believers and non-believers also respect to each other and they live together peacefully.

In Chapter Two on the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizen , in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China Article 36  stipulates  " Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion "

China’s National Regional Autonomy Law, Civil Law, Education Law, Labor Law, Compulsory Education Law, Electoral Law of People’s Congress, Organic Law of Villagers’ Committee and Advertisement Law also stipulate: “citizens, no matter they are religious believer or not, enjoy the right of election and to be elected; legitimate property of religious organizations is protected by law; education is separate from religion and citizens, religious believers or non-believers, enjoy the equal opportunity of education according to law; people of all nationalities respect the languages, customs and religious belief of one another; citizens are not discriminated in employment because of their different religious beliefs; advertisement and trade mark may not carry content that discriminates against any nationality or religion.”

In January 1994, the Chinese government promulgated the Regulation on the Management of Places for Religious Activities to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of these places; in that February, the Chinese government also promulgated the Regulation on the Management of Foreigners’ Religious Activities in the People’s Republic of China in order to respect the religious freedom of foreigners in China and to protect foreigners’ friendly exchange and cultural and academic communication concerning religion with people from Chinese religious circle.

Chinese laws also stipulate that normal missionary affairs and religious services in places of religious activities or at home of believers in accordance with religious practice, such as paying homage to the Buddha, reciting scripts on religious classics, worship services, prayer, interpreting religious works, preaching, Mass, baptism, being initiated into monkhood or nunhood, practicing abstinence during Ramadan, observing religious festivals, sacrament in critical situations and recollection of late figures, should be completely carried out by religious organizations and believers and are protected by law. No one may interfere with these activities.

China's goal in prohibiting fasting  to forcibly move Uighurs away from their Muslim culture during Ramadan will not dampen the spirit of the more than 40 million Muslims to practice their religious obligation.

We call on the government of Malaysia to initiate an OIC negotiation with China to iron out the policies on the Muslim religious rights in China. Malaysia should engage with the Chinese authorities to cease their oppressive policies on the Uighur Muslims and to allow their freedom of religious rights to be observed.

We urge the UN to prevail upon China to respect the religious rights of its citizens. The International community must engage with China to address the problem of the religious rights as stipulated in the constitution of the Republic.

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