View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, October 18, 2008

UAE Must Demand that China Grants Freedom to Muslim Worshippers

Recently the UAE has enjoyed successful trade visits with China but a new report on the growing restrictions on Muslims by the Chinese government calls for action demanding that all Chinese citizens are granted the freedom to practice their religion.

In a New York Times article entitled, ‘Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules’ (18 October 2008) the report notes in certain areas, including Xinjiang, Communist signs posted on the doors of mosques, restrictions on the length of an imam’s sermon (no longer than half an hour), prayers in public places are prohibited, residents in Khotan are restricted from worshipping in other towns, prohibitions against government workers and Communist Party members from going to mosques, official versions of the Koran are deemed the only legal ones, imams may not teach the Koran in private, studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools, students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, passports are often taken to prevent Muslims going on the hajj and government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.

These rules have been in place for some time but the enforcement of these laws is stepping up, as are attacks against followers of Islam.

A top level, four day trade delegation led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in March 2008 resulted in the formulation of a new strategy to enhance business opportunities with China. This is bearing fruit as UAE-China trade exceeds well over $19 bill.

While human rights issues must be broached with great sensitivity, the UAE is building a strong relationship and is well positioned to speak up courageously, calling the Chinese leadership to grant all its peoples freedom of worship.

The full article can be read at this link:
Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules’, New York Times, 18 October 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A People’s Liberation Army political poster in a town in Xinjiang, China, a region largely inhabited by Uighurs, an ethnic group uneasy with the government’s rule. (Courtesy of Gilles Sabrie and the NY Times at the above link)