Renovation work gives mosques modern touch

By CUI JIA in Beijing and MAO WEIHUA in Aksu, Xinjiang | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-11-17 07:26
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Renovation work on the Reste Mosque in Aksu city was completed in 2017. [Photo by Mao Weihua/For China Daily]

Leaking roof

In Tuohula township, Wensu county, Aksu prefecture, Ablikim Sadiq said he had felt unsafe every time he prayed in the old mosque in the area several years ago.

"There were leaks in the roof and large splits in the wooden pillars supporting the prayer hall. We often feared that the hall would collapse, especially during bad weather," he said.

After carrying out a safety assessment, the local government decided in 2015 to build a new mosque near the old venue.

Ahat Rahman, imam of the township's mosque for 27 years, said: "The new venue can withstand earthquakes and has a bigger prayer hall. The villagers can now concentrate fully during religious activities."

Meanwhile, Musa Asan, imam of Reste Mosque in Aksu city, is proud to show visitors new facilities at the venue, which were completed during renovation work in May 2017.

"The old mosque was very small and there was no heating system. Furthermore, the room in which Muslims carried out their ablutions before prayers was in poor condition, so they had no choice but to wash at home before coming to the mosque," the 29-year-old said.

During the renovations, a parking lot was built next to the mosque, so that worshippers no longer need to park in narrow alleyways, he said, adding that some 100 people from nearby communities visit the mosque for the five daily prayers. On a Friday, the Muslim holy day, the number exceeds 300.

Following urbanization work in Xinjiang in recent years, some worshippers moved to new homes. At their request, the local authorities built new mosques or expanded existing ones to meet demand, according to Bekri Yaqub, director of Yanghang Mosque Democratic Management Committee in Urumqi, the regional capital.

"I've recently seen the blueprint for a new mosque in the city's Saybag district. Muslims there are going to have yet another beautiful and spacious mosque," he said.

Memet Jume, imam of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar city, said: "A few mosques in the region had to be torn down, but only because they were in extremely poor condition and could not be renovated. New ones were built for people's safety. There hasn't been one case of a mosque being completely demolished."

In summer, the Id Kah Mosque, which has a history of some 500 years, was in the spotlight after being mentioned in a Twitter post by the US embassy in China.

On July 4, the embassy posted two pictures of the mosque entrance on its Twitter account-one with a welcoming plaque and the other without it. The post stated that removal of the plaque showed "China's continuous efforts to crack down on Islam in Xinjiang".

The imam said that after repair work was carried out, the plaque was repositioned on an outer wall of the main prayer hall inside the building.

The plaque, which is 2.7 meters long and 1.3 meters wide, was made and hung over the entrance to the mosque in 1982, but the characters and designs on it faded and were damaged due to exposure to the sun and wind.

The imam added: "In 2017, the plaque was repaired together with other facilities at the mosque. It was moved to its current position and a large canopy was put up to prevent the plaque being exposed to the weather. This work is actually very easy to verify."

The comments made by the US embassy were irresponsible, he added.

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