Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Ramadan is holy, not for rumour about Xinjiang

By Shi Lan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-10 07:57

Ramadan is holy, not for rumour about Xinjiang

The Id Kah Mosque is seen in Kashgar, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in this June 29, 2013 file photo. [Photo/CFP]

In Islam, Ramadan is a holy month when Prophet Muhammad is said to have received the Quran to guide believers. To commemorate the occasion, Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. Throughout their more than 1,400-year history, Muslims have tried to overcome the lure of worldly pleasures during Ramadan to seek inner peace by following the path of Islam.

But recent years have seen religious extremists and separatists using Ramadan to create trouble to further their agenda. They have been fabricating stories about Muslims in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region having conflicts with the local government over fasting, and spreading lies such as "Xinjiang bans Muslims from fasting and holding religious ceremonies during Ramadan" is part of their evil plan.

The fact is that long before Ramadan, the Xinjiang local government held meetings to curb interventions in the religious activities of Muslims.

Thanks to the economic development of the region and the country as a whole, Xinjiang residents, be they Uygurs, Hans or members of other ethnic groups, can travel to, study and work all over the country. More importantly, Muslims' rights to perform religious rituals are especially protected.

Xinjiang is pluralistic society. For instance, in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, Muslims observe fast while restaurants are open to serve other people. Just before sunset, however, the restaurants start displaying dishes associated with Ramadan outside their establishments. An essential aspect of Ramadan is to give, and all Xinjiang residents show their generosity by helping others during this special month.

It should be emphasized, however, that fasting during Ramadan is a personal choice and no one has the right to force others to follow observe religious rituals. Islam says people can choose not to fast for medical and some other reasons, and can atone for not fasting during Ramadan by doing so at a later, appropriate time. This is a practice all Muslims in Xinjiang follow and local officials don't interfere in their religious affairs.

It is thus preposterous to say the local government forbids Muslims from fasting just because some of them choose not to fast for personal reasons.

Rumors that the Xinjiang local government forbade Muslims from fasting prompted protesters in Turkey to attack some Chinese people, including tourists. But media reports also say the rioters were driven by political motives, because during an attack on a Chinese restaurant, the rioters held a banner that read "East Turkistan", which is a sign of Xinjiang separatism. Ironically, the owner of the restaurant is a Uygur as is its cook. The incident makes it clear who is violating the rights of the Uygur people.

Freedom of religion means a citizen has the right to believe or not to believe in a certain religion. No political power, domestic or foreign, can interfere with that. But only when followers of all religions act rationally can the religious freedom of all citizens be protected.

Those falsely accusing the Xinjiang local government of curbing the rights of ethnic and religious groups are doing so to get support for their evil separatist plans, which is against Ramadan and we hope Muslims will not be misguided by them.

The author is a research scholar at and vice-director of the Institute of Central Asia Studies, affiliated to the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

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