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China urges Muslims not to fast during Ramzan

Xinjiang govt says acted for health reasons,others say attempt at secularising community.

Written by Associated Press | Beijing |
August 4, 2012 1:51:15 am

China is discouraging some Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang from fasting during Ramzan. The government says the move is motivated by health concerns,but others said Friday that it’s a risky campaign to secularise the Muslim minority that will likely backfire.

Several city,county and village governments in Xinjiang have posted notices on their websites banning or discouraging Communist Party members,civil servants,students and teachers from fasting during the religious holiday. Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during the 30-day period.

Regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin was quoted in the state-run Global Times newspaper Friday as saying authorities encourage people to “eat properly for study and work’’ but don’t force anyone to eat during Ramzan.

Xinjiang is home to the traditionally Muslim Uighur ethnic group. Long-simmering resentment among Uighurs over rule by China’s Han majority and an influx of migrants has sporadically erupted into deadly violence.

Those familiar with the region say attempts to restrict participation in Ramzan are not new,but this year’s campaign is more intense.

There is “a much more public and concerted effort’’ than in previous years and in some cases Communist Party leaders are delivering food to village elders to try to get them to break their fast,according to Dru Gladney,a professor of anthropology at Pomona College in California and an expert on China’s Muslim minorities.

“I think it is a misguided effort to try to secularise the Uighurs and my feeling is it will backfire,’’ said Gladney. “It makes the Uighurs even more angry at the party.’’

Separatist sentiment is rife in Xinjiang,with some Uighurs advocating armed rebellion. A smaller fringe has been radicalised by militant calls for jihad and trained in camps across the border in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Over the last few months,authorities in Xinjiang have stepped up a campaign against illegal religious schools.

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