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China Won’t Let Muslims Fast For Ramadan

As Ramadan begins, China’s atheist government is taking extreme measures to stop its 20 to 30 million Muslim citizens from keeping the religiously mandated daytime fast.

Chinese attempts to suppress Islam have focused on Xinjiang, a majority-Muslim province in the country’s far west. Xinjiang’s locals, the Uyghurs, have their own language and culture. Some Uyghurs prefer calling Xinjiang “East Turkestan” and favor independence from China. (RELATED: China Forces Muslim Shopkeepers To Sell Liquor)

According to Reuters, Chinese authorities are making Muslim officials in Xinjiang swear oaths, “guaranteeing they have no faith” and that they will not fast during the holy month. The requirement also extends to teachers and students in government-run schools.

County governments in Xinjiang have published advisories to “not engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities,” and instructing students: “do not fast, do not enter mosques … and do not attend religious activities.” One county government cited a 90-year-old man who said that “to consciously resist religious and superstitious ideas,” he would avoid fasting and visiting mosques.

Likewise, restaurants will be required to stay open during the day, and those who do not comply face the threat of increased food-safety inspections.

China claims its restrictive policies toward religious expression are meant to curb “religious extremism.” Public terrorist attacks by Uyghur separatists have increased in recent years, and officials have responded in various parts of Xinjiang by increasing security and restricting various forms of Muslim cultural expression.

The country also severely restricts and controls free expression of Christianity, Buddhism and various new religious movements.

Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the thousand-year-old chief scholarly institution of Sunni Islam, issued a statement Friday condemning “the Chinese authorities’ ban on Muslims from fasting and practicing their religious rituals during Ramadan.”

Ramadan lasts from mid-June to mid-July this year. The observance commemorates the month during which Muslims say Muhammad received his first revelation of the Quran.

Fasting and sexual abstinence during daylight in Ramadan is obligatory for all capable adult Muslims. It is one of Islam’s “five pillars,” or core mandates, together with belief in God and Muhammad, daily prayer, charitable giving and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muslim customs during Ramadan in many places include nightly feasts, public celebrations, exchanging gifts and giving to charity. The month ends with Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s most significant holidays.

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