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Why Are Mosques in China Quietly Disappearing?

Just hours after the Notre-Dame fire in Paris, millionaires of the world were already donating towards renovating the cathedral and all the major news outlets were reporting it. Amidst this display of favoritism towards the coverage and help of the Parisian exemplar over other destroyed religious heritage sites, many people found the liberty to discuss it on online platforms, specifically Twitter and Instagram.

On April 16, Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar tweeted, complaining that “The 800-year-old Keriya Aitika mosque in China’s Xinjiang province was also razed to the ground by the Chinese [government], the latest in a string of historic mosques destroyed.”

This tweet was wildly shared on Twitter and Instagram and its sharers included 22-year-old American model Bella Hadid. Ever since Hadid shared the tweet on her Instagram story asking people to “talk about this too,” many news outlets have started inspecting and covering the systematic bulldozing and destruction of historical mosques by China in the recent years. These include the 800-year-old Keriya Aitika Mosque in China’s Xinjiang region, which ‘disappeared’ in 2018, Forbes reported.

According to an RFA Uyghur report, approximately 5000 mosques were demolished by Chinese authorities in 2017 alone. A reporter, who visited the eastern region of Kumul in 2017, learned that approximately 200 of the 800 Mosques in the region had already been destroyed. A further 500 were to be destroyed the following year as OPN reported. Residents said that their local mosques had disappeared overnight, levelled without warning.

The Guardian researcher Rachel Harris reports that it “is an apt way to describe the ongoing work of destruction and remodelling of the region’s landscape and its people.” Mosques such as the one in Keriya were an early target of the campaign against “religious extremism.”

Bella Hadid / Instagram

The Chinese attack on mosques also included closing down of three Hui mosques in the Yunnan province which the government called “illegal” last year. According to South China Morning Post, “The closure of mosques in Weishan followed a series of crackdowns and harassment against Muslims which has involved the closures of mosques and Arabic-language schools in Ningxia and Gansu – both Hui Muslim heartlands in the north of China – after President Xi Jinping’s call to “Sinicise religion” and bring it under the authority of the Communist Party.”

Much of the Old Town section of Kashgar, “once considered one of the best-preserved sites of traditional Islamic and Central Asian architecture in the region,” is being razed or repurposed for Han Chinese tourists, Reuters says. “One mosque has been transformed into a trendy hookah lounge and bar serving shisha tobacco and alcohol.”

The sad end to the story is that this whole scenario is being ignored at large by world governments and is not being provided as much coverage as required by popular media outlets including that of Muslim states.






Featured Image via Shawn Zhang.

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