Muslim shops and restaurants in a Chinese village have been ordered to sell alcohol and cigarettes in an effort to weaken Islam’s hold on residents in China’s Xinjiang region. Shop owners who decline face closure and prosecution, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Monday. It is the latest in a series of anti-Muslim campaigns by Chinese authorities in the name of fighting religious extremism to undermine Islam influence in northwestern China.
Chinese authorities in Laskuy township issued a notice to residents in Aktash village last week saying in part, “all restaurants and supermarkets in our village should place five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes in their shops before [May 1, 2015].” Shopkeepers were also instructed to promote the products in “eye-catching displays.” Authorities warned that “anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their business suspended, and legal action pursued against them.” The notice also said the order was handed down from the top ranks of China’s ruling Communist Party.
“We have a campaign to weaken religion here and this is part of that campaign,” Adil Sulayman, Aktash village party committee secretary, told RFA’s Uyghur Service. “Since 2012, people have stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes through their businesses. Even those who benefited financially from the practice have given it up because they fear public scorn. That is why [the order was issued].”
Many locals in Aktash and other parts of Laskuy who practice Islam have decided to abstain from drinking and smoking, and selling the products was considered “taboo” for religious reasons. Sulayman told RFA that authorities in Xinjian viewed non-smoking Muslims as “a form of religious extremism.” The Quran refers to the use of alcohol and any intoxicants or self-destructive practices as a “sin.”
Government officials and children in the predominately-Muslim Xinjiang province have been banned from attending mosques or observing the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins June 17. In some areas, women are banned from wearing face-covering veils and men discouraged from growing long beards, the Washington Post said.
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