A group of five Muslim ethnic Uyghur men who sport “crescent moon-shaped” beards are currently on trial in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region for “religious extremism” after they were found to have secretly attended unauthoraised Islamic sermons, according to a Uyghur member of the ruling Communist Party.
Kurbanjan Omer, a government spokesman on official government positions to the Uyghur community, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that he attended a court hearing for the five men last week in Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture’s Atush (in Chinese, Atushi) city.
“The five were accused of ‘illegal religious activities’ because they secretly attended ‘tebligh’ [religious sermons delivered by Muslim preachers] and all wore ‘crescent moon-shaped’ beards” in an apparent reference to the “star and crescent” symbol that had been used by two short-lived Islamic republics in the China’s Xinjiang region, he said, RFA reported.
“Their actions went against the 26 kinds of ‘illegal religious activities’ published by the party committee of the Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture.”
Apparently the crescent moon-shaped beards are “increasingly popular among the young Uyghur generation,” and those who sport the style of facial hair which are known as “ay-saqal are under surveillance by the local government.
“I consider their behavior to be at the border of ‘religious extremism’ and it deserves punishment,” he said.
“These people are so young, why do they all like to wear moustaches and beards? I am a 66-year-old man, but I’ve never had a beard … If the party and government say that young [Uyghur] people should not have moustaches and beards of any variety, I think it is definitely illegal.”
Uyghur rights groups accuse the Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including curbs on Islamic practices and the culture and language of the Uyghur people.
Security checkpoints are designed to inspect n in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture’s Lop (Luopu) county may have been motivated by “anger over the restrictions placed on the wearing of veils and beards,” a local police official told RFA at the time.
The primary function of the security checkpoint was to inspect “extremists” sporting the head coverings and facial hair, police said.
In August last year, authorities in Karamay city prohibited people with beards or those wearing Islamic clothing from traveling on public transportation, prompting anger from the Washington-based Uyghur American Association (UAA), which called the policy racist and Anti-Islam against Uyghurs Muslims.
Speaking to RFA on Wednesday, vice chairman of the UAA Ilshat Hesen dismissed the policy targeting beard in Xinjiang as “ridiculous,” and indicative of how Chinese authorities “violate the most basic human rights of Uyghurs.”
“Wearing a moustache or beard is not considered a crime anywhere else in the world,” he said, adding that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang are “more extreme than the so-called ‘religious extremism’ labeled to Uyghurs.”
“The crescent moon is a symbol of Islam and it is also part of the symbol, along with a white star, on the blue Uyghur national flag [of the two short-lived East Turkestan republics in the 1930s and 1940s], so the authorities are very sensitive to crescent moon-shaped beards.”. Tags: #
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