In a Chinese province in the northwest section of the country, authorities have reportedly placed a ban on the observance of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Teachers, public servants, and employees in the service sector who are found fasting for Ramadan “will be dealt with,” according to an anonymous official from Zawa township, according to media reports.
“Communist China has tried for decades to replace religious observance with allegiance to the party, particularly among the Uyghur people, most of whom are Muslim, and who live in the Xinjiang province of northwest China,” The Times of Israel reported.
The specific punishment for non-compliance remains unclear.
Muslims around the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, which is currently in observance until June 24. During this month, Muslims fast during daylight hours and work to become closer to God.
“Security checkpoints” and measures to “ensure social peace and harmony” during Ramadan are in place, an official government notice makes clear, according to Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service.
In Xinjiang, authorities have ordered restaurants to stay open during Ramadan.
“This order came from the county’s Political Law Committee a couple of days ago,” the anonymous official told Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service. “Our leaders stressed the importance of this during a meeting we attended on this issue as well.”
Restaurants that do not remain open or individuals who don’t comply with the fast ban will be punished; however, the punishment remains unclear.
“The authorities have tried to curtail observation of Ramadan, which runs from 26 May to 24 June this year, for several years, but this time it coincides with the government’s increasingly draconian measures to crack down on religious expression,” the U.K.’s Independent noted. “In March it banned burqas and ‘abnormal’ beards, and a month later banned Islamic baby names.”
The Uyghur (or Uighur) people are an ethnic Turkic group that live in this region of China.
“The region also borders several Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Islamic terrorist groups have strongholds,” The Times of Israel report added. “Islamic State [has] recruited terrorists from within the Chinese province.”
It’s thought that ISIS has recruited Uyghurs to join its ranks.
“Beijing has long claimed that [the Islamic State] is recruiting Uygurs from the mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang, and blamed outside forces for fomenting deadly acts of violence, there and elsewhere in the country, that have claimed hundreds of lives,” the Agence France-Presse noted in July 2016. “At the same time, authorities have banned or strictly controlled the observance of certain Muslim practices, such as growing beards and fasting during Ramadan, saying they were symbols of ‘Islamic extremism.'”