BEIJING: In perhaps first such instance in China, a city in the country’s restive Xinjiang region has banned beards and burka or veils worn by Muslim women within days of a major terrorist attack and subsequent police action that killed nearly 100 people in the bordering Kashgar area of the same province.
Authorities in Karamay banned “five groups of people” — those who wear burka, headscarves, veils or hijab, any clothing bearing the crescent moon and star, as well as long beards, state-controlled media reported on Wednesday. All of these symbols are associated with Islam.
The ban disallows people in this group from using facilities like buses and other means of public transport and has been effective since Monday. This is in view of a local sports competition on August 20, the newspaper said, and may be extended beyond that.
Even more controversially, state leaders in Xinjiang are working on a proposal to amend existing rules on family planning, which allows Muslims to have more than two children. So far, Muslims are exempt from the country’s one-child policy, which has now been relaxed to allow up to two children.
Southern Xinjiang will “implement family planning policy equally on all ethnic groups, to lower and stabilize an appropriate birth rate”, a Communist Party leader, Zhang Chunxian, wrote in the August edition of Qiushi, an official magazine of the Communist party. More than 45% of Xinjiang’s 22 million people are Uighur Muslims who speak Turkic language.
Chinese authorities have earlier discouraged Muslim government employees from fasting during the holy month of Ramzan on the grounds that it can affect their health and performance. But the police were particularly worried about crowding and inter-mingling during the fast breaking time because, they feared, terrorists might use this opportunity to expand their network.
About 100 people were killed when knife-wielding attackers carried out assaults in two towns in Xinjiang in July, state media said, including 59 “terrorists” shot dead by police. A suicide bombing killed 39 people at a market in Urumqi in May. The government blames Islamist separatists for the violence there.