China Forces Shops to Remove Arabic, Halal Signs

Government authorities in Beijing have ordered shops and halal restaurants to remove Arabic script and symbols associated with Islam from their signs, Reuters reported.

“They said this is foreign culture and you should use more Chinese culture,” said the manager of a Beijing noodle shop, who, like all restaurant owners and employees who spoke to Reuters, declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The man said that several government officials ordered him to cover up the “halal” in Arabic on his shop’s sign, and then watched him do it.

The campaign against Arabic script and Islamic images marks a new phase of a drive that has gained momentum since 2016, aimed at ensuring religions conform with mainstream Chinese culture.

Strict Religious Regulations

A set of new religious regulations were announced on February 2018, which included a declaration requiring the national flag to be raised by local mosques along with the removal of non-Chinese Islamic symbols.

Many mosque decorations are of Middle Eastern origin, including elaborate geometric designs, stylized Arabic script and the ubiquitous crescent moon and star.

Mosques were further required to adopt Chinese-architectural styles, with all domes to be demolished by the end of March.

Minors, defined as being under the age of 18, were banned from entering mosques to study, including during vacations.

Scholars were told they had to register their residential addresses as well as providing personal details and documentation.

A prohibition was also imposed on the use of loudspeakers for calls to prayer and Qur’anic recitations.

Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims

In its 117-page report, “‘Eradicating Ideological Viruses’: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims,” Human Rights Watch presented new evidence of the Chinese government’s mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life.

Chinese authorities impose restrictions on Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, especially during Ramadan.

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of a heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.