Mosque-based tutoring was a common way for Muslims in China to study Quran and Islamic customs. Amid government suppression, the number of schools is dwindling.
by Li Wensheng
As the CCP intensifies its hardline religious policies, Islamic schools in mosques across China are being closed down in large numbers. Their lack makes the cultivation of Islamic faith and Quran studies, as well as the preservation of Muslim culture and traditions, extremely challenging. The provinces of Qinghai and Gansu and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the northwest are among the most targeted areas since the majority of China’s ethnic Hui Muslims live there.
A Hui man in his 60s recounted to Bitter Winter how in November last year, he saw a group of young people carrying bags and boxes from a mosque in Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County, administered by the prefecture-level city of Haidong. The young men were students at the mosque’s Islamic school, which the local authorities closed down recently.
“They don’t want to leave, but the Communist Party does not allow them to study the Quran. There is no hope for them to continue their faith in the future,” the man said with sadness. He added that the school used to have 60 students each year. But now, they cannot even meet in secret since the government installed surveillance cameras in the masque.
The Haishiwan Mosque in the Honggu district of Lanzhou, the provincial capital, received several unexpected visitors at the end of April, who introduced themselves as representatives of the National Security Division, the Public Security Bureau, and the Religious Affairs Bureau. In the name of “cleaning up gang crime and eliminating evil” and “eradicating trouble-making groups,” the officials ordered to discontinue the three Islamic classes the mosque offered for men and women of all ages, each attended by 25 students.
When Bitter Winter asked the mosque’s imams what they thought about the order, they were very cautious and only mentioned that “the government now imposes strict policies on ethnic minority groups.” The young students in the mosque seemed very nervous and didn’t say anything when asked.
We inquired two boys inside another mosque in Lanzhou if Islamic classes were organized there. They immediately panicked and started saying, “No, no, no; we are not studying here. We were asked to clean the mosque.”
The mosque’s imam revealed to Bitter Winter that they are forced to cultivate young Islam followers in secret. He knows of someone who has been sentenced to six years in jail for running a Quran study class in Ningxia’s Tongxin city.
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
The Nanchangqu Grand Mosque in Pingluo county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Shizuishan, has a long-standing history, spanning over three centuries. The government ordered to end its Islamic classes in April 2018.
“Classes have been terminated in many mosques, just like schools for girls,” an Imam in the mosque told Bitter Winter. “I give a lot of homework to my students now, since I am not always sure when they will return to class: They can be here in the morning but no longer in the afternoon if government officials come to intervene.”
The Wujiazhuang Islamic School in the county-level city of Lingwu was shut down in March 2018. According to some locals, officials sent an excavator to the school, threatening to raze the building to the ground if the school is not closed down.