Authorities in Shandong and Hebei provinces remove domes from mosques and vigorously promote the sinicization of Islam, demanding Muslims to obey the Party only.
by Li Mingxuan
A mosque in Liangjia town, administered by Yucheng city in the prefecture-level city of Dezhou in the eastern province of Shandong, was originally built in the early Qing dynasty (1636–1912) and later expanded twice. It is now 1,660-square-meters in size.
In March, the town government ordered to sinicize the mosque. First, the dome and crescent atop the building was removed, and its exterior walls were painted white. Two propaganda slogans—“Love the country and religion, inherit the excellent culture” and “Adhere to the right path, stay away from extreme ideas”—were displayed on both sides of the mosque’s main door. Two warning signs were also hung on the right side of the entrance: one encouraging people to report “illegal religious activities” and the other banning CCP members from “entering religious venues and attending religious activities.”
The one-story Party members’ activity center next door was renovated and had one floor added, to demonstrate the CCP’s superiority. “Officials said that the mosque could not be taller than the activity center because the Communist Party supersedes all religions,” a mosque member explained.
A stone tablet inscribed with “Liangjia Town Ethnic Unity Education Base” was set up in front of the mosque entrance on September 3. The same day, officials from the provincial and city United Front Work Department and other state institutions came to inspect the mosque. Dissatisfied with the transformation, they ordered the town government to re-decorate the mosque’s second floor and add more propaganda promoting the new Regulations on Religious Affairs and the Four Requirements for state-run religious venues. They also demanded to display non-religious books, including those on traditional Chinese culture, and create an exhibition on “the sinicization of religion.”
An elderly Muslim who used to frequent the mosque commented that locals “didn’t want the mosque to be sinicized but were powerless to resist.” “If we disobeyed the Communist Party, we could be arrested for nationalism and separatism,” he added.
In a mosque in Shandong’s Tai’an city, the Shahada—the statement of faith for Muslims— “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” on the wall facing the courtyard was replaced with a slogan “Obey and follow the Party forever.” A mosque member commented that “the government sinicizes mosques to maintain state stability, afraid that people of faith may overturn the regime.”
A Religious Affairs Bureau official from Tangshan city in the northern province of Hebei shares a similar viewpoint: the CCP rectifies mosques to weaken religions and maintain its ruling position.
From July to September, at least six mosques in Tangshan were rectified. Among them was the Xiazhuang village mosque in the city’s Kaiping district, whose dome was removed in September. The mosque’s imam was repeatedly summoned by the city’s Religious Affairs Bureau and United Front Work Department ahead of the removal. He was told that domes were being converted into Chinese-style structures to implement national policy.
The dome of the Dongcheng Mosque in Kaiping district was converted into a Chinese-style pavilion in mid-July. In the city’s Fengnan district, the domes of a Xugezhuang town mosque were turned into hexagonal pavilions, and its Arabic-style windows were sinicized.
“The government boasts that China is so multicultural, yet it cannot stand it,” an imam from Tangshan city said helplessly. He added that a Religious Affairs Bureau official revealed to him that people of faith in China outnumber CCP members; that is why it is imperative to weaken religions and use Party members to influence religious people, control, and even convert them.
“How can we love them if they suppress us? We hate them to the core!” another imam from Tangshan told Bitter Winter. He added that 17 city’s mosques are planned to be rectified at the cost of at least ten million RMB (about $ 1.4 million). He believes that the money could have better been spent to alleviate poverty in rural areas, improving impoverished people’s lives. Sadly, the government puts religious persecution above people’s livelihood.
In July, the dome of a mosque in Qing county, administered by Hebei’s Cangzhou city, was removed and stored in the mosque’s backyard. Two days later, authorities detected the dome through a satellite and ordered the mosque staff to destroy it immediately.
“By rectifying mosques, the government harms the feelings of Muslim minorities,” the mosque’s imam said indignantly. “The Communist Party seeks to eliminate our faith eventually.”