Arabic architecture of mosques in China are being altered in an effort to make them more ‘Chinese’

mosque china sinicization

The Chinese government has removed domes and other Arab-style characteristics from mosques in Xining, a city in Qinghai Province, China, as part of its current “sinicization” campaign.

What’s happening: The Dongguan Mosque, a 700-year-old mosque in Xining known for its green-and-white dome, has had its dome and two prominent minarets removed, according to WION.

  • The campaign is part of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Community Party’s (CCP) effort to force the “sinicization of religion” by taking away “Saudi and Arabic influence” in China, which began in 2018 but was first declared in 2016, NPR reported.
  • “The government says they want us to ‘sinify’ our mosques, so they look more like Beijing’s Tiananmen Square,” Ali, a farmer who sells outside the mosque, told NPR. He also said that officials ordered them not to discuss the removal of the domes. The Chinese government also renovated another mosque in Xining and had reportedly removed its minarets and domes. The mosque’s Arabic calligraphy was replaced with Chinese texts.
  • Nanguan Mosque in Xining will also undergo a renovation, and was also being prepared for the renovation. A mosque in Ningxia was also successfully “sinicized” as part of the government’s campaign.

  • China’s efforts come amid the spread of Islamophobia and religious restrictions in the country.
  • The renovation campaign has reportedly started a discussion among ethnic policy regulators, scholars and historically Muslim Chinese communities on what it means to be “Chinese.”
  • Dru C. Gladney, an expert on Islam in China, stated, “A very liberal or positive view of all this [sinicization] is just basically to compare it to, say, what’s it like to become an American citizen? You accommodate and people adjust.”

Adaptation: The Hui Muslims, one of the 55 recognized ethnic groups in China with a population of around 10.5 million, call Xining home. They reportedly have no choice but to follow the government’s campaign, as protesting could result in being put into “re-education camps” or being sentenced to prison.

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  • Although they are the biggest Muslim group in China, the Hui Muslims are reportedly not as heavily prosecuted as the Uyghurs since their practices are more compatible with Chinese government views.
  • Some Hui sects have reportedly incorporated several Chinese religious practices into their ceremonies, such as burning incense and have also taken to explaining Islamic precepts with concepts and terminology adopted from traditional Chinese philosophy. They have also made their form of Islam available to Daoists and Confucians.

Featured Image via B_cool (CC BY 2.0)

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