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Issue 19: Removal of Islamic Iconography

Issue 19: Removal of Islamic Iconography

World Uyghur Congress, 3 June 2018

As the Chinese government attempts to ‘Sinicize’ all religions in China, especially Islam, any cultural or religious iconography seen as incompatible with Chinese culture is being targeted and removed. Secular buildings were the first target, with any Islamic motifs being banned from public and private buildings and many Arab style buildings were converted into Chinese style pavilions. This has been followed by a ban on building any new ‘Arabic’ style mosques, with any new buildings reportedly having to conform to Chinese cultural and architectural traditions.

Islamic domes, silver crescent moons, elaborate Islamic motifs and Arabic script are reportedly being being targeted for removal, not only from Uyghur mosques, but also from those attended by Hui Muslims. In the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Islamic decor and Arabic signs are already being taken off the streets. A prohibition was imposed on the use of loudspeakers for calls to prayer and Koranic recitations on the grounds of ‘noise pollution’.

The Chinese government claims to value the cultural and religious rights of all people under its control, but its actions and attempts to ‘Sinicize’ architecture, culture and language reveal that the true aim in cultural assimilation. The diversity of architectural styles, and cultural and religious imagery should be embraced as important features of a culturally diverse society, but are rather viewed by the Chinese government as inferior to Chinese culture.