I’m not in favor of banning books. Thought control and thought police are hallmarks of totalitarian regimes, and we’re getting perilously close to living under that boot on the face in the West. The Chinese authorities, like all totalitarians, are going to discover that they cannot entirely suppress thoughts through force.
That said, this is one of the first, if not the very first, official recognition by any modern government that the Qur’an does indeed contain “extremist content”: a great deal of material that incites believers to commit violence against non-believers. The Chinese should be countering this mother-lode of bad ideas with better ideas, rather than trying to stamp it out by force; at the same time, if Western governments would admit the existence of the Qur’an’s “extremist content,” they may be able to formulate more effective and humane ways to counter the threat that results from that content. But that will most likely only happen when it is far, far too late.
Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have ordered ethnic minority Muslim families to hand in religious items including prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the authorities, RFA has learned.
Officials across Xinjiang have been warning neighborhoods and mosques that ethnic minority Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims must hand in the items or face harsh punishment if they are found later, sources in the region said.
“Officials at village, township and county level are confiscating all Qurans and the special mats used for namaaz [prayer],” a Kazakh source in Altay prefecture, near the border with Kazakhstan told RFA on Wednesday.
“Pretty much every household has a Quran, and prayer mats,” he said.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, said reports have emerged from Kashgar, Hotan and other regions of similar practices starting last week.
“We received a notification saying that every single ethnic Uyghur must hand in any Islam-related items from their own home, including Qurans, prayers and anything else bearing the symbols of religion,” Raxit said.
“They have to be handed in voluntarily. If they aren’t handed in, and they are found, then there will be harsh punishments,” he said.
Raxit said announcements are being made by the police via popular social media platform WeChat.
“All Qurans and related items must be handed into the authorities, and there are notices to this effect being broadcast via WeChat,” Raxit said.
“The announcements say that people must hand in any prayer mats of their own accord to the authorities, as well as any religious reading matter, including anything with the Islamic moon and star symbol on it,” he said.
“They are requiring people to hand in these items of their own accord,” he said.
Earlier this year, Xinjiang authorities began confiscating all Qurans published more than five years ago due to “extremist content,” according to local officials, amid an ongoing campaign against “illegal” religious items owned by mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur residents.
The Qurans were appropriated as part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign underway in Xinjiang that bans “illegal” publicity materials, religious activities, and religious teaching, as well as items deemed by authorities to be tools of terrorism—including knives, flammable objects, remote-controlled toys, and objects sporting symbols related to Islam, they said.
The Kazakh source said that earlier directives calling for the confiscation of Qurans and other religious items hadn’t been effective, and so the authorities are now stepping up the pressure and placing the onus on individual households to hand them in under a compulsory program….