By Meira Svirsky
June 8, 2016
University students in China’s western region of Xinjiang, home to the Uighur ethnic minority -- the majority of whom are Muslims – say that authorities have forbidden them to fast during Ramadan.
Punishments have been threatened, ranging from denial of the students’ degrees to subsequent consequences on their career opportunities. The students say they must have meals with their professors to confirm that they are eating.
Fasting from sunrise to sundown during the Muslim month of Ramadan is one of the “Five Pillars of Islam.”
Speaking anonymously to the BBC, one student said, "If you want a normal life here then you'd better not fast."
The ban is part of a larger drive to in Xinjiang to discourage any Muslim from fasting during Ramadan, with ads running in state-run newspapers warning of the dangers of not eating and drinking.
Some government offices have also instituted the ban.
Xinjiang has seen its share of Islamist violence, with a spate of terror attacks that have rocked the region.
Notwithstanding Communist China’s abysmal and historical record of human rights abuses, the ban in Xinjiang is part of a larger problem of the world’s schizophrenic response to accommodation of minority religious practices, particularly when it comes to Muslims.
Americans, accustomed to the “melting pot” doctrine and freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution, shake their heads at what looks to them like a denial to practice one’s chosen religion. But even in America, it has become not so simple. Whereas previous immigrants who belonged to larger ethnic groups integrated but still retained their cultural traditions (as do the vast majority of Muslims), those Muslims who adhere to an Islamist ideology and its inherently supremacist goals have learned to play the system and use free speech and democratic principles to further their goals.
The creation of the concept of “Islamophobia” by Islamists has served to pit liberals against conservatives. Liberals bought into the concept of political correctness and frequently berate those they accuse of being racists. Conservatives have lost their patience with Muslim demands for accommodation (religious rights to pray at work, wear Hijabs, etc.) since they recognize that the many front groups of the Muslim Brotherhood (who use American democracy in order to eventually destroy it) and other cultural jihadists share the same ultimate goals as Islamist terrorists.
Take the latest bizarre case of a schizophrenic (perhaps racist) response to religious accommodation: The New York Times recently ran an editorial excoriating the city of New York for violating “the laws of New York City and the Constitution” for a allowing a public pool in Williamsburg, home to a sizeable number of Orthodox Jews who adhere to modesty laws, to set aside a small number of hours a week for women-only swimming.
Ironically, in February, the Times effused praise for the city of Toronto, who set aside similar women-only hours at a public pool for Muslims. The Times called the program a “model of inclusion” and “community integration.” In this case, the Times concluded that while the separate hours might slightly inconvenience some, there were plenty of other hours to accommodate those who wished to take advantage of the public-funded pool.
For the sake of those citizens with different views, such a small sacrifice was worth it for the good will it generated with all the city’s citizens.
As for our friends in Europe, the multiculturalist doctrine in England -- essentially instituted as a way to assuage British guilt over the empire’s colonial subjugation of entire populations -- has ironically served to continue the abuse. While the Brits allowed immigrants not to assimilate through this policy, they have paid the price in real terms. (It also fit nicely with Britain’s class-conscious society.)
In France, after pulling out of Algeria and Morocco, immigrant Muslims were simultaneously ghettoized and exploited for cheap labour. The country’s doctrine of secularism, enforced with religious fervour, is rubbing raw against second and third generation Muslims demanding the religious right to wear head coverings and the like.
If the world desires to hold on to freedoms they hold dear -- freedom of religion included -- in the face of Islamist onslaughts like the Islamic State, the Muslim Brotherhood and the dictators these movements have spawned (from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to Tayyip Recep Erdogan) those freedoms must be made available to all people.
It goes without saying that rights are not always guaranteed if they endanger the safety of others.
But the right to fast on Ramadan or wear a Hijab (that shows the face) should be a basic rights afforded by society to its citizens. Students in China should not have to say, as one did, "Most of us would like to fast. But with the current situation most of us have decided against it."