China’s Xinjiang region has imposed a ban on Muslim prayer meetings and any religious practice occurring in government buildings, schools and business offices, the Times of India reports. Religious activity will still be allowed to continue, but only in registered locations such as mosques. Xinjiang is characterized by its large Muslim population, with both Shia and Sunni populations represented.
Xinjiang was also recently the site of brutal violence against a religious leader, as the Imam of Id Kah Mosque was murdered after performing morning prayers in Kashgar City this July. The Imam, Juma Tayier, was also deputy president of the China Islamic Association. He was outspoken against religious violence and extremism.
Ma Mingcheng, deputy director of the Xinjiang People’s Congress, acknowledged these outbreaks of religious extremism in explaining the decision to limit religious freedoms. “An increasing number of problems involving religious affairs have emerged in Xinjiang,” Mingcheng said. A recent outbreak of violence resulted in the death of 15 individuals near the Pakistan border last Friday.
The new laws, which will affect students and members of government accustomed to praying in public each day, will go into effect Jan. 1. The laws call for fines ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 yuan for using mobile phones or the Internet for purposes that “undermine national unity” or support religious causes. The target of the legislation appears to be directed at extremism, calling for religious leaders to report any distribution of videos or other material promoting jihad or other forms of religious terrorism.