China defaces Uyghur mosque in continuing religious crackdown

Men dancing in front of mosque (© Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
Uyghur men dance outside the Id Kah Mosque in China's Xinjiang region June 5, 2019, after Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of Ramadan. (© Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

The richly inscribed plaque that has welcomed worshipers to the Id Kah Mosque for more than 100 years is gone, lost to the Chinese government’s ongoing crackdown on Islam in Xinjiang province.

Chinese authorities removed the calligraphed plaque from above the doors, along with star and crescent iconography from the dome and minarets of the mosque in the city of Kashgar, members of the Uyghur diaspora community have told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

For Turghunjan Alawudun, director of the Religious Affairs Committee of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, the plaque’s removal in 2018 is a reminder of “the Chinese regime’s evil policies meant to eliminate the Islamic faith among Uyghurs,” RFA reported.

Henryk Szadziewski, of the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project, told the outlet, “Id Kah is being stripped of religious meaning to become a shell for unsuspecting visitors.”

Built in 1442, the Id Kah Mosque is one of the largest and oldest in China. The plaque that hung over the doorway dated to 1908. Szadziewski told RFA the only reason the mosque still stands is because of its historical significance and so that the Chinese Communist Party can pretend Uyghurs have religious freedom.

The U.S. government has documented similar violations of religious freedom against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang by the Chinese government in the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report. The report is part of the United States’ commitment to advancing religious freedom around the world.

An ongoing crackdown

Men walking by mosque entrance (© Epel/Shutterstock)
The Id Kah Mosque’s plaque, seen here in June 2011, has been removed as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on Islam. (© Epel/Shutterstock)

The removal of the plaque at Id Kah is part of Chinese authorities’ ongoing pattern of destroying Uyghur and Islamic culture in Xinjiang.

Since April 2017, more than 1 million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslim minority groups have been held in internment camps in Xinjiang. Inside the camps, guards reportedly beat and torture prisoners and force them to renounce Islam in an effort to erase their religious and ethnic identities.

Outside the camps, the Chinese government maintains a prison-like control over the people in Xinjiang. The crackdown on Islamic culture includes:

“Across their homeland, mosques, shrines and other sacred spaces have been bulldozed into history,” Szadziewski said. “The despoiling of Id Kah signals a move toward an effective ban on the Islamic faith.”