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China plans to bring Islam on socialist lines in 5 years

Beijing: China has firmed up an outline to sinicise Islam by 2022 in an effort to redefine the practice of the religion and align the beliefs of Muslims with the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) policies and traditional Chinese culture.

The five-year plan (2018-2022) was discussed and agreed upon by eight Islamic associations and government officials at a conference held in Beijing on Saturday.

Sinicisation of religion could be defined as an effort to mould religious beliefs and doctrine to bring them in line CPC’s objectives and the culture of the majority Han community.

Details of the plan were not shared in a report on the conference in the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times, which only said the outline will soon be released.

President Xi Jinping in 2015 had spoken about sinicising the five major religions practised in China: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism and Daoism.

The CPC’s focus has been on Islam in the remote Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) where, according to the United Nations, a million Uyghur Muslims could be interred in re-reduction camps to pledge first loyalty to the Party.

At Friday’s seminar, government-appointed Islamic officials and clerics agreed that their religion needs to follow the CPC’s lead.

“They agreed that the outline is the basic policy for Islamic sinicisation covering the next five years,” according to a statement published on the official website of the Chinese Islamic Association.

Yang Faming, head of the Chinese Islamic Association, said at the seminar that “…relevant measures should be implemented including holding lectures and providing training on socialist core values, laws and traditional culture as well as guiding Muslims through vivid stories with a positive spirit”.

Gao Zhanfu, the vice-dean of the Beijing-based China Islamic Institute, told the Global Times on Sunday that sinicisation of Islam had “matured” since the concept was brought forward in 2015 by President Xi Jinping.

“Sinicisation of Islam is not about changing the beliefs of Islam, habits or ideology but to make it compatible with a socialist society,” Gao said.

In October, a CPC leader said in Xinjiang that the “…Party’s leadership over religious work must be upheld,” and that “the infiltration of religious extremism must be guarded against”.

You Quan, a member of the CPC central committee secretariat, one of the top decision-making bodies of the party, and head of the party’s powerful United Front Work Department, expressed “…hope that people in religious circles can inherit and carry forward the fine traditions to love the motherland and their faith, lead religious believers to follow the right faith and abide the law and contribute to the healthy development of Islam”.