China's Effort to Sinicize Islam in East Turkistan

In recent years, the Chinese regime has invited religious figures from regimes close to itself to East Turkistan in an attempt to cover up its genocidal policies against Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic people in the region. Two days ago, a group of religious scholars from Pakistan was invited to a meeting in Urumqi on "Continuing the Sinicization of Islam in Xinjiang." Chinese media in the region reported that China's policy of Sinicizing Islam was welcomed in the Islamic world. However, the Jamaat-e-Islami organization of Pakistan, to which the visiting delegation belongs, posted a statement on its Facebook account, mentioning only the trade, cultural, and regional cooperation between Pakistan and China without making any remarks about the seminar they attended.


China's Policy of Sinicizing Islam


The rhetoric of Sinicization of Islam was first put forward in 2012 by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 18th Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China. Xi emphasized that in order to build a unified national consciousness and consolidate the cohesion of ethnic groups, the Sinicization of Islam in accordance with socialist values is essential, and necessary steps should be taken in this direction.[1]


Since 2012, the term "Sinicization of Islam" has been frequently used by many high-ranking Chinese officials. On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr 2022, the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Governor Erkin Tuniyaz visited some mosque imams in Urumqi and urged them to internalize and implement Xi's speeches on Xinjiang at the National Conference on Religious Studies and the 3rd Xinjiang Studies Symposium. He stated that religious figures should actively take part in Sinicizing East Turkistan and adapting Islam to the socialist society based on socialist core values.[2]


On January 10, 2023, Zhang Lijuan, a lecturer at the Institute of Marxism of Xinjiang Normal University, published an article titled "Deeply Understanding the Three Logics of Sustaining the Sinification of Islam in Xinjiang" on China National Religion Website. In his article, Zhang explained the historical, theoretical, and practical dimensions of the Sinicization of Islam in East Turkistan, exemplifying the Chinese regime's thoughts and current policies on East Turkistan. He admitted that the Chinese regime has been implementing policies such as hanging banners with the Chinese flag, constitution, laws, and regulations, as well as socialist core values in mosques and other places of worship in East Turkistan.[3]


China's Use of Muslim Scholars to Legitimize its Policy of Sinicization of Islam


On July 18, 2023, a delegation consisting of Chairman of the Pakistan Islamic Thought Committee Ayaz, Director of Darul Quran School of Pakistan Tayib, former Vice President of the Islamic Sciences Society (Fazlullah Group) Ali, Director of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan Asif Luqman Qazi, and Head of the Institute of Islamic Sciences of the Islamic Promotion Association Sultan Ali visited East Turkistan. The delegation met with Ma Xingrui, General Secretary of China's so-called Communist Party of Xinjiang Communist Party of China (CPC Xinjiang), and Erkin Tuniyaz, Regional Chairman of the CPC Xinjiang Communist Party, and said that China is a good neighbor and friend of Pakistan, and Pakistan will always stand by China.[4]


On the same day, the Tian Shan news website, China's official news website in East Turkistan, shared the news that this delegation from Pakistan attended a seminar titled "Continuing the Sinicization of Islam in Xinjiang" organized by the Central Institute of Marxism of the Communist Party of China and the United Front Work Department of the Autonomous Region Party Committee.[5]


On July 18, during a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials in Urumqi, Asif Luqman Qazi, Director of the Foreign Affairs Department of Jamaat-e-Islami, said that cooperation between the Islamic world and China can lay the foundation for a new global system, according to Pakistan Sabah News website. Luqman Qazi also said that with China's population of 1.45 billion and 1.80 billion Muslims, they have the potential to advance international relations based on justice. He stated that Pakistan has passed every test in its relations with China, and in the current global scenario, China and Pakistan support each other at all levels of international forums. He further stated that "China's regional security concerns will be respected, and the expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and its continuation and establishment of industries in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are a priority.”[6] The delegation also visited some mosques in Urumqi, Kashgar, and Aksu and met with individuals under the guidance of Chinese government officials.[7]


On the same day, a statement released by the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan stated that the delegation met with Chinese officials in Urumqi and that the Chinese officials emphasized that making East Turkistan an ideal province of China is important for the development of trade, cultural, and regional relations with Pakistan. The statement also praised China's efforts for economic development in the region and its role in lifting people out of poverty, stating that China's ethnic and religious policies in East Turkistan have enabled different ethnic groups in the region to enjoy full religious freedom and live in harmony. However, in the Jamaat-e-Islami statement, they did not mention anything about the seminar they attended in Urumqi called "Continuing the Sinicization of Islam in Xinjiang." China has been deceiving the Islamic world and Muslims by inviting such delegations from Islamic countries that maintain favorable diplomatic relations with it to visit and show them religious events that are normally forbidden but are staged only for these delegations, in order to keep these anti-religious attitudes that it is practicing in East Turkistan away from the eyes of the Islamic world and Muslims, to legitimize its policies against Islam, and to cover up its ongoing genocide.

[2] 杨睿、韩婷,Xinjiang Daily,2022, 艾尔肯·吐尼亚孜在新疆伊斯兰教协会和乌鲁木齐市洋行清真寺走访慰问 坚持新疆伊斯兰教中国化方向

[3] 张丽娟, 中国民族宗教网、2023 深刻把握新疆伊斯兰教中国化发展的三个逻辑

[4] 革乃·艾尔肯、天山网, 2023, 马兴瑞艾尔肯·吐尼亚孜会见巴基斯坦宗教人士代表团一行

[5] 王荣、天山网、2023、“坚持新疆伊斯兰教中国化方向”学术研讨会召开

[6] SABAH 2023 Collaboration between the Islamic world & China can lay the foundation for a new global system: Asif Luqman Qazi