Print Version    Email to Friend
Proposed ban on undefined terrorist clothing

HONG KONG (UCAN): China has proposed a new nationwide ban on what it is terming terrorist clothing in a move designed to curb Islamist extremism in Xinjiang province.

A draft amendment proposed on August 24 by China’s top legislature does not specify exactly what would be criminalised, but the proposed ban is believed to apply to burqas, separatist flags and crescent-shaped beards, as often worn by Muslims.

Those found guilty of wearing or forcing others to wear “clothes or symbols in public associated with terrorism and extremism” could face up to three years in prison.

“The amendment could prevent terrorist activities from spreading across China. It shows the nation’s zero tolerance toward any action related to terrorism or extremism,” Li Wei, an anti-terrorism specialist at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the state-run Global Times.

Although countries including France and Turkey have banned burqas, as noted by China’s state media, most have done so only in state institutions, such as courts and government buildings.

There are few examples of countries banning other forms of Islamic appearance, including beards.

In January, Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, banned burqas from public spaces, amid a one-year strike-hard campaign against the minority Muslim Uyghur people. This campaign was a response to a series of deadly attacks.

In March, a court in the Uyghur-dominated city of Kashgar sentenced a 38-year-old man to six years in prison for growing a beard. His wife was given two years for wearing a veil.

The court said they were found guilty of picking quarrels and provoking trouble.

Five Muslim men were put on trial in June for wearing crescent moon-shaped beards in the remote city of Atushi, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Although there are no current laws banning Islamic dress outside of Xinjiang, the crackdown has extended to other parts of the country in recent months.

A university provoked an online debate in May after ordering nine female students to remove their veils in Xi’an, a city with a large minority Muslim Hui population in central China.

Earlier this month, armed police took away a group of women who were wearing burqas while shopping for shoes in the city of Nanyang, Henan province.

Many people on the micro-blogging site, Weibo, backed the police—a sign of growing intolerance of overt Islamic dress among China’s mainly atheist population.

“Other countries have banned the wearing of this kind of dress. If you see it on the street, inform the police. Muslim brothers and sisters going outside should not scare people,” one Weibo user wrote.

Kayum Masimov, the head of the Uyghur Canadian Society and a Xinjiang exile, said a nationwide ban on Islamic dress would fuel humiliation and oppression of Muslims, calling the move a double standard.

“The Chinese Communist Party is eager to exhibit Uyghurs and other minorities during its state-run shows at the Great Hall of the People,” he said in reference to the rubber-stamp parliament in Beijing. “But the same clothes are banned in our region.”


More from this section