Chinese authorities have imposed a ban on ‘abnormal’ facial hair and veils in public places in the country’s predominantly Muslim Xinjiang province in an effort to curb extremism and radicalization in the volatile area bordering Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
The initiative has been prompted in part by the deaths of hundreds of people over the past years in Xinjiang where government security forces regularly clashed with Islamist militants and faced unrest among the Muslim Uighur people driven by separatist sentiments.
Critics claim the armed clashes and terrorist attacks was a response to the crackdown on the Muslim population carried out by Beijing. Chinese authorities however reject accusations of oppression, emphasizing that Uighur people and their rights are under protection.
The new rules are to be enforced from Saturday, local authorities said on their website, and would ban spreading “extremist ideas”, marrying in accordance to religious rites and “using the name of Halal to meddle in the secular life of others”.
“Parents should use good moral conduct to influence their children, educate them to revere science, pursue culture, uphold ethnic unity and refuse and oppose extremism,” a statement said.
Certain baby names have also fallen from grace, with authorities banning the “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervor”. Parents will also be prohibited to homeschool their children.
It will also be an offense to “refuse or reject” watching state television or radio, although it’s not clear how authorities are planning to enforce this regulation.
The Uighur people, the dominant Muslim minority in Xinjiang, mostly practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. However, in recent years many have begun taking up practices more commonly followed in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, such as making women wear a full face veil, seen by some as a sign of opposition towards the central government.
Some of the separatist Uighur militant group who are striving for an independent East Turkestan in the northwestern China are considered terrorist not only by Beijing. The so-called East Turkestan Islamic Movement, now known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, has been listed as a terrorist group by the UN.
Earlier in March, at the annual meeting of China’s parliament, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Xinjiang needs a “great wall of iron” that would protect the region.