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China Battles Islamic Extremist Women in Xinjiang

Updated on August 3, 2014

France did ban the burqa , jilbab, hijab, typically worn my women to cover their body from the eyes of men. Their law would fine violating Muslim women several hundreds of dollars on the first violation. The result were protests about freedom of dress and an outright defiance by some. Police trying to enforce the law do so reluctantly. Some will look the other way or just warn the woman. It is questionable if such a ban is effective especially in Muslim sections of Paris.

Up to now, China, has been rather devoid of Muslim extremists attacks or protests. The government is very fearful of this taking root because there are many Muslims in Xinjiang Province and Mongolia. Following in France's footsteps, China also banned the same Muslim garments worn by Muslim women as a "soft" approach to quell the dangerous influence.

But in Hotan and Kashgar, the largest cities in Xinjiang, the quell failed. There is a growing conservative Islamic Muslim movement with parts connected to al-Qaeda. Despite the law about the dress restrictions, Muslim women are simply wearing them anyway. The defiant group of Muslims are from the Uighur group, its largest. The law is part of China's attempt to contain this growing extremism and the quell the numerous attacks within the region.

After China appointed its own imam of the biggest mosque in Kashgar (in effect, a puppet Muslim leader for Beijing) he was murdered after morning prayers. Police did arrest the small group. This has since incited more outrage and more crackdown from the Chinese police who killed 20 Muslims during a riot between Muslims and police, all because police tried to remove a woman's veil. There are signs all over the province of Muslim influence-men are growing beards, women defy Chinese law about Muslim dress all spurred on by their religious leaders preaching it.

Since 2012, China has imposed a series of laws that try to suppress and contain the Muslims, but all it has done is to stir the locals to rebel even more because it is against their Islamic customs. In Hotan, a city of almost 400,000, most are Muslim and Chinese police govern it with a heavy hand being close to Pakistan. The Chinese rule curtails freedom and this is what the Muslims want- freedom to dress and worship.Wearing a veil can cause a fine of $30-80.

The Uighurs are moderate Sunnis and its government tries to explains why the harsh laws are being applied to prevent the extremist ideas alien them. Much of the discontent is over the veils and how men look or dress in non-Chinese fashion. Dress campaigns from Beijing mostly target those under 30 yrs. but the region is influenced from Islamic media that China cannot interdict. In 2009, rioting between Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese settlers left nearly 200 dead in the regional capital, Urumqi.

Despite the attempts to control the Muslims way of life, China fears the Uighur population's passive form of resistance may turn to more radical forms. The veil women where is just a symbol for them to rally around and defy.


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