Neighborhood in far west China tries veil ban

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 7:37 AM
Neighborhood in far west China tries veil ban

A city district in heavily Muslim western China is trying to tamp down religious fervor by prohibiting people from wearing veils, traditional Arab dress or growing long beards.

A regional spokeswoman said that she was unaware of the campaign but added it sounded unrealistic.

The notice from the Dunmaili district of Yining disappeared from the Yining government website Thursday afternoon. It was still available on a state-run news website, though the reason for the discrepancy was uncertain.

Using the slogan 'Dilute religious consciousness, advocate a civilized healthy life style,' the notice said the campaign's objective was "to completely get rid of the abnormal phenomenon in the entire community of minority ethnic women and youth wearing Arabian dress, growing beards and covering their faces in veils."

Yining is in Xinjiang, a region home to the traditionally Muslim Uighur ethnic group. Many Uighurs resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion and culture and the region has occasionally seen violent unrest.

The notice said stubborn individuals who refused to give up their veils, Arab dress or long beards should be educated, and "diehards" turned over to judicial departments.

Xinjiang regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin told The Associated Press by telephone that she was unaware of the campaign. She said ordinary people in Xinjiang are free to wear what they like, regardless of their faith. She said public schools do have guidelines instructing teachers to wear "secular" clothing.

"This is not consistent with the reality here," Hou said of the campaign.

China allows different faiths to practice their religion but only in state-backed churches and mosques.

Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and other minority faithful are generally allowed to wear their traditional dress. However, both communities have been targeted in political re-education campaigns following anti-government violence related to complaints about a lack of religious freedom.