China Enacts Burqa Bans To ‘Curb Extremism’ In Its Most Muslim City

Burqa bans have been enacted in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, in which Muslims make up more than half of the population.

The decision bans all women from wearing the headdress and was finalized in an effort to curb what the government believes to be growing religious extremism, according to a report from the state-run Tianshan News website.

The ban was proposed in December 2014, notes Quartz’s Lily Kuo.

Kuo notes that there is not a known implementation date at this time, but that a meeting held over the weekend allowed for comments, after which the government will impose final changes.

The Quartz contributor believes that this will “further alienate an already disenchanted minority group — the Uighurs, who feel their culture and economy is being overrun by Han Chinese.”

She notes that Uighur Muslims went on a killing spree in a Chinese train station last March, and Chinese officials are using the burqa bans as a means of trying to control extremists.

“Xinjiang officials later banned students and civil servants from fasting for Ramadan, and authorities in the Xinjiang city of Karamy barred anyone wearing burqas, niqabs, hijabs or simply “large beards” from taking public buses,” Kuo adds.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the burqa bans are justified.

“Burqas are not traditional dress for Uighur women… The regulation is seen as an effort to curb growing extremism that forced Uighur women to abandon their colorful traditional dress and wear black burqas.”

Xinhua also points out that burqas are outlawed in France, which was recently the scene of the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks that left 12 dead and four critically wounded, after terrorists identifying as Muslims opened fire at an editorial meeting of the satire newspaper for cartoons it published that were critical of the Islamic figurehead Muhammad.

For Zhang Haitao, a Urumqi-based activist, the burqa bans are classic government overreach. In comments to Radio Free Asia, he had this to say.

“You can’t deprive the freedom of a small portion of people to maintain the stability of the society. But here, for a long time, the authorities have been kidnapping public opinion in the name of stability.”

What about you, readers? Do you think China is violating human rights by enacting this law? Should Muslim women be allowed to wear burqas in public, or are burqa bans a reasonable solution to the problem of religious extremism? Sound off in our comments section.

[Image via ShutterStock]

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