In China, since 2017, the Chinese authorities have systematically been eradicating mosques and buildings styled in Muslim architecture making them almost unrecognizable. This in the name of consolidating, and sometimes china-izing such culturally specific places. Such efforts are kept largely below the radar of international law, and deemed as a clear violation of freedom of religious practice in China.
The mosques in question have been decommissioned, closed down, demolished, and converted mosques for secular use as part of its efforts to restrict the practice of Islam, making mosques look more Chinese. The alterations to the mosques, which are estimated in thousands, include removing domes and minarets.
Among those that have undergone alterations is Bejing’s Doudian Mosque which was one of the grandest in northern China. Earlier this year, its minarets were removed and its Arab-style arches squared off. Satellite-based analysis of 2,312 mosques conducted by the Financial Times show that thousands of buildings have been stripped of their Arabic features, getting replaced with traditional Chinese designs.
Most of the mosque demolitions and modifications have been documented in Xinjiang, a northwestern region. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies. In addition to that, important Islamic sacred sites such as shrines, cemeteries and pilgrimage routes have been demolished.
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