Officially atheist China protects Muslim residents’ rights, blocks ‘Islamophobic’ terms from social media

Officially atheist China protects Muslim residents' rights, blocks 'Islamophobic' terms from social media

Beijing/ China, September 21: To prevent bias against Islam, authorities have blocked ‘Islamophobic’ terms used by Chinese internet users to stigmatise Muslims, says media reports.

According to unofficial accounts, adding Uyghurs in Xinjiang and Hui community in Ningxia province, China has over 21 million Muslims.

As per the reports from a state run daily, “the Islamophobic terms invented by Chinese Internet users to stigmatise Muslims have been blocked by authorities on Chinese social media despite criticism from the netizens that such a ban overtly favourable to Muslim minorities.”

Against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in the volatile Xinjiang province, China is currently carrying out massive crackdown.

China blames ETIM for a host of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China. As per media reports, a large number of youth were fighting along with Islamic State in Syria.

Following the ban, searches for “green religion” and “peaceful religion”(terms by Internet users to refer Islam and to circumvent censorship of inappropriate online speech) hardly showed any results on China’s Weibo microblog. Insults against Islam are also blocked in Weibo’s search engine.

China which has a booming internet population surpassing over 700 million, uses massive firewalls to block any content the government and the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), deems offending and not in the country’s interest.

International social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook as well as Google are blocked by the firewalls.

“Discontent and fears of Muslims have been on the rise on China’s Internet in recent years. Complainers target Chinese authorities’ affirmative discrimination policies toward ethnic minorities, especially Muslim groups,” the report said.

The ban came after an alleged brawl involving Muslim people at a toll booth went viral, netizens inundated the official Weibo accounts of Tangshan city government departments with complaints about the country’s allegedly partial treatment of Muslims for the sake of social stability, it said.

“It’s necessary to timely remove radical phrases that discriminate against Islam and are biased against Muslims to prevent worsening online hatred towards the group. Those phrases severely undermine religious harmony and ethnic unity,” said Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing’s Minzu University of China in Beijing.

“Blocking such phrases is not an infringement of people’s freedom of speech as freedom should abide under China’s related regulations and law,” Xiong told the daily.

Some Internet users misunderstand China’s ethnic policies, calling them “unjust” to the majority Han people, he said.

Although officially atheist, China also protects its residents’ rights to practice their religion. The government assisted 12,800 Muslims in making the pilgrimage to Mecca this year and closed streets for Muslims to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, the report said.

(Inputs from agencies)