Under the draconian Chinese policies, the future of Islam appears precarious in Xinjiang as religious activities are practiced under rules set by China's Communist Party.
Outside observers say scores of mosques have been demolished, a charge Beijing denies, and locals say the number of worshippers is sinking, reported The Diplomat.
A decade ago, 4,000 to 5,000 people attended Friday prayers at the Id Kah Mosque in the historic Silk Road city of Kashgar. Now only 800 to 900 do, said the mosque's Imam, Mamat Juma.
Recently, the Chinese government organized a five-day visit to Xinjiang in April for about a dozen foreign correspondents, part of an intense propaganda campaign to counter allegations of abuse, reported The Diplomat.
Beijing says it protects freedom of religion, and citizens can practice their faith so long as they adhere to laws and regulations.
In practice, any religious activity must be done in line with restrictions evident at almost every stop in Xinjiang -- from a primary school where the headmaster said fasting wasn't observed because of the "separation of religion and education," to a cotton yarn factory where workers are banned from praying on site, even in their dormitory rooms.
By law, Chinese are allowed to follow Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism or non-denominational Protestantism. In practice, there are limits, reported The Diplomat.
Workers are free to fast, the factory manager said, but they are required to take care of their bodies. If children fast, it's not good for their growth, said the Id Kah mosque's Imam.
Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, said in a report last year that mosques have been torn down or damaged in what they called the deliberate erasure of Uyghur and Islamic culture. They identified 170 destroyed mosques through satellite imagery, about 30 percent of a sample they examined.
The Chinese government denied destroying mosques and allegations of mass incarcerations and forced labour that have strained China's relations with Western governments, reported The Diplomat.
They said that they have spent heavily on upgrading mosques, outfitting them with fans, flush toilets, computers and air conditioners.
Xinjiang's biggest ethnic minority is Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim group who are ten million of the region's population of 25 million people. They have borne the brunt of a government crackdown that followed a series of riots, bombings, and knifings, although ethnic Kazakhs and others have been swept up as well, reported The Diplomat.
The authorities obstruct independent reporting in the region, journalists visiting Xinjiang on their own in recent years have been followed by undercover officers, stopped, interrogated and forced to delete photos or videos.
China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community.
( With inputs from ANI )
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