China’s approach to religious and cultural integration in Xinjiang has raised international concerns. In a recent development, China is considering releasing its own version of the Quran, translating it into Mandarin with annotations influenced by Confucianism. This move is part of a broader effort to “sinicize” Islam, aligning it with Chinese culture and values. Here, we delve into the details of these developments and their implications.
Meeting in Urumqi: Discussing the “Sinicization” of Islam
In late July, a group of Chinese government officials and academics convened in Urumqi to discuss the implementation of a national plan to “sinicize” Islam in Xinjiang. Notably, the discussion did not address the destruction of religious sites, the burning of Islamic books, or the forced reeducation of Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. Instead, it focused on strategies to merge Islam with Confucianism or Konghucu.
The Communist Party’s Agenda
While the meeting’s agenda was a separate initiative, it aligns with the broader framework launched by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2018. This framework aims to “sinicize” various religions, including Islam. According to the authorities, Islam requires more “engineering” to align it with Chinese values. China believes that unifying Islam with Confucianism is essential to this process.
To achieve this goal, China is contemplating releasing a new Mandarin version of the Quran, complete with translations and annotations that reflect the “spirit of the times.” Wang Zhen, a professor at the Central Institute of Socialism in China and a sponsor of the event, emphasized that “the ‘sinicization’ of Islam in Xinjiang must reflect the historical rules of how society develops, through the consolidation of political power, societal stability, and cultural construction.”
Control and Surveillance
China’s “sinicization” plans are closely tied to the Communist Party’s view of religion as a potential threat. Over the years, they have persecuted Uighur Muslims, albeit under different propaganda slogans and increasing intensity. In recent times, after campaigns described by the United States as genocide, the Chinese authorities have effectively suppressed public Islamic practices in Xinjiang not directly monitored by the U.S. They now aim to reshape Islam in a way that aligns with the Chinese state, emphasizing surveillance and control.
The 32-Point Plan
The concept of “sinicization” was first mentioned by China’s General Secretary, Xi Jinping, in 2015, with specific reference to Islam in 2017. In 2018, the Communist Party formulated a national plan to “sinicize” the three major monotheistic religions in China: Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam. This plan is intended to be implemented over five years. China Law Translate outlines a 32-point plan for Islam, addressing various aspects of the religion.
Conclusion: The Complex Path of “Sinicization”
China’s attempts to merge Islam with Confucianism and release its own version of the Quran signal a complex path toward religious and cultural integration in Xinjiang. These efforts raise concerns about the potential loss of religious identity and freedom. As China continues its “sinicization” endeavors, the international community closely watches the impact on religious practices and human rights in the region.