A ruling atheist Communist party official in China’s volatile Uyghur Muslim majority Xinjiang province was demoted for not “daring” to smoke in front of local Muslim leaders which is regarded as a sign of timidity in fighting against religious extremism as reported by state-run media.
China continues to use extremist approaches to tackle what they consider to be extremist beliefs, this can result in more extremism.
Jelil Matniyaz, the party chief of a village in Hotan, Xinjiang was demoted from “senior staff member” to “staff member” on March 25 for his “infirm political stands…and for being afraid to smoke in front of Muslim figures,” a notice posted on the Hotan Daily’s social media WeChat account said. The Hotan official quoted as saying:
“Smoking is a personal choice, and religious and ordinary people should respect each other, but his behaviour of ‘not daring’ to smoke conforms with extreme religious thought in Xinjiang.”
“As a party chief, he should lead the fight against extreme religious thought, otherwise, he would fail to confront the threat of extreme regional forces,” the official said.
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“According to local Muslim customs, smoking is not allowed in front of older or religious people,” Turgunjun Tursun, a professor with the Zhejiang Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.
However, some religious people force ordinary citizens also to comply with the requirements, a senior official who had been working in Xinjiang for years.
The official’s demotion is an isolated case, Tursun said, adding that the local government should balance de-extremist behaviour and local customs in the crackdown on extremism.
The move to demote the official comes as authorities intensified their efforts to curb religious extremism.
Read Also: Long beards, burqa and other orthodox Islamic practices banned in Xinjiang, China – enforcing the Muslims to follow secularism
Early this month, the province where the Chinese security forces enacted a new law banning a wide range of acts, including wearing veils or growing “abnormal” beards.
Other 96 Hotan officials were also named and shamed in the notice for violating disciplinary regulations, including lax work styles, dereliction of duty, and bribery.