China seems to be experiencing the same rise in Islamophobia as the West as a man and his wife were jailed for appearing, well... Appearing too Muslim.
Islamophobia is proving to be prevalent in China as a Muslim man is sentenced to a six year prison sentence in the Xinjiang region for growing a beard, while his wife was sentenced to two years for wearing a veil.
While Egyptians are busy cracking down on Brotherhood members, China finds itself cracking down on the Uighurs, a mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking minority residing in Xinjiang. On Sunday the China Youth Daily reported that a court in Xinjiang's city of Kashgar sentenced a 38-year-old Uighur man to six years in jail for growing a beard, while his wife was given two years for wearing niqab. According to the same paper, the man “had started growing his beard in 2010” and his wife "wore a veil hiding her face and a burqa,” two practices that are discouraged by local authorities.
Although there is no official law about growing beards, the couple were found guilty on the vague accusation of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” which is a commonly used charge by the Chinese judicial system. According to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress exile organisation, said the case was "typical of the political persecution," adding in his statement that "it is unacceptable and absurd. It exposes China's hostile attitude and crisis of governance."
Shortly after this story surfaced, the initial report and several other articles covering the case were deleted from mainland news, however the debate continued on social media with some agreeing with the absurd punishment. According to one user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter: "Anyone dressed that way is a terrorist, not a Muslim!"
This is just the latest example of the mounting tensions between minorities and further illustrates the rise in Islamophobia, thanks in large part to islamphobic campaigns run by authorities in the region.
For over a year authorities have gone public campaigning against men growing beards going so far as offering cash to informants who report people with excessive facial hair. Adding further fuel to the flames, they also prohibited people were Islamic clothing or sporting a large beard from travelling on public buses, and launched a campaign insultingly dubbed “Project Beauty,” which encourages women to leave their heads bare and abandon a veil, a typically widespread practice among the Uighurs.
As it stands, Beijing is defending its policies arguing that they have boosted the economic development in the area, and that it upholds minority and religious rights. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters: "The Chinese government will do its best to promote stability and economic development as well as harmonious coexistence of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang." However no officials have gone on record about this specific case, which is not uncommon.