Thousands of Muslims protest China’s plans to demolish mosque in Ningxia

Hundreds of Muslims in north-western China are engaged in a standoff with authorities to prevent their mosque from being demolished.

Officials said the newly built Weizhou Grand Mosque in the Ningxia region had not been given proper building permits. But worshippers refused to back down – one resident said they “won’t let the government touch the mosque”.

China is home to some 23 million Muslims, and Islam has been prominent in Ningxia for centuries. However, rights groups say there is increasing official hostility towards Muslims in China, and foreign religious influences in particular.

The mosque, which has several soaring minarets and domes, is built in a Middle Eastern style. For centuries Hui Muslim mosques had been built in a more Chinese style, and it appears that the new structure is viewed by the local government as an example of a growing Arabization of Chinese Islam, BBC reported.

Officials had on 3 August posted a notice that the mosque would be “forcibly demolished” as it had not been granted the necessary planning and construction permits.

Many questioned why authorities did not stop construction of the mosque, which took two years to complete, if it had not been granted relevant permits, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.

Protests were held outside the mosque on Thursday and continued into Friday, say the reports. Pictures circulating on Chinese social media showed large crowds gathering outside the large white building. It remains unclear if the original plan to begin the demolition on Friday will go ahead, or if a compromise has been reached.

An official from the local county’s Islamic Association said that the mosque would not be demolished entirely. He told Reuters the government only wanted the structure “renovated to reduce its scale”.

Source: International Islamic News Agency