Just like Christians, Muslims should “Sinicize” more quickly, as they “celebrate” the 70th anniversary of China Islamic Association.
by Ma Wenyan
June 5, 2023
An image of the 70th anniversary symposium. From Weibo.
Just as there is a government-controlled Three-Self Church for converting “legal” Protestant churches into transmission belts of the CCP directives to Christians, there is a China Islamic Association playing the same role for Muslims. It is less well-known, and it is challenged by independent or underground mosques just as the Three-Self Church should face the competition of “illegal” but flourishing house churches.
Yet, it is part of the mandate of the United Front, which controls the China Islamic Association, to increase its role—and at the same time make sure it does its job properly. The job of the five authorized religions is to slowly accompany religion to its demise, in the meantime teaching believers that they should obey the CCP and study Marxism and Xi Jinping’s thought.
The China Islamic Association was founded in 1953, and in 2023 it “celebrates” its 70th anniversary. There is not much to celebrate for sincere Muslim believers, as 1953 was part of a campaign for strangling and containing Islam.
However, Comrades Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Shi Taifeng, member of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee and head of the United Front Work Department, insisted for celebrating and on May 19 organized a symposium in Beijing with the leaders and cadres of the China Islamic Association.
It was more than a celebration, though. Wang took the opportunity to remind Muslims that Islam in China should be “Sinicized,” which does not mean only that mosques should look “Chinese” rather than “Arabic” but mostly that they should teach the CCP ideology to believers.
The association, Wang said, should guide Muslims to “study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the CCP.”
Religion in China, he admonished, should be “strictly administered” and always raise “the banner of socialism.” Sermons and other forms of teaching should be adapted accordingly. Mosques should “guide the majority of Islamic circles to adhere to the Party’s leadership, strengthen the confidence and determination to listen to and follow the Party’s words, and cooperate with the Party’s Central Committee in terms of ideology, politics, and actions.”
The CCP expects that “the China Islamic Association will continue to uphold the leadership of the Party, conscientiously implement the decision-making and deployment of the Party’s Central Committee on religious work, and focus on the main line of the Sinicization of Islam in the country around the implementation of the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the spirit of the National Religious Work Conference” (of 2021, which called for more control of religion and more Marxist indoctrination in places of worship).
It is not surprising that more and more Muslims lose interest in the official mosques controlled by the China Islamic Association and seek an alternative but genuine teaching of Islam elsewhere.