Chinese man jailed for Koran burning as Islamophobia spreads online

  • Offender charged with inciting national hatred
  • Video of the act widely shared on social media, attracting support from majority of internet commentators
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 6:26pm

A man in Xian was sentenced to 10 days’ detention for uploading a video online of himself burning a copy of the Koran, according to a report from local police that was shared on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media.

The unnamed man, whose personal details were blurred out in the photo, was charged with “inciting national hatred or national discrimination” under article 47 of China’s public security administrative laws, according to the police report, which carried a photo of the stamped document from the Wild Goose Pagoda police station in Xian.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 15 days detention and a fine of 1,000 yuan (US$144).

The report did not mention which social media platforms the video was uploaded to. The widely shared post included a photo of a Chinese-language Koran lying on the floor, with some of its pages torn out and blackened with soot.

Most users on Weibo expressed support for the man’s actions and questioned why he was punished with detention.

“Burning religious books [being a crime] – this is like Islamic laws against blasphemy … making religious norms more important than secular norms. Is China a religious country?!” said one comment that was ‘liked’ more than 1,700 times.

Chinese official says ‘sinicization’ of religion in Xinjiang must go on

Online Islamophobia in China has become increasingly widespread, despite China’s large Muslim population of around 23 million.

News of any “special treatment” towards Muslims, such as the introduction by a Beijing university last year of Halal mooncakes for Muslim students, and incidents of anti-Han violence in the Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang in recent years, have triggered waves of Islamophobic comments on Chinese social media.

A recent research paper by Luwei Rose Luqiu and Fan Yang found negative stereotypes of Muslims and Islam were commonplace in Chinese media.

Many editorials published in the state-owned Global Times over the past year have portrayed Uygur Muslim culture in Xinjiang province as backward, superstitious and in need of modernisation.

An article in the Global Times on Wednesday said: “With the promotion of vocational skills, national laws and regulations and de-extremism education, more residents and trainees in Xinjiang begin to realise that women should not be treated as the ‘personal possessions’ of their husbands.”

China changes law to recognise 're-education camps' in Xinjiang

The article was referring to the controversial detention centres for Muslims in Xinjiang that the government says are aimed at deradicalising Muslims and imparting vocational training.

Xian, located in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, was once the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 ethnic Hui Muslims live in the city, which has a population of more than eight million.

It is known for its Muslim Quarter, a centuries-old district with mosques and Halal food stalls that are a reminder of the city’s Islamic heritage.