Local Chinese Government Bars Hijabs, Long Beards and Other ‘Abnormal Appearances’ From Public Transport

"Five abnormal" appearances are banned from public transport in Karamay city in Xinjiang during the 13th Xinjiang Sport Games

“Five abnormal appearances” are banned from public transport in Karamay city in Xinjiang during the 13th Xinjiang Sport Games. Image via Twitter user @uponsnow

The Karamay city government in China announced a ban on “abnormal” clothing and hairstyles associated with Muslims from public transport last week to combat potential terrorist activities during the 13th Xinjiang Sports Games between Aug. 8 to 20, 2014.

The announcement was released on Aug. 4 with a poster depicting the so-called “five abnormal appearances”. Twitter user @uponsnow highlighted the news with a copy of the poster:

Face veils, hijabs, burqas, outfits with crescent moon and stars and men with long beards — the above five types of people are forbidden on public transport. Outfit with crescent moon and stars are banned.

The relationship between the Uyghur people in China's western Xinjiang region and the Chinese government is tumultuous. Ethnic tensions have at times resulted in deadly clashes between Uyghur activists and authorities. The current clampdown came after bloody ethnic unrest broke out in Kashgar city on July 28. Thirty-seven civilians were killed, while police gunned down 59 suspected assailants, according to the government's official account.   

Charles Liu from Nanfang.com noted that it is likely the “temporary measure” will become a long-term policy. As early as June 4 this year, authorities in Xinjiang began pressuring the public to stop wearing Muslim outfits because it is “not normal”. Last month, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Xinjiang government even banned its civil servants from the religious practice of fasting.

The news on the ban of the “five abnormal appearances” was highlighted in major news portals and social media. Public responses were rather extreme. On the one side, many have shown their support for the policy, with some even suggesting that the ban be extended all across the country. Below are some frequently seen pro-government comments (via Chongqing morning post's Weibo comment section):

- 不止克拉玛依,全国都该禁止
– 很多国家早就禁止公开场合穿着极端宗教主义服饰了
– 毫无疑问支持,要求铁腕落实
– 穆斯林必须世俗化,不然他们根本没出路!
– 就该这样,宗教回家回寺庙去,到公共场所就遵守世俗的规矩

- The ban should not be restricted to Karamay City, the whole country should ban [such outfits]
– Many countries have banned wearing such extreme religious outfits in the public.
– Support without any doubt, iron fist is needed.
– Muslim should become secular or they don't have any exit!
– This is the right way. Religious practice should be restricted to temples. The public space should be secular.

On the other side, many have questioned the effectiveness of the ban. Below are picks from the comment section of Weibo user Dapeng777's news highlight:

- 人为制造矛盾,换谁都不爽
– 我並不喜歡暴恐分子,也反感那些穿星月服的人,有時候在街上碰到穿著黑壓壓的衣服的新疆人,自己也會被嚇一跳。但是我覺得大鬍子並不能代表什麼,不能和恐怖分子聯繫起來,如果因為留了大鬍子就不然人坐公交車的話,一些傳統的新疆人自然會心生不滿。
– 非我族类,其心必异。多少年了,就没点长进。民族主义的歧视,只会让矛盾越积越深。
– 马克思觉得冤枉啊,他也是年轻时就蓄大胡子的
– 让人想起南非种族隔离

- [Such a policy] is man-made conflict, anyone would be pissed.
– I don't like terrorists and feel uneasy about those wearing moon and star outfits. Sometimes I am also frightened by those Xinjiang people wearing black dresses. But long beards don't mean anything and should not be connected with terrorists. If they are banned from public transport, the more traditional Xinjiangese will be frustrated.
– Loyalty defined by ethnicity. After all these years, same attitude prevails. Discrimination based on nationalism will only deepen conflicts.
– Karl Marx also had long beard since he was young…
– [The ban] reminds me of the racial segregation in South Africa.

Judging from the prosecution of moderate Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who advocates for ethnic reconciliation, and this recent extreme policy targeting Muslim outfits, the vicious circle of violent protests and repression will carry on. As Henryk Szadziewski, a senior researcher for the Uyghur Human Rights Project told Foreign Policy, “Chinese officials seem to be holding a line that ‘you are either with us or against us’, and punishing accordingly”.


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