Video of dancer in mosque raises Uyghur anxieties about China’s attacks on religion

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) A Chinese tourism advertisement portraying a medieval Buddhist fantasy, shot in the prayer hall of Xinjiang’s second-largest mosque, has alarmed the Uyghur diaspora, which is calling it a desecration, a media report said.
They say it is particularly incensing during Ramadan, a time when mosques should host prayer and evening fast-breaking, RFA reported.
The promotional video, put out by a local propaganda office, features a bare-armed Uyghur woman as a dancer from ‘Women’s Kingdom’, a fictional polity whose queen sought to marry the Chinese protagonist of the classic Ming Dynasty novel ‘Journey to the West’, RFA reported.
She twirls in the otherwise empty Kuchar Grand Mosque.
The video, which circulated on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, emerged amid a tourism campaign to draw Han Chinese to the far-western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uyghur and other Turkic people now that Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted.
There were 35.2 million individual visits to Xinjiang between January and March this year, resulting in 2.5 billion yuan in tourism revenue, an increase of 36 per cent over the same period last year, according to state media.
But Uyghurs say such videos are both offensive and part of a wider attempt to diminish or erase their religion and culture, RFA reported.
The video was shared on Facebook by Uyghur activist and reeducation camp survivor Zumret Dawut. It has since been taken down from Douyin.
“The message [of the video] to the Uyghurs is that we can suppress and even destroy you by assaulting and breaking your dignity through humiliation – we can do anything we want to do,” said Ilshat Hassan, Deputy Executive Chairman of the World Uyghur Congress, RFA reported.
The transformation of the Uyghur region’s most prominent religious sites into tourist attractions, demolition of other mosques and shrines, criminalisation of public expressions of Islamic piety, and pervasive surveillance have left Uyghurs with nowhere to observe Ramadan but home, RFA reported.

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