Authorities in the Chinese capital ordered halal restaurants and food stalls to remove the Arabic alphabet and symbols associated with Islam from their signage, Al-Jazeera reports . This campaign is part of an expanding national effort to “Sin” the Muslim population of China.
Employees of 11 restaurants and shops in Beijing selling halal products confirmed that officials ordered them to remove Islamic-related images from their signs, such as the crescent moon and the word halal, written in Arabic.
Government officials from various offices demanded that the head of a Beijing shop cover the Halal inscription in Arabic on the sign of his store, and then observe how he does it.
“They said it was a foreign culture, and you should use more of Chinese culture,” said the manager, who, like all restaurant owners and employees, refused to give his name because of the delicacy of the problem.
The campaign against Arabic writing and Islamic images marks a new stage of development, which has been gaining momentum since 2016 and is aimed at matching religions to the main culture of China.
The campaign already included the removal of Middle Eastern-style domes at many mosques throughout the country, in favor of Chinese pagodas.
In Beijing, according to the Meituan Dianping Food Delivery App, there are at least 1,000 halal shops and restaurants located in the historic Muslim quarter of the city, as well as in other neighborhoods.
It is not yet clear whether Arabic letters and Muslim symbols are required to disappear in every such restaurant in Beijing. One manager in a restaurant still showing Arabic letters said he was ordered to remove the inscription, but he was waiting for new directions.
Several major stores visited by Reuters replaced their signs with the Chinese term halal, qing zhen, while others simply covered Arab and Islamic images with tape or stickers.
The Beijing Government Committee on Ethnic and Religious Issues declined to comment, stating that the Halal Restaurant Order is a national directive.
While most shopkeepers surveyed by Reuters said they did not mind replacing their signs, some said that it confused their customers, and one worker in a halal butcher shop accused the authorities of “erasing” Muslim culture.
“They always talk about national unity, they always say that China is international. Is this national unity? ”