A member of an atheism group on G+ posted this article about a region of China banning various Muslim religious activities. The banned activities include calls to prayer, spreading Muslim “propaganda”, and logos or clothing associated with extremism. Now, I could not find any corroborating evidence and the source is unknown to me, but the tagline “It’s not news unless it’s Jews News” is a bit… shall we say… concerning.
However, I have found recent evidence of similar bans in China from reliable news sources.
CNN reported in January about the Xinjiang province banning burqas in public. Previously, a town in Xinjiang had
banned people wearing Islamic-style clothing and large beards from riding public buses during a provincial sporting event, according to state media.
This seemed to be due to violent riots reportedly caused by religious extremists.
Just a month ago, Aljazeera reported that
China has banned civil servants, students and teachers in its mainly Muslim Xinjiang region from fasting during Ramadan and ordered restaurants to stay open.
Of course, the country of China is officially atheist and have a degree of control over their people that, in spite of decades of adapting to Western freedoms, is still stunning.
The poster of the first article was thrilled. They suggested that it was past time for this to be done all over the place.
That’s a mistake.
While I agree with the sentiment. I personally believe that religion has caused considerably more problems than it even pretends to solve. However, history tells us that banning things doesn’t work. Alcohol during prohibition. Religion in the U.S.S.R. Drugs in the US. In fact, I can’t think of anything that was successfully banned that also did not have broad public support… or a smaller, but more fanatical base.
What does work, more frequently, is education and a tolerance of change by the people. Even five years ago, the thought of same sex marriage in the US being legal in all jurisdictions was folly. Now, it’s a reality, except for those few idiot holdout areas. And, I strongly suspect that if you compare the education level and level of religiousness with the areas that holdouts, you will find lower than average education and higher than average religiousness.
And that’s the key. Education. Get people out of their insular little circles and into the real world. Show them that people, all people, are worthy of respect, even if their ideas aren’t.
But that’s a double edged sword for China. If they start really educating their people, promoting tolerance, respect, and understanding for others, then the state will start to lose control. A similar thing is happening with the US Republican party. They have depended on fear and a religious base for so long that they can’t get away from that without losing the majority of their voters.
So, I wish that people would use their brains and not their cultural practices and that includes atheists and countries like the US and China. I also wish people would study some history. Banning things doesn’t work and generally makes the banned thing more powerful and a symbol for people to rally around.