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China limits beards, veils in Muslim region

Chinese authorities have passed measures banning "abnormal" facial hair and many typically Muslim customs in the remote Xinjiang region. The initiative also makes it illegal to "reject or refuse" state propaganda.

The upcoming crackdown is part of an "anti-extremism" push in Xinjiang, where hundreds were killed in recent years as Beijing forces clashed with alleged Uighur militants. However, many activists claim that the violence is more of a response to repression from the central government.

The new legal measures would go into effect on Saturday, the regional authorities said on their website.

Officials would ban spreading "extremist ideas," marrying under religious rites rather than legal procedures, and "using the name of Halal to meddle in the secular life of others."

"Parents should use good moral conduct to influence their children, educate them to revere science, pursue culture, uphold ethnic unity and refuse and oppose extremism," the text says.

Workers to 'dissuade' veiled women 

Also, the officials oppose the "naming of children to exaggerate religious fervor" and keeping them away from regular, state schools. The authorities would also make it illegal to "refuse or reject" watching state television or radio, although it was not immediately clear how the authorities would enforce this regulation.

The most visible change, however, is likely to come from the ban on "abnormal growing of beards," and the restriction on wearing veils. Specifically, workers in public spaces, including stations and airports, will be required to "dissuade" people with veils on their faces from entering and report them to the police.

In recent years, authorities have introduced similar bans in some places or violence-prone cities in the massive and remote northeastern region. Not all of those measures were strictly enforced. The new set of regulations, however, applied to all of Xinjiang.

Uighurs have traditionally practiced a moderate version of Islam. Nevertheless, experts believe that some of them have been joining Islamic militias in the Middle East due to the violence in Xinjiang. The group's members drew worldwide attention with their deadly stabbing rampage at a Chinese train station in 2014.

dj/kl (AFP, Reuters)

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