Wang Zuoan, China”s head of State Administration for Religious Affairs, told 300 religious leaders at the National Congress of the Chinese Islamic Association that “extremism” is becoming more common.
He said China’s Muslim community had typically been based at the Xinjiang northwest border, but claimed a number of Muslims are now moving further into mainland China.
Mr Zuoan urged clerics to become the “front line” in “resisting extremism” and insisted religious leaders focus on “converting” hardline Muslims to a more moderate version of the religion.
The government official said: “We should respect the beliefs and customs of Muslims, and at the same time curb behaviours that intervene in administrative, judicial and education processes in the name of religious canons.
“The China Islamic Association should stick to and carry forward the fine traditions of Chinese Islam, correctly identify the various ideological trends of Islam overseas and avoid blindly following the lead of religions in other countries, which will only result in the loss of direction for Chinese Islam.”
The religion tsar also hit out against practices associated with halal, and said that Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina should be banned by the Association.
He said: “The country’s number of hajj pilgrims has already approached its limit, and there is not much room for more.
“We need to lead the Muslims to treat hajj more rationally, and object to irrational behaviours such as taking on debt to make the pilgrimage or making the pilgrimage in sickness.”
In recent years, China has taken a tough stance towards its Muslim population and in June, Xinjiang residents were ordered to provide DNA samples before they were given permission to travel overseas.
And in October, police told Muslims to hand over their travel documents due to “safeguarding” measures.
But the Xinjiang community has retaliated against the measures, with the World Uyghur Congress claiming that Xinjiang residents are being denied basic freedoms.