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Beer festival in China’s Muslim area angers ‘exiles’

In China’s predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, exiled groups of Uighur Muslims have complained following a “beer competition” which took place in the lead up to Ramadan.

Muslim Uighur men in China’s Xinjian Province

China’s state media and Xinjiang’s government have encouraged the county’s residents not to observe Ramadan and fast and have put on a “beer competition”, stated a report by Reuters.

The Uighur Muslims are an exiled group who live in China’s North West region and have called the announcements and subsequent beer competition as an “open provocation.” Only a small percentage of China’s 20m Muslims are Uighur and in recent years, they have experienced unrest by the Chinese, including the order to shopkeepers to sell alcohol and cigarettes.

The “beer competition” which was held last week just before the start of Ramadan saw 60 “young farmers and herders” watching women dancing and a line of men “downing as much beer” as they could in one minute. At least one was wearing a traditional Uighur skull cap, said the report.

The regional Government’s website apparently quoted one villager as saying: “This activity that’s been organized is great, livening up the busy farming seasons and banishing our tiredness. I’m going to drink up, and I’ll definitely get a top prize to take home and make my wife happy.”

However, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress commented in an emailed statement: “This is an open provocation to the Islamic faith.”

China’s Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion but it maintains a tight grip on religious activities and allows only “officially recognised” institutions to operate.

The longer report can be read here.

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