Beijing, May 3 (EFE).- The regional government of China’s Xinjiang province has shared footage of hundreds of people praying on Thursday in the major mosques of the region on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The authorities of the autonomous region on Thursday held a ceremony to celebrate Eid at the regional government headquarters in Beijing, which was attended by the imams (head priests) of the major mosques in Kashgar, Urumqi and Hotan, the main cities in Xiniang.
The general secretary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Uzbekistan’s Vladimir Norov, was also present during the event, where foreign media outlets – including an EFE representative – had been invited by the organizers.
At the ceremony, regional authorities showed a video – claimed to have been shot on Thursday morning – showing the first morning prayers of Eid.
The video showed hundreds of Muslims praying inside and in the gardens of the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, the largest in the province and entire China.
The presentation also included footage of morning prayers from the Yanghang mosque in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi and the grand mosque at the recently build new facilities of the Xinjiang Islamic institute, situated on the outskirts of the capital.
Other mosques to appear in the video were the grand mosque in Shaanxi, and the Jamia mosque in Hotan in southwestern Xinjiang, an area dominated by Uighur minority.
However, the imam of the Id Kah mosque, Mamat Juma, had told EFE during a recent media visit to the region that the number of visitors to mosques had fallen considerably in recent years.
Juma, whose father and the earlier imam was assassinated by Islamists in 2014, said that attendance at Friday prayers had fallen from 4,000-5,000 a decade ago to 800-900.
He added that the number of attendees during the five daily players had dropped to 450-500, although attendance increases during Ramadan.
Since 1990, the imams in Xinjiang have been appointed by the Chinese government, just like priests of other religions in a country where the clergy are considered “religious professionals.”
This led to the official religious leaders, who more or less backed the government policies, being called heretics by radical Islamists and becoming targets of their attacks.
A number of international media outlets and Western countries, especially the United States, have accused China of limiting religious freedoms in Xinjiang, a province mainly inhabited by Uighurs, a mostly Muslim community. EFE