A LARGELY Muslim province in China has demanded strict adherence to the government’s ban on religion in schools after a video of a kindergarterner reciting Quranic verses was circulated online.
The provincial government in the northwestern province of Gansu emphasized the communist government’s official atheistic rules, which strictly forbid religion in public schools at all levels.
Gansu’s government said the rules were put in place to protect the children of China.
The video features an unidentified girl wearing a black hijab on her head, inside a classroom with other students donning hijabs and skullcaps.
The girl appears to recite verses from the Quran while her classmates look on. The provincial government said in a statement that the video was taken in the predominantly Muslim prefecture of Linxia.
The only institutions excepted from the ban are schools founded by religious organisations, and certain colleges and research institutes responsible for religious education and the study of the subject.
China also enforces tight restrictions on religious participation by young people outside of school, particularly in some distinctive western regions where Islam and Tibetan Buddhism are widely practiced.
A 2007 study by a pair of professors at Shanghai’s East China Normal University estimates there are about 300 million religious believers in China, although government estimates put the number closer to 100 million.
In April, President Xi Jinping warned against religious influences from abroad, after the government began clamping down on certain religious provinces.
He said: “We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltration via religious means and prevent ideological infringement by extremists.
““In no way should religions interfere with government administration, judiciary and education,” he added.
The warning came after it emerged that local governments removed over 1,200 crosses from churches in the Zheijiang province.
The pastor of China’s largest official Protestant church, Gu Yuese, was detained in January after publicly objecting to the government’s actions.
Additional reporting by Associated Press