Religion and the Uyghurs: A Contemporary Overview
In 2010, there were approximately 9 million Uyghur Muslims. Islam has strengthened in Xinjiang since the 1980s, with devotion greater in the south than the north, and become interrelated with the growth of Uyghur ethnic consciousness. Chinese law declares religious freedom, but there are many restrictions, including bans on children under 18 entering mosques, and various religious clothing such as the burqah in public places in Ürümqi. Although Uyghur Muslims overwhelmingly abhor terrorism, authorities frequently blame the growth of separatist movements partly on Islam. Serious ethnic rioting in Ürümqi in July 2009 led on to worsening Uyghur-Han relations and terrorist incidents. Terrorism and strained ethnic relations appear to be long-term problems, but an independent Xinjiang is unlikely. Islam will survive indefinitely.