By Emily Feng
Gold-domed mosques and gleaming minarets once broke the monotony of the Ningxia region’s vast scrubland every few miles. This countryside here is home to some of China’s 10.5 million Hui Muslims, who have practiced Sunni or Sufi forms of Islam within tight-knit communities for centuries, mainly in the northwest and central plains. Concentrated in the Ningxia region, the Hui are China’s third-largest ethnic minority.
Now, though, virtually every mosque in Ningxia’s countryside has been denuded of its domes, part of a sweeping crackdown on China’s Muslim minorities that has reached Hui strongholds in Ningxia, in central China, and as far inland as Henan province in the east. (Up to now, Gansu province in central China has been able to keep most of its mosques intact.)
The crackdown on Muslims has been most extreme in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where scholars estimate that up to 1.5 million Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking group, and other ethnic minorities have been detained since 2016, in one of the most sophisticated surveillance states in the world.