BEIJING: Communist China has launched a five-year programme to “Sinicise Islam” to make it compatible with socialism. The move is significant because most other countries avoid interfering with Islamic practices out of fear of violent reprisals.

The move comes soon after Pakistan, which borders China’s Muslim-populated Xinjiang province, defended Chinese officials against an outcry over Muslims being detained by Chinese authorities.

The Pakistan foreign ministry accused the foreign media of “spreading false information” and sensationalising the issue. China recently gave Pakistan an additional $3 billion in aid to tide over a financial crisis.

“The main purpose of China’s five-year plan to Sinicise Islam is to seek governance that tallies with Chinese practice, and it is not only limited to Islam,” the Chinese Communist Party-run Global Times said in an article. “Such governance should be suitable for all religions in China” it said.

The plan to reform Islamic practices was unveiled at a meeting of representatives of eight Islamic associations on Saturday, official media said. Religious associations in China are linked to the ruling Communist Party.

Participants at the meeting agreed “to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism and implement measures to Sinicise the religion”, the Global Times said.

“This is China’s important act to explore ways of governing religion in modern countries,” it said in an opinion piece.

It is essential to “govern religion” to counter the rising wave of fundamentalism and religious nationalism which is threatening legitimate governments and leading to social instability, the article said.

Cracking down on extremism and guiding religions to be compatible with socialism do not amount to violation of freedom of religious practices, it said.

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