Every so often it’s nice to give some credit to publications that do good work on the religion reporting front and I may have found a new source or, at the very least, one I have not run into before on this topic. We're talking about The South China Morning Post, published in Hong Kong.
I’ve run across it in recent weeks while looking for information on China, but the SCMP reports on a huge swath of South Asia well beyond China’s borders. And I’ve found a huge trove of religion-oriented pieces, including quite a bit on China’s response to ISIS’ involvement with Muslims in its western provinces. Click here for a piece on the Chinese jihadis in Syria.
This major newsroom has also done a recent piece on how the Communist Party’s tentacles are still trying to influence Tibetan Buddhists.
The SCMP has reached into neighboring Malaysia to explore why, for Muslims there, child sex is forbidden but child marriage is OK. It just reviewed a book on why the death of Mao Tse-tung opened the gates for religion to flourish in China. And the newspaper has documented the government crackdown on Christianity, noting in a recent piece that, after officials ordered crosses torn down from 360 or so church towers, they have now ordered surveillance cameras set up inside churches in heavily Christian Wenzhou.
Christians and government officials have come to blows over demands that churches in a city known as “China’s Jerusalem” install surveillance cameras for “anti-terrorism and security purposes”.
The Zhejiang government issued the orders to churches in Wenzhou late last year and began implementing them before the Lunar New Year holiday in January.
The confrontation with the city’s Christian community, which is estimated to number roughly one million, comes three years after the authorities ordered the removal of crosses on top of church buildings, on the grounds that they were illegal structures. Opponents called the 2014 campaign religious persecution.
“Government officials came to the churches and put up cameras by force. Some pastors and worshippers who didn’t agree to the move were dragged away,” a Christian in Wenzhou said, without specifying when the conflict occurred.
“Some people needed to be treated in hospital after fighting the officials.”
Pastor Yan Xiaojie, a missionary in the city, said the cameras had been installed in a number of churches, reminding him of the “cross demolitions” in 2014.
It seems that the SCMP must be the top mainstream publication reporting on all things religious in China.
One piece last month told of Chinese Muslims being targets of online hate; another talked of a Han Chinese woman’s conversion to Islam over the objections of her family and a piece on a new law in mainly Muslim western China on a new law there banning veils and full beards.
China’s Xinjiang region passed a law on Wednesday to curb religious extremism, amid the government’s intensifying campaign against what it calls the rising threat of terrorism and separatism in the Uygur homeland.
The law, which takes effect on Saturday, bans a wide range of acts including wearing veils or “abnormal” beards, without specifying the term. It will also be illegal to refuse to watch state television and listen to state radio, or prevent children from receiving national education – activities deemed “manifestations” of extremism, according to the official news website News.ts.cn.
Can you imagine being made to watch the state TV propaganda?
As several religions are on the fault line of noncompliance with the official line and adherence to a greater authority than that of the Party, the SCMP treats religion as something normal that many people do.
The bottom line: There are many major Western publications that could stand to copy that attitude.
Lastly, the SCMP has been warning its readers about India's slide toward Hindu totalitarianism with the country's campaign against beef:
The current anti-beef campaign has two origins, both rooted in a conception of Hinduism. The first is the view that because the cow is sacred to Hindus, it should never be slaughtered. The second is a more general proposition: good people are, almost by definition, vegetarians, and all meat eating is fundamentally evil.
As the beef-ban is slowly being recognised as a fact of modern Indian life, it is the vegetarian-only campaign that is gathering momentum.
The anti-cow slaughter campaign has played an annoying if not particularly constructive role in Indian politics over the last century. Observant Hindus do not eat beef because the cow is venerated.
But as the piece later notes, most Indians are not vegetarian. Plus, the meat industry in India is largely Muslim-run. You can see where the conflict is going to flare up already.
Do look about the SCMP's site to get an Asian read on the world of religion. It has more to say than most American media because over there, religion is considered a natural part of life. Would that it'd be that way here.