China is reportedly telling restaurant owners to remove any images associated with Islam and messages written in Arabic from their stores.
Reuters reports employees from 11 various restaurants and shops in Beijing had been told by Chinese officials to remove the images and Arabic signs. The stores visited by the news outlet were all selling halal products.
One shop owner, who along with the rest of them declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue, said a government official told him to cover the “halal” in Arabic on his noodle shop sign and watched him do it before leaving.
“They said this is foreign culture and you should use more Chinese culture,” the noodle shop owner told Reuters.
Several shop owners visited by the news outlet simply covered the Arabic and Islamic imagery and others replaced it with the Chinese term for halal.
It is not immediately clear if all of the roughly 1,000 halal shops and restaurants in Beijing have been told to cover the Arabic script and Muslim symbols.
The move is the latest step in the Chinese government’s push to have religions conform with Chinese culture, as part of a process to “Sinicize” its Muslim population, according to Reuters.
The campaign has reportedly also included having several mosques in China remove Middle Eastern-style domes and replace them with Chinese-style pagodas.
China is home 20 million Muslims and ostensibly allows freedom of religion, but the government still adheres to Communist Party ideology and is pushing to bring religions in line with it.
One shop owner took issue with “erasing” Muslim culture.
“They are always talking about national unity, they’re always talking about China being international. Is this national unity?” a halal butcher shop owner told Reuters.
—Updated at 12:16 p.m.