BEIJING: Thousands of Muslims gathered at a newly-built mosque in northwestern China to protest its planned demolition in a rare, public pushback to the government’s efforts to rewrite how religions are practiced in the country. Following the protests, Chinese authorities said on Friday that they have put off plans to demolish the Grand Mosque in Ningxia province’s Weizhou town.

The stand-off is the latest and possibly the largest conflict in a recent campaign to rid the region of what Beijing regards as a worrying trend of “Islamisation” and “Arabisation”, as the ruling Communist Party doubles down to “Sinicise religion”, the Hong Kong-based South China Post reported. This is also the first major protest against local authorities by the ethnic Hui community.

Most agitations against government agencies have been limited to Uyghurs of the border province of . Large crowds had gathered at the mosque on Thursday and Friday following a notice issued by the Weizhou government to the mosque’s management committee that the vast white structure would be demolished because it had not obtained necessary permission and construction permits.

Local Muslim leaders asked why the government allowed two years of construction work without interference and woke up only after it was constructed and prayer meetings began to be held.

Images posted online shows the Grand Mosque as an imposing white structure topped with nine onion-shaped domes, crescent moons and four towering minarets. The local county head, who visited the mosque, promised to consider a reconstruction plan by its management and not take action against the structure until the new plan was approved in the normal official process, the Post reported.
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