X users have been circulating a video in recent days that shows a mosque being bulldozed, claiming that it provides proof that the Chinese government is destroying mosques. The Chinese government is carrying out a “sinicization policy” on mosques, either demolishing them or carrying out architectural modifications to make them look more Chinese, a practice that has been decried by human rights organisations. However, this video was not filmed in China.
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If you only have a minute:
- X users have been sharing and circulating a video showing a mosque minaret being bulldozed by, they claim, the Chinese government.
- In their captions, these users wrongly claim that the demolition of this mosque is an example of a campaign by the Chinese government bent on the “sinicization” of mosques in China.
- In reality, the scene was filmed in Turkey, not China. It shows the controlled demolition of a mosque minaret that risked collapse after it was structurally damaged in the earthquake that took place on February 6, 2023.
- However, while this video is unrelated, the Chinese government is currently carrying out a campaign to destroy and alter mosques across China.
The fact check, in detail:
A video of a mosque being demolished went viral on X a few days ago. Tweets featuring the video claim that it shows the work of the Chinese government. A user whosetweet garnered 300,000 likes claimed that the mosque was going to be turned into “public toilets”, because, he said, China thinks of Islam as a “mental illness”.
“The Chinese Communist Party has been focusing on mosques as part of its crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs,” wrote this user.
The misinformation reached new levels when a Chinese account with more than 500,000 followers, which posts tweets in Arabic, reacted to the tweet. This account rightly claimed that the mosque in the footage was actually located in Italy. However, they then blamed “American security services” for spreading the rumour that China was involved.
If you carry out a reverse image search (check out how by reading our guide) then you can find older posts featuring this video. We discovered that the video in question was already circulating online a year ago, in February and March 2023. We learned from those posts that the mosque shown in the video is actually located in Adana, in Turkey.
The mosque sustained structural damage in the earthquake that took place on February 6, 2023. It’s minaret was damaged, which led local authorities to carry out a “controlled” demolition in late February 2023, as documented by these Turkish media outlets.
Back then, the video was circulated online because a worker was injured during the demolition, as shown in a longer version of the scene, which was broadcast by Turkish media outlet IHA on March 2, 2023.
This is an earlier post of the video showing the demolition of a mosque minaret in Adana, Turkey.
Community Notes on X – which allow X users to add context to a potentially false post in a collaborative manner – say that the mosque being demolished in the footage is the Gökoğlu mosque in the town of Adana. It’s impossible to get close enough to the mosque in question to see it clearly in Google Street View or Yandex Maps. However, there are a few other videos posted on TikTok in late February 2023 that also show the demolition of the mosque’s minaret, which enable us to confirm that it is, indeed, the Gökoğlu mosque.
Even if this video in particular does not show a mosque being destroyed by the Chinese government, the Chinese government does have a campaign targeting mosques.
The NGO Human Rights Watch wrote a whole report, published in November 2023, about the “sinicization of mosques” in China. The report talks specifically about a policy of “mosque consolidation”.
“The Chinese government is not ‘consolidating’ mosques as it claims, but closing many down in violation of religious freedom,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government’s closure, destruction, and repurposing of mosques is part of a systematic effort to curb the practice of Islam in China.”
The report notes that the government’s “mosque consolidation” efforts are focused on the regions of Ningxia and Gansu, which are the provinces with the largest Muslim populations after Xinjiang, where the Chinese authorities have already been carrying out a violent repression of the Muslim Uyghur population for years.
Part of the sinicization of these mosques includes architectural changes, according to Human Rights Watch. In a number of mosques, the government has replaced minarets, domes and other features characteristic to Islamic heritage with architectural styles more traditional to Chinese culture, as part of their program of cultural assimilation.
The Chinese government has also demolished mosques, as detailed in this article by FRANCE 24. More than 90% of mosques in the region of Ningxia have been demolished or modified had Islamic features removed, according to satellite images gathered by the Financial Times in an extensive report studying this troubling phenomenon in detail. At least 1,714 religious buildings have been altered or destroyed.
On social media, people often publish images of mosques being destroyed or their “sinicization”.
Some have said that the Chinese government considers Islam to be a “mental illness”, as said in this Facebook post. We haven’t found any instances of this term being used by a Chinese official.
However, this idea is likely connected to the so-called “re-education” camps, essentially internment camps, that the Chinese government has been running since at least 2017 in the province of Xinjiang. Members of the Uyghur Muslim minority are detained here in an attempt to combat “religious extremism”, according to Chinese officials.
An official Chinese Communist Party audio recording obtained by Radio Free Asia, a media outlet financed by the US Congress, characterizes the Uyghurs held in these camps as being “infected by an ideological illness”, which the officials claimed needed treatment like a “physical illness”. More than one million Uyghurs are thought to have been interned in these camps since 2018.
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