China's Most Popular App Is Full of Hate - 2018-11-27
The last two years have seen a crackdown on Islamic practices by the Chinese government, from the incarceration of over a million people in the mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang to the replacement of mosques with "Chinese-style" buildings. Most of these measures come from the top, but a growing Islamophobia is also playing a role. Muslim groups in China privately report a growing number of attacks by groups labeling themselves as "anti-halal," including the smashing of windows and the reporting of minorities to the police.
Abroad, much of the Islamophobia among Chinese immigrants appears to be driven by conspiracy theories and false stories that begin on the Western far-right but are being transferred into Chinese popular consciousness through WeChat, the most popular messaging app in China. Although many other WeChat accounts with political content have been shut down in the last year, the censors appear to be ignoring—if not encouraging—this poisonous vector.
The WeChat page "Chinese Voice of America," already known as a purveyor of outlandish right-wing conspiracies, regularly publishes articles such as "Muslims in California—the Sunny Cradle of Terrorism and Islamic Radicalization" and "Latest Figures: 70K Jihadists Lurking in Western Europe. Civil War Imminent." The authors cite an extensive list of sources, including but not limited to the Gatestone Institute, a far-right anti-Muslim think tank; the blog of noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller; the now-defunct fake news outlet QPolitical; and Jihad Watch, one of the main hubs of American Islamophobia.