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Deputies say prayer room a show of 'respect'

By Cui Jia in Urumqi | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-30 23:43

Deputies say prayer room a show of 'respect'

Muslim delegates to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's People's Congress pray during a break from a group discussion in Urumqi on Sunday. [CUI JIA / CHINA DAILY]

Kahar Usman, a devoted Muslim and newly elected deputy to the People's Congress of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, was "pleased and a bit surprised".

He noticed a VIP room next to the conference hall, where he and other deputies make plans for the region's future, has been temporarily turned into a prayer hall.

About 90 minutes into the afternoon group discussion session, which started at 4 pm on Tuesday, Usman, an imam from the Shirengou village mosque in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, excused himself from a heated debate on how to ensure all land planned for schools will not be used for other purposes.

"The issue is very important. I will have my say after prayers," the 51-year-old said.

A total of 550 deputies attended the first session of the 12th Xinjiang Regional People's Congress, which opened on Saturday. More than 43 percent of them are members of the Uygur ethnic group, most of which are Muslims, who are required to pray five times a day.

Usman noticed the prayer room, with signs written in the Chinese and Uygur languages, on the first day of the meeting and has been praying with others during sessions ever since. "It's really convenient for us, and we won't miss anything at the meetings as well," he said. "What's more, it shows respect and inclusiveness, which are the keys to stability in Xinjiang."

Tables and chairs in the VIP room have been removed and the carpet is covered with a white sheet where Muslim deputies can kneel and pray. The sign outside reminds passers-by to be quiet.

The prayer room might be new to Usman, but providing facilities for prayer at the deputies' residences has been a tradition during the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress, according to its organizing committee.

"All deputies' residences have prayer rooms because the meeting schedule might conflict with the deputies' daily prayer time, so they can attend the meetings without any worries. We also try to provide bigger rooms for delegations, such as those from Hotan and Kashgar prefectures, with more Muslim deputies," the committee said on Wednesday.

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