CAIRO - Chinese Muslims have decried the demolition of a century-old mosque in the country's northwest, warning that the move could fuel ethnic tension in the country.
We refurbished this mosque with our hard work and blood, Zhe Tao, the wife of the mosque imam, told the Los Angeles Times.
It is so sad to see it demolished.
Chinese authorities demolished the mosque in Taoshan village in Ningxia region in north-western China earlier this week.
The mosque, which dates back to the Qing dynasty of the 19th century, had been legally registered with Chinese authorities.
But authorities declared the mosque an illegal religious place after residents raised 800,000 ($127,000) to renovate it.
The demolition has sparked clashes between residents and security forces, which left at least two people dead.
When the police attempted to knock down the newly built mosque, they were met with vigorous resistance from more than 100 villagers wielding clubs and shovels, villager Jin Haitao told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The violence was unusual as Taoshan villagers are Hui, who are more assimilated than other Muslim minorities, like the Uighurs.
Hui Muslims are estimated at nearly 10 million of China's sizable Muslim minority of 20 millions.
With a heritage traced back to the Middle East and Central Asia, Hui Muslims are enjoying more religious freedom in the atheist country.
Chinese Muslims are worried that the mosque demolition will escalate tension between authorities and the Muslim minority in the country.
According to local tradition a mosque should never be demolished, said Ye Shaowu, owner of a small hotel near the demolished mosque.
Ye said the mosque was demolished after people began to allege that the mosque was run by an evil cult - language that the Chinese government uses to refer to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Zhe, the wife of the mosque imam, agrees.
Obviously this will have an impact on relations between Hui and government, she said.
According to official data, China has 20 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces.
Smaller Muslim communities can also be found throughout interior China.
Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China up to 7.5 percent of the population.Atheist China recognizes five religions Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism and tightly regulates their administration and practice.