A mashgiach of SKS Shatz Kosher Services was detained at a checkpoint in China’s Xinjiang Province when police suspected he was an extremist Muslim due to his beard and dark garb. After attempts to convince police that he was a Jew failed, he was taken to a local police station where he was ordered to surrender his passport and interrogated for hours until it became clear that he was not a Muslim.
“For a moment, the lengthy investigation led me to think I would need to get help from outside China,” the mashgiach said. “All the explanations of the driver who accompanied me and translated my clarifications did not help. They were determined to detain me for questioning and to ensure that I was not a danger to local security.”
Chinese authorities are fighting hard against the spread of radical Islam in China and neighboring countries, particularly in the northwest Xinjiang province where Muslims are a majority. This year, the province banned veils, unusual beards, and dozens of names with religious Muslim connotations.
SKS chairman, Rav Dovid Moskowitz of Shatz-Ashdod, said this was not the first time such a thing happened.
“I have already had to lobby for the release of a mashgiach detained in this district because of his chareidi appearance,” he said. “Unlike the security policy we know of in the West, China takes no chances and its security policy is very stringent. This obviously does not prevent us from supervising food factories there because at the end of the day, once they are made aware of their error, they release them immediately and allow them free passage in areas relevant to us.”
“The Chinese greatly respect the Jewish people,” Rav Moskowitz added. “They routinely say that the Jews are a wise nation. They are simply suspicious of foreigners in the security area. No more than that.”