In this March 17, 2017 photo, Tao Yingsheng, the imam at the Nangang mosque, stands in the mosque in Hefei central China's Anhui province. (AP Photo/Gerry Shih)
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Unfettered online hate speech fuels Islamophobia in ChinaThe flood of angry anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media was the first sign of how fiercely the suburban middle-class homeowners in this central Chinese city opposed a planned mosque in their neighborhood. On the dusty plains of the Chinese heartland, a bitter fight over a mosque exemplifies how a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment online is spreading into communities across China, exacerbating simmering ethnic and religious tensions that have in the past erupted in bloodshed.Key to it was an unexpected yet influential backer: A Chinese propaganda official, 2,500 kilometers away in Xinjiang, whose inflammatory social media posts helped draw people into the streets on New Year's Day, resulting in a police crackdown.Cui followed that a few hours later with another post repeating the four Chinese characters for pig blood and pig head over and over, attracting hundreds of reposts.The mosque dispute was just the latest flashpoint for an increasingly active anti-Muslim social media movement in China.
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