Religious extremism has started to spread into inland provincial areas from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, according to China’s top religious affairs official, who urged the China Islamic Association to step up services for Muslim migrants and lead the fight against extremist thoughts.

Wang Zuo’an, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said that the infiltration of extremist thoughts into the eastern and central areas deserves close attention.

“(The Islamic clergy) should stand in the front line in the fight to curb religious extremism … and put in time and energy to convert the mindset of those people influenced by extremist thoughts,” he said.

Wang recommended that the Association use the internet to make clear the nature of the harm of extremism to Muslims. It should also encourage the use of popular Islamic readings to satisfy the religious demand of their congregations, and refute misinterpretation of the Quran, he said.

“We should let Muslims know the boundaries between legal and illegal religious activities, to enable them to say no to illegal activities,” he said.

China has seen a growing trend of Muslims migrating from the West to eastern and central areas for the purposes of business, employment and study. Religious services and clergy training are sometimes limited in these eastern and central regions.