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XINING, China — The Dongguan Mosque has adopted some very different looks in its nearly 700 years in China’s northwestern city of Xining.

Built in the style of a Chinese imperial palace, with tiled roofs and no domes, and adorned with Buddhist symbols, the mosque was nearly destroyed by neglect during political tumult in the early 20th century. In the 1990s, authorities replaced the original ceramic tiles on the roof and minarets with green domes.

This year, provincial authorities lopped off those domes.

“The government says they want us to ‘sinify’ our mosques, so they look more like Beijing’s Tiananmen Square,” says Ali, a Muslim farmer selling pomegranates outside the mosque. He requested that NPR use only his first name because residents have been ordered not to speak about the dome removals. “I think the mosque looks good either way, but what say do we have anyways?”

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