Apple has removed Quran Majeed, a popular app for reading the Islamic religious text and other prayer-related information, in China, in compliance with Chinese government requests, according to a report by BBC. The move comes as part of a bigger shift in the country to crack down on foreign content, or simply making it harder for that content to exist within the Great Firewall. Just yesterday, LinkedIn said that it would be removing the Chinese version of its site by the end of this year in the face of growing compliance requirements by the state.
One of the most popular religious apps in China, Quran Majeed is available globally and has approximately 35 million users.
The Quran Majeed app remains available in other countries on the App Store, and on Google Play -- although Google Play is technically also not available in China (people can access it via a VPN, however).
The Apple Censorship website, which monitors apps on Apple’s App Store, was the first to notice that Quran Majeed was recently deleted.
China officially recognizes Islam as a religion but it has also faced criticism for human rights violations and genocide against the Muslim-majority Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
We have contacted Apple for a comment on this story and will update this post as we learn more.
Apple has faced a lot of controversy over the years over how it complies with local rules. Critics believe many local content-focused regulations in certain countries amount to censorship, and Apple is too quick to comply. Apple argues that its first priority is to respect laws of the countries in which it operates, irrespective of whether or not it agrees with the regulations.
Apple’s human rights policy states: “We’re required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments.”
There is consistency in what Apple will do, it seems. According to a report in The New York Times in May, Apple will take down an app in China if the app in question discusses certain banned topics, including Tiananmen Square, the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, and independence for Tibet and Taiwan.
There are added complications for Apple as a business that point to the company continuing to follow state rules: China is one of Apple’s biggest markets, and Apple also heavily relies on the country to keep its hardware supply chain running.
Quran Majeed is not the only app to face removal from China's Apple App Store. Olive Tree’s Bible App was also withdrawn in China this week. Olive Tree claims that Apple proactively took it down.