Sunday, March 23, 2008

China's Uighur Muslims

UIGHUR CHINESE MUSLIMS World The other thorn in China's side

The other thorn in China's side
While the world focuses on Tibet, Beijing is also putting pressure on its Turkic Muslim minority
Mar 23, 2008 04:30 AM Andrew Chung Staff Reporter

As Chinese troops have been fanning out across Tibetan regions inside China in an attempt to quell spreading anti-government riots, another restive group has also come under intense police scrutiny in the country's northwest.

The Uighurs of Xinjiang province – a largely Muslim ethnic minority of Turkic descent that has long inhabited the Central Asia region – have felt the strong arm of a stepped-up police presence since the Tibetan protests began two weeks ago.

"Because of what's going on in Tibet, the government has stepped up its security measures to make sure no Uighur would stand up against it," says Rebiya Kadeer, president of the German-based World Uighur Congress, in a phone interview via an interpreter.

"In the streets, whenever three or four Uighurs come together, a van appears and plainclothes police arrive and either disperse them or take them away.

"I have also learned that the Chinese authorities have sent plainclothes Chinese police into Uighur schools ... to make sure nothing is going on there."

She says there are also curfews in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region's cities and the government is also rounding up Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) previously released from prison for political offences.

The actions appear to signal China's willingness to take pre-emptive action against perceived threats as it steps up security in advance of the Beijing Olympics in August.

"There is great potential for the people (in Xinjiang) to follow the Tibetans and make some noise there," says Mehmet Tohti, president of the Uighur Canadian Association. "That's the fear of the Chinese government."

Wang Baodong, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said it's understandable that authorities would take action to prevent problems from arising in the wake of the Tibetan riots.

"In the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, there are people calling for the independence or the separation of the region from China, and some extreme or fundamental elements, both outside and inside the region, have been engaged in various kinds of activities to try to realize their scheme."

Wang could not provide details of specific police actions but said "it's only natural for the local governments and relevant agencies to take preventive measures."

Chinese authorities have numerous times in the past clamped down on Uighur communities in Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and a handful of other Central Asian republics.

There is a fierce mutual mistrust between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese, the country's majority ethnic group.

For decades, the Han have migrated, with the government's active encouragement, into Xinjiang. In 1949, when the Communists took over China and assumed control over Xinjiang, they made up just 5 per cent of the population. Now they're threatening to reach majority.

Like the Tibetans, Uighurs say the Chinese have run roughshod over their culture and livelihoods.

The region is booming economically with tremendous development, especially in oil production, but observers note that it's mostly the Han who benefit, dominating the region's commerce and accessing the best jobs and education.

Han Chinese tend to live in newer areas, while they have also torn down historically and architecturally significant Uighur neighbourhoods.

"There does seem to be a sense among Uighurs, as well as Tibetans, that they are not benefiting from the development of Xinjiang as much as many Han immigrants are," says James Millward, a professor of history and expert on Xinjiang at Georgetown University.

Many Uighurs resent government control over their religious practices, including the banning of religious schools.

Uighur separatists, who reject the name "Xinjiang" and instead use "East Turkestan," have shown no compunction about using violence. The 1990s saw widespread riots and murders of Han Chinese and officials also blamed a 1997 Beijing bus bombing on Uighur extremists.

But iron-fisted rule has allowed China to thwart most violent activity.

In January 2007, Chinese forces killed 18 people in a raid at what Beijing described as a training camp in the mountains of southern Xinjiang, run by the ETIM.

This year, China acknowledged launching a Jan. 27 raid on a "terrorist gang" in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

State-controlled media reported that two members of the cell were shot dead, but not before the militants lobbed homemade grenades, wounding two police officers. Fifteen others were arrested.

It was alleged that the group had collaborated with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which the United Nations has listed as a terrorist organization and the U.S. insists has ties to Al Qaeda.

Xinjiang's Communist party chief Wang Lequan recently told Xinhua News Agency that investigators seized weapons, books on terrorism and materials that suggested the group was planning an attack on the Olympics.

Then came reports of a March 7 incident in which a China Southern Airlines flight crew broke up an apparent attempt to down a plane flying from Urumqi to Beijing. Reports said a female passenger had smuggled gasoline aboard the plane and there was an attempt to ignite it in a lavatory toilet.

The alleged plot was discovered and the passengers, described by some witnesses as Uighurs, were apprehended. The flight made an emergency landing in Lanzhou, in Gansu province.

Some human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have expressed skepticism over the reports, saying Chinese authorities don't give details about these incidents and restrictions make it impossible to verify them.

"I think that in many Western countries, these kinds of announcements would not have been met with skepticism," says Georgetown professor Millward. "Some of that arises from the way the media is so closely allied with the (Communist) party and government authorities in China."

In fact, human rights groups have long suspected China of overstating the terrorist threat as a pretext for smothering Uighur separatism.

China's claims to Xinjiang and Tibet remain controversial but uncontested by the world community, observes Millward, who published a book last year called Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang.

Both regions were under control of the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century. With the 1911 fall of the dynasty and rise of the Republic of China, their status became questionable. The Nationalists never actually had control over Tibet and wielded little influence in Xinjiang, Millward explains, "but always maintained claims" to them.

The Uighur people had their own state in the region, both in 1933 based in the city of Kashgar, and again just after World War II in northern Xinjiang.

Taiwan was also part of the Qing Dynasty and it was to the island that Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army fled in 1949 to escape Mao Zedong's conquering Communists. Mao's forces also took control of Xinjiang in 1949 and did the same in Tibet two years later.

China has made it clear it will not countenance a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan, nor any kind of "splitting" activity from either the Tibetans or Uighurs.

Notes Millward: "They were all part of the Qing empire, for which the transition to being part of the modern Chinese state and being part of the People's Republic of China has been at times difficult.

"There remain tensions and contradictions about their status that have yet to be fully resolved and fully faced."

As the Tibetan riots and apparent resurging struggles in Xinjiang attest, China is facing touchy political battles under a heavy international gaze.

"It's a lot for China, just as it would be for any country, to deal with," says Millward. "There are lingering contradictions from the Qing Dynasty to the modern Chinese state and these have not so far been treated openly."

World Uighur Congress president Kadeer says she worries that the Chinese government will use the Tibetan riots as an excuse to harass Uighurs and implement policies that would have seemed too heavy-handed in the past.

She estimates tensions in the cities to be "very high right now as a result of the Chinese government's media portrayals of both the Uighurs and Tibetans as the enemy."

However, it's not easy to get a true picture of what is happening on the ground at any given time.

The Uighur Canadian Association's Tohti says southern Xinjiang had been closed to tourists, foreigners and media – just as in Tibet and Tibetan cities in neighbouring provinces.

But a call from the Toronto Star confirmed with a hotel in central Kashgar that it was accepting reservations from Western tourists.

The latest Tibetan uprising has brought an outpouring of concern from around the world. But little is heard about the plight of the Uighurs.

To explain the disparity, Millward points to a well-worn maxim concerning China's ethnic minorities.

"Tibetans are like pandas," he says. "Uighurs are like camels. The pandas are cuddly – there is great sympathy for Tibetan Buddhism and no fear of it. Camels are prickly beasts, not something you necessarily want to cozy up to.

"Yet pandas and wild camels, both, are endangered species."

Australia - Boycott Olympics

AUSTRALIA: Calls to Boycott Beijing Olympics
By Stephen de Tarczynski

MELBOURNE, Mar 22 (IPS) - The crackdown by Chinese authorities on protesters in Tibet has elicited calls within Australia, a major sporting power, to boycott the Beijing Olympics.

"The Communist regime in China is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world and by participating in the Olympics when that country is not improving its performance, I think we’ve got to look at whether that makes us complicit," Senator Andrew Bartlett from the Australian Democrats party told ABC radio.

Bartlett’s call for Australian athletes to boycott this year’s Olympics came amid reports indicating that Chinese police and troops are stepping up their security measures, carrying out house searches and conducting arrests.

Dozens have been reported killed in protests and clashes with security forces in the Tibet Autonomous Region and neighbouring provinces since the Mar. 10 demonstrations by monks marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

But with the eyes of the world focused on Tibet and surrounding areas, Australian organisations with connections to China have also been speaking out.

Damian Rachmat, former president of the Eastern Turkistan Australian Association (ETAA), told IPS that Australia should boycott the games. "The human rights problem is very heavy in China and Tibet and Turkistan," he says.

Rachmat argues that ETAA is fighting for democracy, human rights and independence in Eastern Turkistan -- which China refers to as the Xinjiang Autonomous Region -- a region of the country’s far west stretching into Central Asia.

According to ETAA, the ethnic Han Chinese population in East Turkistan has increased from six percent of the total in 1949 to forty percent at present, which Rachmat describes as a policy of "ethnic assimilation."

He argues that Australia’s participation at the Olympics would provide backing to this policy. It would "support the Chinese government to assimilate other ethnic groups," says Rachmat.

With a haul of 49 medals, Australia stood fourth at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and hosted the Games in 2000.

Prominent Uyghur activist -- Muslim Uyghurs are the largest ethnic group in East Turkistan -- and president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Rebiya Kadeer, told SBS television that the authorities in China want to eliminate Uyghurs.

"They destroy our beliefs and push us into immorality. They harass, jail and execute Uyghur writers and intellectuals who speak or write anything against the Chinese Government. They call them separatists or terrorists and gradually eliminate them," said Kadeer during a recent visit to Australia.

She argues that recent reports of an apparent Uyghur "terrorist attack" were false, with the attempt fabricated to act as a pretext upon which authorities can justify their crackdown. In early March, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that an attempt by militant Uyghurs to hijack and crash a China Southern flight from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, had been thwarted.

Rachmat says that the situation in East Turkistan is getting worse. "Last year they said they found some terrorists in Eastern Turkistan. In January (2007) they said they killed 18 terrorists there and this year they said they killed two terrorists in Urumqi city," he told IPS.

But it is not only separatists in the restive regions of Tibet and East Turkistan who appear to be coming under increasing scrutiny from Chinese authorities. Practitioners of Falun Gong -- or Falun Dafa, as it is also known -- have faced harsh treatment as the Olympics approach.

"We had news earlier in the week that there have been a couple of thousand arrests [of Falun Dafa practitioners]," says Michael Pearson-Smith from the Falun Dafa Association of Victoria (FDAV).

A report released last year by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, condemned China for its practice of obtaining organs from live Falun Gong practitioners.

"Organ harvesting has been inflicted on a large number of Falun Gong practitioners at a wide variety of locations for the purpose of making available organs for transplant operations," Nowak stated in the report.

Yet Pearson-Smith says that the FDAV does not take a position on whether the Olympics should be boycotted to protest human rights abuses. "I can certainly see why people could be calling for a boycott and individual practitioners may or may not support that according to their conscience," he says.

Pearson-Smith argues that the FDAV is only interested in ending the persecution of practitioners in China. He says that "we’ve always said that we are not a political organisation [and] we don’t get involved in politics."

However, the FDAV spokesperson concedes that speaking out against persecution may be interpreted as becoming involved in politics. "Some people may see that as a political goal, others may see it as a human rights issue," says Pearson-Smith.

Others in Australia have been actively opposing a boycott. The Rudd government says that it is not considering such action, although it has submitted a formal request to China for diplomats to travel to Tibet.

Ahead of a scheduled trip to China by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd later this month, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called for "calm and restraint by all parties."

"The Australian Government has urged China to allow free access to Tibet and other affected areas so the international community and foreign media may gain an accurate understanding of what is occurring there," said Smith in a statement.

Athletes, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser -- who supported boycotting the 1980 Moscow games -- and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) are among those rejecting calls to boycott the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

President of the AOC, John Coates, says that such a boycott would only make athletes suffer.

"It is not the role of the IOC (the International Olympic Committee, of which the AOC is a member) to take the lead in addressing such issues as human rights or political matters, which are most appropriately addressed by governments or concerned organisations," argues Coates.

But in a speech to parliament this week, Senator Bartlett called for a different perspective.

"If the Olympics were being held in somewhere like Zimbabwe we would all be boycotting them in an instant. It is because of the political clout of China. We all need to look at that," he said.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.