Monday, 8 September 2008

Selling Out the Uyghurs

Published on Wednesday, December 15, 2004 by Ted Rall
Selling Out the Uyghurs
Why 8,000,000 People You've Never Heard Of Hate Us
by Ted Rall

A four-day ride on the westbound express train out of Beijing takes you to China's Wild West. The massive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, hundreds of miles beyond an eroded mound that was once the Great Wall, lies southwest of Mongolia, east of Afghanistan and north of the Tibetan plateau. Full of dusty deserts, soaring mountains and eight million Muslims, Xinjiang is--like so many geopolitically sensitive places--the middle of nowhere. (Early 20th century British explorer Aurel Stein noted the region's "desolate wilderness, bearing everywhere the impress of death.") Today Chinese-occupied Central Asia is a case study in how American foreign policy turns pro-American Muslims into deadly enemies.

"From the premodern era until the mid-18th century, Xinjiang was either ruled from afar by Central Asian empires or not ruled at all," Joshua Kurlantzick writes in Foreign Affairs. Mao's Communist Party worked to consolidate power during the 1950s by centralizing Chinese culture and politics in Beijing. That meant suppressing cultures and religions out of step with the ruling majority Han Chinese, such as the Tibetans and Mongols. The jackboot came down hardest on Xinjiang, where in 1955 more than 90 percent of the population were Turkic Muslims--mostly Uyghurs along with smaller portions of such Central Asian tribes as Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Tatars. The Uyghurs, whose rich pre-Muslim Buddhist culture gave their language (which can be written in Arabic and Roman script) to Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire, were a threat to national cohesion. After all, they had revolted against pre-communist China 42 times in 200 years.

"Thousands of mosques were shuttered, imams were jailed, Uyghurs who wore headscarves or other Muslim clothing were arrested, and during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party purposely defiled mosques with pigs," wrote Kurlantzick. "Many Muslim leaders were simply shot. The Uyghur language was purged from school curricula, and thousands of Uyghur writers were arrested for 'advocating separatism'--which often meant nothing more than writing in Uyghur."

The demographic manipulation has been even more devastating. The Chinese imposed forced birth control on the Uyghurs while shipping 300,000 Han settlers west every year. By 1997, the Uyghurs had become a minority in their own homeland. But Xinjiang was far from pacified when I visited the provincial capital of Urumqi that summer.

You could feel the tension in the hot stinking air of the most landlocked city on earth. Uyghur separatists had set off bombs all across China, including three buses blown up in Urumqi a few months earlier. The Chinese dispatched hundreds of suspected Uyghur dissidents to reeducation camps. Scores were put on trial and summarily shot. Good jobs in government and private business were reserved for Han Chinese only, adding sky-high unemployment to cultural apartheid. Han policemen manning roadblocks surrounding the old Muslim quarter tried to discourage me from entering the quarantined zone. "There's nothing of interest there," a cop told me. I insisted. When I arrived at the square in front of a dilapidated mosque, Uyghur men wearing white skullcaps glared menacingly at Han colonists driving past in shiny new Volvos. Fortunately, they brightened up when they learned that I was American.

"We love the United States!" one man told me. "They will come help us kick out China." The largest Uyghur independence group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), seeks the recreation of the free Republic of East Turkestan declared by earlier Uyghur rebels.

"I listen to Radio Free Asia," knowingly added an older guy. Radio Free Asia aired broadcasts in the Uyghur language. "America is coming to give us our freedom, we know that, but when exactly?"

How could I tell these people that most Americans had never heard of Uyghurs, East Turkestan, or Xinjiang? That the cavalry wasn't coming? Even being on the backburner (like the Kurds) would be an improvement given their status as non-entities.

By the time of my 1999 trip to the Silk Road city of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang, what Western media call "a low level insurgency" had heated up. The Chinese had torn down all but a few blocks of the ancient old town to put up prefab apartment buildings. But the Uyghurs weren't taking it lying down. ETIM separatists, some of whom had trained at jihadi camps in Afghanistan, were blowing up a Chinese government office every few days. "Goodbye, Interior Ministry!" gloated my server at a sidewalk noodle joint after the sound of an explosion ricocheted down the boulevard. "We are fighting hard against China to show you Americans we are serious. The U.S. stands for freedom."

Then came 9/11. The Bush Administration, wanting to avert a Chinese veto of its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the U.N. security council, drafted China into the "war on terrorism" by granting it a free pass to beat up its Tibetans and Uyghurs. Citing the fact that ETIM members had received arms and training from the Taliban (but only to fight China), China convinced the U.S. State Department to declare the group a "terrorist organization" affiliated with Al Qaeda. In "Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland," Graham Fuller and Jonathan Lippman write that this "U.S. declaration [was] catastrophic" for the Uyghurs. The United States had given Beijing "carte blanche to designate all Uyghur nationalist...movements as 'terrorist.'"

Twenty-two Uyghurs have since joined the ranks of the "terrorists" incarcerated at Guantánanamo concentration camp. Two Uyghur men, 29 and 31, faced a U.S. military tribunal on November 19, charged only with membership in ETIM and attending a Taliban training camp for anti-Chinese fighters. Military insiders say most of the Uyghurs will eventually be released, but not to China--our ally in the "war on terrorism"--because they would probably be tortured and/or executed.

Martial law remains in force in Xinjiang. The post-9/11 crackdown began with hundreds of arrests and the executions of nine "religious extremists and terrorists." One of the dead, convicted of "contributing to disturbance by nationalist splittism forces," had been overheard joking that he hoped America would come to Xinjiang to free the Uyghurs from Chinese rule.

© 2004 Ted Rall


Who Are The Uyghurs ?

Today's Uyghurs and Uyghuristan

Uyghurs is one of the Turkic ethnic groups living in the northwestern region of the present China. The official Chinese name of the region is Xinjiang (or Sinkyang) Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), but the native Uyghurs have historically called their country or this region either Uyghuristan or Eastern Turkistan or both. In this document, the name Uyghuristan is used to refer to this region.

Located in Central Asia, 1500 miles from Beijing, Uyghuristan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Mongolia to the northeast, and Kirghizstan and Tajikistan to the northwest and west. To the west and southwest lie Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to the south are Tibet and India. To the east lies China.

Eastern Turkistan is a vast land of 640,000 square kilometers---one sixth of the present Chinese territory. Geographically, it is the China's largest province.

The Turkic population of the Uyghuristan which possesses the same blood, language, tradition and religion were artificially divided into Uyghur, Khazak, Kyrgiz, Uzbek and Tatar by the Russian Red Imperialists. The latest census gives the population of the Uyghurs as more than 7 million, the Khazaks 1 million, the Kyrgizs 150 thousand, Uzbeks 15 thousand, and the Tatars 5 thousand. However, some unofficial Uyghur sources give an estimated figure of more than 15 millions of Uyghurs. In addition to these ethnic peoples, there are also Han Chinese, Manchus, Huis and Mongols living in Uyghuristan. At the present the Uyghurs constitute the majority population of Uyghuristan and is the main subject of this document. However, everything stated in this document applies equally well to the other Turkic ethnic peoples mentioned above.

Uyghurs and Han Chinese are not of the same race. Uyghurs is clearly a European race and look primarily like Western Europeans. Uyghuristan is situated beyond the natural boundary of China in a separate geographical site with 96% of its population being Turkic peoples in 1949.

Uyghur Civilization

Historical records show that the Uyghurs have a history of more than 4000 years. Throughout the history the Uyghurs developed a unique culture and civilization and made remarkable contribution to the civilization of the world. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, scientific and archeological expeditions to the region of Uyghuristan discovered numerous cave temples, monastery ruins, wall paintings, as well as valuable miniatures, books and documents. Explorers from Europe, America and even Japan were astonished by the art treasures discovered in the region, and soon their reports captured the attention of a lot of interested people around the world. Today these relics of Uyghur culture and civilization constitute major collections in the museums of Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo, Leningrad and the Museum of Central Asian Antiquities in New Delhi.. These relics together with the manuscripts and documents discovered in Uyghuristan reveal the very high degree of civilization attained by the Uyghurs.

Throughout the centuries Uyghurs have used three different scripts. Confederated with the Kok Turks in the 6th and the 7th centuries, they used the Orkhun script. Later they adopted what became known as the Uyghur script. This script was used for almost 800 years not only by the Uyghurs but also by other Turkic peoples as well as Mongols and by the Manchus in the early stage of their rule in China. After embracing Islam in the 10th century the Uyghurs adapted the Arabic alphabet, and its use became common in the 11th century.

Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichean religious texts, but there were also narrative, poetic and epic works. Some of these have been translated into German, English and Russian.

After embracing Islam the Uyghurs continued to preserve their cultural dominance in Central Asia. World renowned Uyghur scholars emerged, and Uyghur literature flourished. Among the hundreds of important works surviving from this era are the Kutat-ku Bilik by Yusuf Has Hajip (1069-70), Divan-i Lugat-it Turk by Mahmud Kashgari, and Atabetul Hakayik by Ahmet Yukneki.

The Uyghurs had an extensive knowledge of medicine and medical practice. Sung Dynasty (906-960) records indicate that and Uyghur physician, Nanto, travelled to China and brought with him many kinds of medicine not known to the Chinese. A total of 103 different herbs used in Uyghur medicine were recorded in a most famous Chinese medical compendium by Shi-zhen Li (1518-1593). It was claimed by western scholars that acupuncture was not a Chinese, but an Uyghur discovery. In recent years the Chinese authority has set up several institutions in Uyghuristan to study the traditional Uyghur medicines.

Uyghurs also possessed high degree of development in fields such as architecture, art, music and printing. According to the work of western scholars, documents discovered in Uyhuristan prove that an Uyghur farmer could write down a contract using legal terminology at a time when no so
many European farmers could have done so. It was reported that the Uyghurs knew how to print books centuries before Gutenberg invented his press. It was also reported that in the Middle ages, Chinese peotry, literature, theater, music adn painting were greatly influenced by the Uyghurs. Yen-de Wang, who served as an ambassador to the Kharahoja Uyghur Kingdom between 981 and 984, wrote in his bibliography the following: "I was impressed with the extensive civilization I found in the Uyghur Kingdom. The beauty of the temples, monasteries, wall paintings, statues, towers, gardens, houses and the palaces built throughout the kingdom cannot be described. The Uyghurs are very skilled in handicrafts of gold and silver, vases and potteries. Some say God has infused this talent into this people only."

Prior to Islam, the Uyghurs believed in religions like Shamanism, Buddhism and Manicheism. Buddhism was introduced into Uyghuristan at the beginning of our era. It quickly spread among the Turkic peoples of Uyghuristan. The ruins of famous monostries known as the Ming Oy or the Thousand Buddhas built by the Uyghurs can still be seen in the cities of Kucha, Turfan and
Dunhuang where the Kanchou Uyghurs lived. In the city of Kucha, there were more than 50 Buddhist temples, libraries and welfare institutions built to support the poor. In the city of Hoten, there were 14 large monasteries without counting the smaller ones. The Uyghurs of Uyghuristan embraced Islam in 934, during the reign of Satuk Bughra Khan, the Kharahanid ruler. Since that time on the Islam continuously served Uyghurs as the only religion in Uyghuristan until today.

The Uyghur power, prestige and culture developed over a long history and dominated Central Asia for more than 1000 years went into a steep decline after the Manchu invasion of Uyghuristan, and during the rule of the nationalist and especially the communist Chinese.

Uyghuristan is an Occupied Country

Uyghuristan has been the home of Uyghurs for at least 2000 years, and remained as a free and independent country during the most period of those 2000 years. However, the Chinese has been claiming that Uyghuristan is an ancient and inseparable part of China. Historical facts clearly show that such a claim by China is based on a false interpretation of history and grounded in the hope that suppression and assimilation will eventually establish this distortion as legitimate in the eyes of the world.

The invasion of Uyghuristan by Han Chinese started in 104 B.C., and Uyghuristan was occupied several times by Chinese solders, but none of these occupation lasted for long. The following are some historical facts related to Chinese occupation of Uyghuristan:

1) During Wu ti era, General Li Kuang occupied Uyghuristan in 104 B.C, but the people of Uyghuirstan regained their independence in 86 B.C. by defeating the Chinese solders.

2) During the Hsuan Ti era, General Chang Chi attacked Uyghuristan and occupied it in 59 B.C. But in 10 B.C. the Khans of Uyghuristan defeated the Chinese armies and won back their freedom.

3) During the Ming Ti era of the Second Khan Dynasty, General Pan Chao started an internal war attacking Uyghuristan in 73 A.D. This war lasted for 28 years. In 102 A.D. Pan Chao returned to China, and a year later his son, Pan Yung, escaped after having been defeated by the Khans of Uyghuristan. Thus Uyghuristan once again regained her security and independence.

4) During the Topa (Wei) era, the east part of Uyghuristan was obliged to submit tax to the then state from 448 to 460.

5) In 657 Kau Tsung of the Tang Dynasty conquered Uyghuristan, and in 699 the Gok Turk Khans drove out the Chinese from Uyghuristan.

6) In 747 Hsuan Tsung dispatched the Korean General Kao Sien-chi as a commander of a Chinese army to help some of the Uyghur Khans who were fighting among themselves in Uyghuristan. This General, taking advantage of Uyghuristan's internal unrest and playing a very skillful and ruthless role, managed to incite a number of Uyghuristan people to kill each other, and in such a way subjected Uyghuristan to China. But the inhabitants of Uyghuristan, obtaining help from Arabs, destroyed the forces of Kao Sien-chi and won their freedom in 751.

That is, there were a total of 6 invasions from 104 B.C. until 751. But during that period of 855 years the Chinese invaders sustained their control over the Uyghuristan for only 157 years, and even then, as the frequency of invasion suggests, Chinese control over Uyghuristan was temporary and incomplete. During the remaining 698 years of this period Uyghuristan remained as a free and independent country.

During that period (104 BC to 751), there were friendly relations and business connections between the Uyghuristan and China. But certain Chinese historical books and the present Chinese political authorities, portraying these relations and connections in an unjust and untruthful manner, try to use them as signs of Uyghuristan's subjection to China and most Chinese politicians have been using it to legitimize their claim that Uyghuristan has been an inseparable part of China.

After Arab, Turkic and Tibetan forces repulsed the Chinese occupiers in 751 A.D., a long period of 1000 years passed before the conquest of Uyghuristan by the Manchu rulers of China. During this period there was not a single important relation between China and Uyghuristan. For 207 years of this 1000 year period the Uyghurs voluntarily became a part of the Mongol empire, where they maintained their sovereignty and played an important cultural and political role. While the remaining period of approximately 800 years Uyghuristan remained completely independent and attained great progress and prosperity.

It is in 1876 when Manchurians strove to occupy the Uyghuristan, and, after killing about one million inhabitants, succeeded in occupying the country. The Uyghuristan was formerly incorporated into the Manchu empire in 1884 as Xinjiang (or Sinkyang; means "new territory") Province. Since that time on Uyghuristan was under continuous military rule. However, until 1949, the inhabitants of Uyghuristan staged 42 armed revolts against the terrorist rule of the Manchu military governors (that is, one revolt falls for every 4 years of Manchus' rule) with the aim of regaining their independence. The Uyghurs in the southern part of Uyghuristan established an "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Republic" in 1933 and the inhabitants of the whole Uyghuristan together established the second "Eastern Turkistan Republic" in 1944. The former lived for 3 years, and the latter for 5 years.

Uyghuristan was occupied by the communist China in 1949 and its name was changed to the XUAR in 1955. The communist China has been excersizing a colonial rule over the Uyghuristan since then. The Uyghurs have had to undergo unimaginable suffering and been subjugated to inhuman conditions under the repressive alien rule. But despite all the suffering and cultural genocide, the determination spirit of the people in Uyghuristan remains ever strong. According to available information from Chinese sources, despite all the risks involved, demonstrations, protest marches and other underground political activities organized by Uyghurs and aimed at obtaining equality, justice and even independence for Uyghurs have never stopped in Uyghuristan since 1954 and reached to a peak since 1996.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

No Tarawih For China Muslims

No Tarawih for China Muslims
06/09/2008 11:27:00 AM GMT Comments (2) Add a comment Print E-mail to friend

( China stop Uighur Muslims from performing their rituals during Ramadan on claims of preventing violence.

Muslims in China's far northwest region of Xinjiang are banned from performing Tarawih prayers

BEIJING - Muslims in China's far northwest region of Xinjiang are banned from performing Tarawih prayers, special nightly prayers performed during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, with men prevented from growing beards and women from covering their faces, in the latest restrictions on China's Muslim minority.

"We must timely warn and stop religious believers from organizing and planning large scale prayer groups and prevent any large crowd incidents that could harm social stability," said a notice on the Xinhe county website cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday, September 5.

Orders were issued by local governments this week to stop Uighur Muslims from performing their rituals during the fasting month on claims of preventing violence.

The orders prohibit government officials, Communist Party members, teachers and students from observing the dawn-to-dusk fasting month.

"Any person caught forcing another to observe Ramadan would be punished," said a notice posted on Xinjiang's Zhaosu county website.

In some areas, Muslim men are banned from growing beards and women prevented from covering their faces with veils.

"For those that maintain beards and for the women who wear veils, we should take all effective measures to have them shave their beards and take off their veils," the Shaya government said, without elaborating on how this would be done.

The county government also stepped up patrols around mosques in the region.

"The handing out of religious propaganda in public places by any work unit or individual is banned," the Shaya government said.

"We must strictly prohibit the playing of any audio-visual tapes, loud speaker announcements and religious drum rituals that could disrupt the Ramadan festival."

Muslims worldwide began this week observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

During Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain during daylight hours from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.

The draconian Chinese religious restrictions on Uighur Muslims drew flak amid warnings of fuelling tension in the Muslim-populated region.

"We have heard of these types of measures on beards and veils, that Uighur party members and citizens who join the government are expected to distance themselves from overt cultural and religious expressions," said Phelim Kyne, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"But by putting them in black and white on government websites, they are showing that they have become much more concerned with the situation and are deepening the crackdown."

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, warned that the restrictions would only increase tensions among Xinjiang's Muslim population.

"To publicly restrict Uighurs from observing the Ramadan fast is a serious act trampling on the religious faithful," the German-based Raxit said in a statement.

"At the same time this is only going to intensify the conflict (in Xinjiang)."

Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in northwest Xinjiang region, have long chafed under Chinese control.

Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955, but continues to be the subject of security crackdowns.

Beijing views the region as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.

Source: IslamOnline

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Destruction of Mecca:The Wahabi Menace
The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage
By Daniel Howden
Saturday, 6 August 2005

Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots.

Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.

Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.

It is the same oil-rich orthodoxy that pumped money into the Taliban as they prepared to detonate the Bamiyan buddhas in 2000. And the same doctrine - violently opposed to all forms of idolatry - that this week decreed that the Saudis' own king be buried in an unmarked desert grave.

A Saudi architect, Sami Angawi, who is an acknowledged specialist on the region's Islamic architecture, told The Independent that the final farewell to Mecca is imminent: "What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina."

According to Dr Angawi - who has dedicated his life to preserving Islam's two holiest cities - as few as 20 structures are left that date back to the lifetime of the Prophet 1,400 years ago and those that remain could be bulldozed at any time. "This is the end of history in Mecca and Medina and the end of their future," said Dr Angawi.

Mecca is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world. It is home to the Grand Mosque and, along with the nearby city of Medina which houses the Prophet's tomb, receives four million people annually as they undertake the Islamic duty of the Haj and Umra pilgrimages.

The driving force behind the demolition campaign that has transformed these cities is Wahhabism. This, the austere state faith of Saudi Arabia, was imported by the al-Saud tribal chieftains when they conquered the region in the 1920s.

The motive behind the destruction is the Wahhabists' fanatical fear that places of historical and religious interest could give rise to idolatry or polytheism, the worship of multiple and potentially equal gods.

As John R. Bradley notes in his new book Saudi Arabia Exposed, the practice of idolatry in the kingdom remains, in principle at least, punishable by beheading. And Bradley also points out this same literalism mandates that advertising posters can and need to be altered. The walls of Jeddah are adorned with ads featuring people missing an eye or with a foot painted over. These "deliberate imperfections" are the most glaring sign of an orthodoxy that tolerates nothing which fosters adulation of the graven image. Nothing can, or can be seen to, interfere with a person's devotion to Allah.

"At the root of the problem is Wahhabism," says Dr Angawi. " They have a big complex about idolatry and anything that relates to the Prophet."

The Wahhabists now have the birthplace of the Prophet in their sights. The site survived redevelopment early in the reign of King Abdul al-Aziz ibn Saud 50 years ago when the architect for a library there persuaded the absolute ruler to allow him to keep the remains under the new structure. That concession is under threat after Saudi authorities approved plans to "update" the library with a new structure that would concrete over the existing foundations and their priceless remains.

Dr Angawi is the descendant of a respected merchant family in Jeddah and a leading figure in the Hijaz - a swath of the kingdom that includes the holy cities and runs from the mountains bordering Yemen in the south to the northern shores of the Red Sea and the frontier with Jordan. He established the Haj Research Centre two decades ago to preserve the rich history of Mecca and Medina. Yet it has largely been a doomed effort. He says that the bulldozers could come "at any time" and the Prophet's birthplace would be gone in a single night.

He is not alone in his concerns. The Gulf Institute, an independent news-gathering group, has publicised what it says is a fatwa, issued by the senior Saudi council of religious scholars in 1994, stating that preserving historical sites "could lead to polytheism and idolatry".

Ali al-Ahmed, the head of the organisation, formerly known as the Saudi Institute, said: "The destruction of Islamic landmarks in Hijaz is the largest in history, and worse than the desecration of the Koran."

Most of the buildings have suffered the same fate as the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of the Prophet, which was identified and excavated by Dr Angawi. After its discovery, King Fahd ordered that it be bulldozed before it could become a pilgrimage site.

"The bulldozer is there and they take only two hours to destroy everything. It has no sensitivity to history. It digs down to the bedrock and then the concrete is poured in," he said.

Similarly, finds by a Lebanese professor, Kamal Salibi, which indicated that once-Jewish villages in what is now Saudi Arabia might have been the location of scenes from the Bible, prompted the bulldozers to be sent in. All traces were destroyed.

This depressing pattern of excavation and demolition has led Dr Angawi and his colleagues to keep secret a number of locations in the holy cities that could date back as far as the time of Abraham.

The ruling House of Saud has been bound to Wahhabism since the religious reformer Mohamed Ibn abdul-Wahab signed a pact with Mohammed bin Saud in 1744. The combination of the al-Saud clan and Wahhab's warrior zealots became the foundation of the modern state. The House of Saud received its wealth and power and the hardline clerics got the state backing that would enable them in the decades to come to promote their Wahhabist ideology across the globe.

On the tailcoats of the religious zealots have come commercial developers keen to fill the historic void left by demolitions with lucrative high-rises.

"The man-made history of Mecca has gone and now the Mecca that God made is going as well." Says Dr Angawi. "The projects that are coming up are going to finish them historically, architecturally and environmentally," he said.

With the annual pilgrimage expected to increase five-fold to 20 million in the coming years as Saudi authorities relax entry controls, estate agencies are seeing a chance to cash in on huge demand for accommodation.

"The infrastructure at the moment cannot cope. New hotels, apartments and services are badly needed," the director of a leading Saudi estate agency told Reuters.

Despite an estimated $13bn in development cash currently washing around Mecca, Saudi sceptics dismiss the developers' argument. "The service of pilgrims is not the goal really," says Mr Ahmed. "If they were concerned for the pilgrims, they would have built a railroad between Mecca and Jeddah, and Mecca and Medina. They are removing any historical landmark that is not Saudi-Wahhabi, and using the prime location to make money," he says.

Dominating these new developments is the Jabal Omar scheme which will feature two 50-storey hotel towers and seven 35-storey apartment blocks - all within a stone's throw of the Grand Mosque.

Dr Angawi said: "Mecca should be the reflection of the multicultural Muslim world, not a concrete parking lot."

Whereas proposals for high-rise developments in Jerusalem have prompted a worldwide outcry and the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan buddhas was condemned by Unicef, Mecca's busy bulldozers have barely raised a whisper of protest.

"The house where the Prophet received the word of God is gone and nobody cares," says Dr Angawi. "I don't want trouble. I just want this to stop."

The Destruction of Mecca:The Wahabi Menace

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


As world watches Tibet, China's Muslim Uighurs face growing repression

  • Posted on Monday, April 14, 2008
Uighurs: Turkic minority in China


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KHOTAN, China — Almost unnoticed amid the wide-scale protests by Tibetans over the past month is the social unrest among the 8 million or so Muslim Uighurs in China's resource-rich far western territory.

Recently, hundreds of Muslim women in black veils gathered outside the market in this oasis city in an impromptu protest. Some carried signs demanding an independent state.

"I saw the demonstration myself. There were 500 to 700 women in black, waving placards for East Turkestan," said Wu Jiangliang, a hydroelectric company employee.

China handled the unrest forcefully, ensuring the stability of a region rich in oil, coal and minerals. Police moved quickly to quell the March 23 protest, arresting numerous women and shooing others away. It drew only minor notice.

China also has broken up what it said were two terrorist rings that intended to disrupt the Beijing Summer Olympic Games and thwarted what it said was a terrorist attempt last month on a commercial airliner.

But as state officials employed a firm hand against restive Uighurs, pronounced WEE-gers, they also publicly demonized those behind the social unrest. Critics now say that while the state has stabilized ethnic areas, the harsh language may exacerbate tensions.

"The problem is that China's policies are alienating," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. "They are efficient in that political repression works. But they increase ethnic tensions."

Conversations in the marketplaces and along the sandy streets of this city reveal that Han Chinese and Uighurs live side by side but share little except mistrust and fear.

"I don't have Chinese friends," said a Uighur shopkeeper who identified herself only as Ayguzal. "Chinese people never come in here."

At midnight in a karaoke bar in a hotel frequented by Han Chinese businessmen, a young Han asked a visitor a question over the thumping music.

"Are you scared?" he wanted to know.

Asked if he meant afraid of the Muslims, he replied: "They hate us."

Khotan, known in Mandarin as Hetian, sits on the edge of the sprawling Taklimakan Desert. The vast majority of the million or so residents are Uighurs.

A series of bombings and assassinations shook the surrounding Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the 1990s, but a repressive campaign that included numerous executions halted that terrorism.

Han merchants have migrated to Khotan in increasing numbers this decade to trade in jade, which is excavated from a local riverbed.

Some adhere to the government line that the Han majority enjoys harmonious relations with all 56 ethnic minority groups dwelling in China, and particularly with the Uighurs.

"We are all one people," said Huang Ziyong, a jade merchant who arrived in 1993 from Sichuan province. Huang hasn't bothered to study Uighur, which shares linguistic roots with Turkish. "I can't speak their language."

When speaking confidentially, Uighurs are quick to pour out grievances.

Some complain of family-planning policies that have left Uighur mothers dead from second-trimester abortions. Others said that few senior party or regional officials are ethnic Uighurs, despite pledges decades ago that the region would enjoy autonomy.

Since 2006, controls have stiffened. Muslim shopkeepers aren't allowed to pray in their stores, and state employees are discouraged from practicing religion at all.

"The government has taken away everyone's passports and kept them in the local police station," said a farmer who gave his name only as Muttursun.

Tensions in Khotan rose early this year when state security arrested a prominent Uighur jade merchant, Mutallip Hajim, who was known to help young Muslim students with his philanthropy. On March 3, police gave Hajim's body to his family, saying he'd died of a heart attack. He was 38 years old.

"They suspected he was a leader supporting demonstrations," said Rebiya Kadeer, an exile leader who is president of the World Uighur Congress.

Kadeer, speaking by telephone from the United States, said Hajim had been tortured and that a number of Uighur men were subsequently arrested, enraging their wives and leading to the women's March 23 protest. The women also were angry that the government discourages them from wearing black headscarves.

"The government has been really heavy-handed," Kadeer said. "The Uighurs are ready to take to the streets and the government knows that. This is only the tip of the iceberg."

Beijing frequently asserts that separatists and terrorists lurk among the Uighur population, stoking fear in ordinary Uighurs that they may face accusations at any time.

"They've got the political sword of Damocles over their heads. If you smear someone as a separatist, they are in big trouble," Bequelin said.

Xinjiang leaders have accused Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, a movement active in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, of spreading tens of thousands of pamphlets in major cities, including Khotan, earlier this year. The group advocates the creation of a pan-global Islamic state, or caliphate.

In the most recent alleged terrorist case, the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing said April 10 that agents had smashed a ring of 35 radicals in Xinjiang who planned to disrupt the Olympics with kidnappings and mass poisonings. It provided no details about where the arrests took place or the identities of those arrested.

Foreign terrorism experts suggest that China may be conflating criminal activity with potential terrorism, a sign that it's jittery about stability before the Olympics.

After a Jan. 27 raid in the regional capital of Urumqi, authorities said Muslim militants threw grenades at police, injuring seven officers. Two militants allegedly were killed, and 15 were captured.

But when an Agence France-Presse journalist went to the middle-class housing development in Urumqi, residents dismissed reports of a grenade-tossing clash.

"That's nonsense," one resident told the news agency. "Everybody would have heard something like that," said another resident.

China claims that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement has links to global terrorist cells, a charge that some experts dismiss.

"There's just no clear connection between al Qaida and East Turkestan," said Dru C. Gladney, a professor at Pomona College in California. "(Osama) bin Laden has never mentioned them."

Many Chinese now quickly associate Uighurs with trouble.

"The general perception of Uighurs has shifted in China at large. Now mention 'Uighurs,' and it's, 'Oh, dangerous terrorists!'" Bequelin said. "It may be the longest-lasting effect of this campaign."


The history of the Uighurs can be traced back 2,600 years. According to a history compiled by the London Uighur Ensemble, a group formed to popularize the traditional and popular music of the Uighurs, the nomadic tribes of that era rose "to challenge the Chinese Empire" and to become "the diplomatic arm of the Mongol invasion."

China's ethnic Uighurs are moderate Muslims who are related to the Turks. Like the Kurds of Asia Minor and the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the Uighurs are a dissatisfied transnational ethnic minority spread across several countries, without an independent homeland or a strong leader. They are located mainly China, but also Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The London Ensemble notes that the ethnic minority "staged several uprisings" against the Nationalist Chinese government in the period before the Communists took control of the country. In 1933 and 1944, the Uighurs established an independent Islamic Eastern Turkestan republic, but that attempt at a nation state ended after military intervention by the Soviet Union. With the establishment of the Maoist government in China in 1949, the tribal homeland came under Chinese communist rule.


Read the AFP story.

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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