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Moderator BC
03-08-05, 18:35
Uyghur Human Rights Project – Press Release

Three detained in East Turkistan for "illegal" religious text

For Immediate Release
August 3, 2005 12:00 EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project, 1 202 349 1496

(Washington, D.C., August 3, 2005.) The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has learned that three people have been detained by police in central East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China) for being in possession of an "illegal" religious text.

Abdulla Zakir, 30, from Qosheriq Village in Korla (Ch: Ku'erle), and two young women, Ayshem Kerem and Amangul Ismail, both 19 and from Tobrichi Village in Korla, were approached by police on July 20 as they waited at a bus stop in the outskirts of Korla City. While searching the bags and possessions of all three, an unauthorized copy of Mishkat-ul Misabih was discovered among Mr. Zakir’s belongings.

The Mishkat-ul Misabih is a compilation of narratives known as ahadith describing the life and work of the prophet Muhammad. Study of the Mishkat-ul Misabih is central to the understanding and practice of Islam.

No further information is available on the three people's current legal status. People who own or distribute "unofficial" religious texts – whether Islamic, Christian or Buddhist – are often sentenced to "re-education through labor". Under Chinese law, police can send people to "re-education through labor" for periods of up to four years, with no right to legal representation, nor any form of effective supervision or review by a judicial authority of police decisions.

The Chinese authorities attempt to put strict controls on the publishing and circulation of all religious texts. "Illegal religious material" includes versions of the Bible and Koran which have not been approved by the state. The most senior Chinese political leader in East Turkistan, Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan, said in October 2002 that the state had to reinforce "management" of religious texts, and "unify a standardized expounding and explanation of the texts."*

The Chinese authorities in East Turkistan are extremely wary of religion becoming a cohesive social or political force both locally and within the Central Asian region. Beijing sources a significant proportion of China’s oil, natural gas and coal from the region, and fears a “radicalized” Islam in East Turkistan could destabilize the country’s energy security.

Uyghurs in East Turkistan traditionally practice either a moderate form of Sunni Islam infused with local folklore and traditions, or a mystical form of Sufi Islam. Most Uyghurs tend to lead secular lives, although Islam still has a significant influence on family and social structures. East Turkistan's position on the Silk Road contributed to an extremely rich religious, artistic and intellectual culture, broadly informed about other cultures and traditions from China to the Mediterranean.

*See: Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch & Human Rights in China, April 2005, p. 51.

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The Uyghur American Association (UAA) works to promote the preservation and flourishing of a rich, humanistic and diverse Uyghur culture, and to support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future.

The UAA has undertaken the Uyghur Human Rights Project for the purpose of promoting improved human rights conditions for Uyghurs and other indigenous groups in East Turkistan, on the premise that the assurance of basic human rights will facilitate the realization of the community’s democratic aspirations.

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)
Uyghur American Association (UAA)
1700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006, USA.
Tel: (202) 349-1496
Fax: (202) 349-1491
Email: info@uhrp.org