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News Update
16-08-05, 13:03
Published on TaipeiTimes

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2005/08/16/2003267938

Chinese Muslims arrested for studying Koran

DRACONIAN STEPS: An Uighur woman and 37 of her students aged 7 to 20 have been detained without charge in China's latest crackdown in the name of counterterrorism

AFP , BEIJING
Tuesday, Aug 16, 2005,Page 5

Authorities in China's Muslim-majority Xinjiang region have detained a Uighur woman and 37 of her students, some as young as seven, for studying the Koran, a rights group said yesterday.

Aminan Momixi, 56, was teaching the Koran to the students aged between seven and 20 at her home on Aug. 1 when police burst in and arrested her, the German-based World Uighur Congress said.

Her students, most of whom were primary and secondary school pupils, were also arrested and some remain in detention, it said.

Police confiscated 23 copies of the Koran, 56 textbooks on the Koran, a hand-written manuscript and other religious materials, the organization said. Momixi was accused of "illegally possessing religious materials and subversive historical information," the congress said, adding that she had been denied access to a lawyer.

A police officer confirmed the detentions, and added, "This is our internal issue, we cannot disclose the reason."

The congress' spokesman Dilxat Raxit said some children had been released after parents paid fines of between 7,000 and 10,000 yuan (US$863 and US$1,233). He did not know how many were still detained.

"Some parents simply can't afford it. They live in the countryside and have to sell their cows and yaks to get their children out," he said.

Raxit said the parents just wanted their children to learn moral values which the Koran taught them. China bans all religious activities outside state control.

"They just want their children to learn the Koran, the most basic religious knowledge, during the summer holiday," he said.

Uighurs are a Turkish-speaking minority of 8 million whose traditional homeland lies in the oil-rich Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.

Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of crackdowns by Chinese authorities, who have been accused by rights groups of religious repression against Uighurs in the name of counter-terrorism efforts.

Raxit denied that Muslim religious education leads to terrorism.

"It has no link to that whatsoever. What have seven-year-old children got to do with terrorism?" he said.

In a 114-page report released this year, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China said Chinese policy in Xinjiang "denies Uighurs religious freedom, and by extension freedom of association, assembly, and expression."

"Uighurs are seen by Beijing as an ethno-nationalist threat to the Chinese state," said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.

"As Islam is perceived as underpinning Uighur ethnic identity, China has taken draconian steps to smother Islam as a means of subordinating Uighur nationalist sentiment," she said.

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