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Unregistered
23-07-09, 23:33
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2009
Media contact: Wajahat Ali, 510-909-7506,

American Muslims Call on Chinese Govt' to Protect Religious Freedom

In response to the outbreak of violence in Xinjiang, China, in early July, 2009, American Muslims across the country will speak out for religious freedom in China during their July 31, 2009 Friday sermon

SAN FRANCISCO - A collection of American Muslim professionals, journalists and community and religious leaders, are calling for American Muslim leaders and religious figures to speak up during their Friday, July 31, sermon for religious freedom in light of the brutal crackdown by the Chinese on Uyghur Muslims in July and a history of repression of religious groups including Christians and the Falun Gong.

In response to the collective concern of the American Muslim community, imams and religious leaders across America have been asked to speak out for religious freedom in China and promote awareness of the plight of Uyghur Muslims to their congregations. Members of this collection of the American Muslim community are currently contacting imams and religious leaders at major religious centers and mosques, and are encouraging sermons addressing the importance of bringing attention and support to this embattled community. They are encouraging sermons that bring attention and support to this embattled community while also addressing the importance of religious freedom for all people, including Uyghur Muslims, and the right of all Chinese religious communities to enjoy self-determination and the preservation of cultural identity.

Resources to promote awareness about the struggle for religious freedom in China, the repressive situation of Uyghur Muslims, and the difficult situation in Xinjiang are available at the facebook group "American Muslims Support the Uyghurs on July 31." These resources include an Uyghur Primer, an Open Letter on the Uyghurs and a sample khutba for July 31.

This call is being broadcast through various channels, including blogs, Facebook groups, personal contacts, and traditional media. "Americans of all faiths have come together many times in the past to recognize the rights of religious minorities in China," said Shahed Amanullah, editor-in-chief of the online newsmagazine altmuslim.com. "It is time that the plight of China's Uyghur minority takes its rightful place alongside those just struggles."

Specific calls to action for imams and religious leaders include:

1. Religious Freedom is a sacred right for all: American Muslims thrive because of the Constitution's protection of religious freedom. The ability to freely practice one's faith and belief system is a fundamental human right that should not be addressed lightly.
2. As Muslims we are obligated to support the oppressed and uphold the right of all to stay true to their spiritual conscience.
3. We support the Uyghurs in their struggle to maintain their cultural and religious identity. As Muslims we fully support their community's effort to preserve their heritage and traditions while maintaining their place in Chinese society.
4. More broadly, every person has the right to the preserve his or her cultural identity.

Individuals and organizations helping to organize this call (partial list, titles for identification purposes only):

Wajahat Ali, Playwright, Attorney and Journalist, DomesticCrusaders.com
Aziz Poonawalla, Blogger at City of Brass (Beliefnet.com)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief of altmuslim.com
Zeba Iqbal, Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals
Hussein Rashid, Visiting Professor, Hofstra University, HusseinRashid.com

Mosques, imams, and organizations confirmed to have joined this effort (please join the growing list):

Muslim Public Affairs Council (Los Angeles; Washington, DC; New York, NY)
The Islamic Center at New York University - Imam Khalid Latif and Haroon Moghul

Resources for the media regarding Muslim efforts to promote awareness of Uyghur Muslims and their situation in China:

Unregistered
24-07-09, 00:42
http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/a/3194/

Muslim minorities
Who are the Uyghur?
The resentment felt by Uyghur Muslims in eastern China is a serious threat to the Chinese government, which is why the response has been so disproportionate and brutal. There is a context for the riots last week in Urumqi, and the heavy hand of Beijing is only making things worse.
By Aziz Poonawalla, July 17, 2009

Do you Twitter, son?

The oppression of the Uyghur in China's Xinjiang province has been getting a surprising amount of media coverage, though, unlike the turmoil following the Iran elections, not much information from the Uyghur themselves. As a result, most people – Muslims worldwide included – have, upon hearing about the Uyghur, asked, "who?" Because of this, it's worth reviewing some basic information about who these people are and why their struggle is worth paying attention to.

In a nutshell, the Uyghur are an ethnic minority in China who practice Islam and speak the Turkic language. They are thus both an ethnic and a religious minority, unlike the Hui, who also practice Islam but who are culturally and physically identical to the Han majority. The Hui comprise the vast majority of Chinese Muslims, so the Uyghur are a minority within a minority in that regard.

The Uyghur's ancient homeland in central Asia was previously known as East Turkestan, and has been variously ruled by khanates, dynasties, and warlords throughout history. The region was also named Xinjiang ("New Territory") during the Qing dynasty. The Uyghur did establish a short-lived East Turkestan Republic between 1944 and 1949, albeit with Soviet help. That ended when the People's Liberation Army took control and the area was renamed the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The Uyghur are persecuted by Beijing in much the same way that the Native Americans were for almost two centuries by the United States, in that they face a relentless and systematic campaign to wipe away their cultural heritage and erase their religious identity. The primary vehicle for this is the immense immigrant influx by Han Chinese into Xinjiang, a deliberate resettlement by the Chinese government to change the demographics of Xinjiang. One observer notes that the "the Han Chinese push into Xinjiang brings to mind a different dynamic, while the Hui are Jews among gentiles, the Uyghurs are like the Sioux being encircled by homesteaders."

Over the past 50 years this immigration wave has changed Xinjiang from being 94% Uyghur in 1949 to 45% Uyghur now, with Han comprising 40%. The capital city of Xinjinag, Urumqi, is 75% Han and the Han dominate all levels of civic society and government in the province. It should be noted that Uyghurs, like all minority groups, are exempted from the one-child policy, but there are vastly more Han than Uyghur in China, so the balance in Xinjiang is unlikely to be countered by birthrate.

In addition to the deliberate dispossession of the Uyghur from their own land, the Chinese government engages in active religious persecution of the Uyghur, with believers forced to use state-approved versions of the Qur'an, a ban on beards and headscarves for any men and women who work in the state sector, and direct management of all mosques by the central authorities. Uyghur men are fined for performing prayers, Muslim schools are closed down, and fasting by children or teachers is forbidden during Ramadan. This list of grievances goes on and on.

In general, the state interferes in almost every aspect of Uyghur culture and religious observance that it can, in an attempt to make even simple observances and acts of piety too difficult to perform. The history and heritage of the Uyghurs are likewise under assault, with historic buildings and sites demolished and razed, and the Mandarin language is being imposed in rural schools to the exclusion of the Uyghurs' native tongue.

All of this is intended to eradicate the identity of the Uyghur, though at the same time the Uyghur are also the victims of discrimination and economic marginalization. Uyghurs are explicitly excluded from jobs, with signs stating bluntly "no Uyghurs need apply". Massive investment by the central government has led to the creation of huge farms and construction projects called bingtuan, at which an estimated 1 in 6 Han in Xinjiang is employed and Uyghurs rarely hired. In urban areas, increased development has led to rising rent, pricing Uyghurs right out of the market (as noted earlier, Urumqi is 75% Han). In almost every sphere, Uyghurs are second-class citizens with limited prospects and unable to take part in the modernization and development of Xinjiang.

This, then, is the context for the riots last week in Urumqi, which were actually triggered by a hate crime incident in eastern China. The resentment they feel is a serious threat to Beijing, which is why the response was so disproportionate and brutal. It is clear, however, that the heavy hand of Beijing is only making things worse.

(Photo: Monica Chia)

Aziz Poonawalla writes the City of Brass blog at Beliefnet and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the founder and editor of Talk Islam and the co-founder of the Brass Crescent Awards. This article was previously published at City of Brass and is reprinted here with permission from Beliefnet.

Unregistered
24-07-09, 00:51
an Uyghur primer: the roots of discontent
Wednesday July 15, 2009
Categories: Identify yourself, The Neverending Story

The flag of the short-lived East Turkestan Republic, 1944-1949, now banned in China The oppression of the Uyghur in China's Xinjiang province has been getting a surprising amount of media coverage. The first reaction most people have upon hearing about the Uyghur is to ask, "who?" so it's worth reviewing some basic information about who these people are and why their struggle is worth paying attention to.

In a nutshell, the Uyghur are an ethnic minority in China who practice Islam and speak the Turkic language. They are thus both an ethnic and a religious minority, unlike the Hui, who also practice Islam but who are culturally and physically identical to the Han majority. The Hui comprise the vast majority of Chinese muslims, so the Uyghur are a minority within a minority in that regard.

The Uyghur's ancient homeland in central Asia was previously known as East Turkestan, and has been variously ruled by khanates, dynasties, and warlords throughout history. The region was also named Xinjiang ("New Territory") during the Qing dynasty. The Uyghur did establish a short-lived East Turkestan Republic between 1944 and 1949, albeit with Soviet help. That ended when the People's Liberation Army took control and the area was renamed the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The Uyghur are persecuted by Beijing in much the same way that the Native Americans were for almost two centuries by the United States, in that they face a relentless and systematic campaign to wipe away their cultural heritage and erase their religious identity. The primary vehicle for this is the immense immigrant influx by Han Chinese into Xinjiang, a deliberate resettlement by the Chinese government to change the demographics of Xinjiang. Over the past 50 years this immigration wave has changed Xinjiang from being 94% Uyghur in 1949 to 45% Uyghur now, with Han comprising 40%. The capital city of Xinjinag, Urumqi, is 75% Han and the Han dominate all levels of civic society and government in the province. It should be noted that Uyghurs, like all minority groups, are exempted from the one-child policy, but there are vastly more Han than Uyghur in China, so the balance in Xinjiang is unlikely to be countered by birthrate.

In addition to the deliberate dispossession of the Uyghur from their own land, the Chinese government engages in active religious persecution of the Uyghur, with believers forced to use state-approved versions of the Qur'an, a ban on beards and headscarves for any men and women who work in the state sector, and direct management of all mosques by the central authorities. Uyghur men are fined for performing prayers, muslim schools are closed down, and fasting by children or teachers is forbidden during Ramadan. In general, the state interferes in almost every aspect of Uyghur culture and religious observance that it can, in an attempt to make even simple observances and acts of piety too difficult to perform. The history and heritage of the Uyghurs are likewise under assault, with historic buildings and sites demolished and razed, and the Mandarin language is being imposed in rural schools to the exclusion of the Uyghurs' native tongue.

All of this is intended to eradicate the identity of the Uyghur, but at the same time the Uyghur are also the victims of discrimination and economic marginalization. Uyghurs are explicitly excluded from jobs, with signs stating bluntly that "no Uyghurs need apply". Massive investment by the central gvernment has led to the creation of huge farms and construction projects called bingtuan, at which an estimated 1 in 6 Han in Xinjiang is employed, but Uyghurs are rarely hired. In urban areas, increased development has led to rising rent, pricing Uyghurs right out of the market (as noted above, Urumqi is 75% Han). In almost every sphere, Uyghurs are second-class citizens with limited prospects and unable to take part in the modernization and development of Xinjiang.

This, then, is the context for the riots last week in Urumqi, which were actually triggered by a hate crime incident in eastern China. The resentment they feel is a serious threat to Beijing, which is why the response was so disporportionate and brutal. It is clear, however, that the heavy hand of Beijing is only making things worse.

Related reading: The Uyghur Human Rights Project website is an aggregator of news stories about the struggles and oppression of the Uyghur. The Council on Foreign Relations has a very detailed backgrounder on the Uyghurs and Xinjiang that should be essential reading. Razib had an extensive post last year about the Uyghur, noting that "the Han Chinese push into Xinjiang brings to mind a different dynamic, while the Hui are Jews among gentiles, the Uyghurs are like the Sioux being encircled by homesteaders." More recently, the New York Times had a nice history piece about Uyghur history and heritage, as well. Finally, a summary artricle in EurasiaNet discusses the tensions and grievances of the Uyghur in more detail.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2009/07/an-uyghur-primer-the-roots-of.html