View Full Version : ISLAM IN XINJIANG

03-05-05, 07:09
Here is a student research paper, it is open to the critique and discussion. I believe some of you here know more than I do. I believe your suggesions will make it complete, or at least near to the fact.

Thank you.

Islam in Xinjiang


Xinjiang, known as East Turkistan until 1876, when the Manchu Dynasty invaded and subdued the area, is the homeland for most of the Turkic people for more than thousand years. Strong Islamic belief prevails among these Turkic people here, especially Uyghur, Kazak, Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Tartar, who account for the majority Muslim population in this region. There are also great numbers of Hui Muslims who were formed as a nationality in 11th century through intermingling of Arab, Persian merchants’ in Central Asia with Mongolian, and Han Chinese. After the establishment of People’s Republic of China in 1949, remarkable changes have taken place not only in the lives of Muslims but also in Islam itself as a result of domestic changes and outside influences.
This paper, first of all, will touch on brief history of Islam in Xinjiang, and answer the questions of how and when Islam transmitted into this region. Second, I will mainly focus on the current situation of Islam, religious freedom issues, the Chinese government’s policy toward Muslims before and after the turn of 21st century, especially after 9/11. Third, I will further examine the consequences of the effect of assimilation and globalization of Islam, and try to find the reasons that contributed to the revival of Islam, increased awareness of religious and national identity, and the emergence of radical Muslims. Finally, I will analyze the future of Islam in this region.

The Brief History of Islam

Before their conversion to Islam, Uyghurs believed in several different religions, including Shamanism, Manicheism, Buddism, and even Christianity. In the 10th Century, Islam was transmitted into Xinjiang through Central Asia. In 934, Satuk Bughra Khan, who was the ruler of the Karakhanid Kingdom which was established in 840, first converted to Islam, and contributed to the spread of Islam among Karakhanids centered in Kashghar, south Xinjiang. However, not all Uyghurs converted to Islam concurrently. The Uyghurs who established the Karakhoja Uyghur Kingdom in 846 in the northern part of Tengri Mountain (the present day city of Turpan) still remained Buddhists. Thus, the two different religions of Buddhism and Islam coexisted in the territory of Xinjiang, Muslim Karakhanids in the south and Buddhist Karakhojas in the north.
There had been strong resistance against Islam among Buddhist Uyghurs, and it took more than five centuries for Islam to become the main religion in Xinjiang, replacing Buddhism. I would argue that the spread of Islam relied more on religious wars and political coercion rather than the natural preference of the people. In the middle of the 10th century, the Islamic Karahan Kingdom waged a war against the Buddhist Kingdom of Yutian, and introduced Islam into Hotan after conquering it in the early 11th century. From the middle of 14th century, the Islamic and Buddhist Uyghur kingdoms merged into one state, and Islam gradually became the dominant religion of the Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik, Kazak, and Hui in Xinjiang. Many mosques were built in the city of Kashgar and such cities as Turpan, Hoten, and many madrasas (Islamic schools) not only taught the writing and reading of Arabic Scripture, but also delivered Islamic knowledge of Hadith, Shariah, and Mantik to the people. In the 16th century, Islam finally became the most dominant religion for all Turkic people who lived in this region. Conversion to Islam completely transformed almost every aspect of their lives, from ritual and social customs, cultural practices, and of course, political and economic systems to architecture, philosophy, ethics, and even language.

Transformation of Islam: Assimilation, indigenization, and globalization

After the Chinese communist takeover in 1949, there have been dramatic changes in Islam due to domestic and foreign influences. I would argue that the internal impact, especially the communists’ religious policy, is the crucial reason for the transformation of Islam.

1.Strict control and censorship of religious activities

Living under the control of a non-Islamic state as a minority where the majority is overwhelmingly Han Chinese, both Uyghur culture and Islam has experienced remarkable changes. After the establishment of People’s Republic, Chinese communists have been keeping close eye on the spread of religious ideas and practices of religious activities. The Chinese communists view Islam as the greatest challenge to its dominance in Xinjiang. Despite that the Chinese constitution clearly stipulates that every citizen has the freedom of religious belief, and that state protects normal religious activities and the lawful rights and interests of the religious circles , the Chinese communists view Islam as a dangerous threat to their dominance and stability of the Han nation. During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese communists tried to wipe out Islam in Xinjiang and Buddhism in Tibet in an attempt to forcibly assimilate them into the Han nation. Many masques were destroyed or closed; the Koran and other religious texts were burned; religious leaders were arrested and thousands were sentenced to labor camps. Any sign of activity allegedly related to religion was considered as feudal, backward, and being violently suppressed. The turbulent 10 years of persecution had severely destroyed both Uyghur culture and Islamic practices. Even though overtly harsh control over religious activities slightly alleviated after the Cultural Revolution, overall hostility toward Islam, strict censorship and repression on religious practices still remained. Although the CCP constantly claims that the state respects and safeguards the traditional culture of minorities, and every minority has the right to practice its own religion, the Uyhgurs are not able to enjoy these freedoms. Beijing's rulers are reimposing strict limits on religious life. The police routinely censor Imams’ sermons, frequently intervene in religious gatherings, and arrest the people who engage in these activities. Many religious schools are banned under the name of maintaining social stability, and Uyghur children under 18 are prohibited from studying any kind of knowledge relating to Islam. Only the state has the right to establish religious schools, all others are considered illegal. Imams have been called to frequent government meetings and be “trained” by the Chinese authorities to give them "a clearer understanding of the party's ethnic and religious policies. The officials even taught the Imams what they could and could not preach in masques. Uyghur government officials are discouraged to attend mosques under fear of losing their jobs; even retired old cadres are prohibited from any religious activity under threat of losing their pensions. The government also strictly has been controlling the number of people who plan to visit sacred Islamic centers like Mecca and Medina. The result of this harsh control has been the weakening of the practice of Islam within the Uyghur community, and even worse, the ignorance or indifference of the practices of their own religion among Uyghur young generations. This is one of the main reasons which have caused strong discontentment against the government among Uyghurs.

2.Assimilation or Sinification

Sociopolitical integration of Xinjiang into the Chinese nation-state has been the ultimate motivation of Chinese communists. To reach this goal, the Communist Party tried every means to incorporate Uyghurs into the “Great” Han nation. However, Uyghurs, who have their own distinct culture, religion, and custom, still identify themselves first as Muslims, and second as Turks, not Chinese. Even though strong resistance against Chinese rule persisted throughout history, the Chinese communists this time are more successful than ever to “integrate” this wild nationality into their Han nation. Among many tactics targeted to incorporate Uyghurs into one culture, e.g. Chinese culture, there are two ways that have proved quite effective: migration and Chinese education.
Migration: Significant influx of Han migrants into Xinjiang has started from the late 1980s. Chinese authorities have no restriction on this excessive migration; instead they encourage Han migration by providing economic incentives. Han Chinese, which accounted for only 6% of Xinjiang’s population in 1949, increased to more than 50 % percent in 2002, while Uyghurs decreased from 80% in 1949 to 42% in the 2002. This deliberate massive population movement has a tremendous impact on Uyghur society. The Uyghurs, who are strong adherents of Islam, are now realizing the national identity crisis through the inevitable intermingling with Han Chinese, and therefore have struggled to protect their national identity, culture, and religion from Chinese encroachment. However, the Chinese government has denied the Uyghurs’ desire for cultural and religious freedom under the deep-seated fear of their further request for an independent state. A series of repressive policies has taken effect to keep the Uyghurs under absolute control. The Uyghurs’ originally weak sense of national identity is strengthened by religious repression, social, economic and political marginalization as a result of the following oppressive policies: All religious activities are deemed illegal unless approved by the state; the people don’t dare to discuss religion in public or express their religious belief under the fear of being arrested as fundamentalist, separatist, or even terrorist. Politically, Uyghur officials gradually lost their political power or remained with little power. Government agencies overwhelmingly are dominated by Han Chinese officials. Economically, the Han migrants are almost exclusively involved in the establishment of new industries and enterprises associated with reform and openness, while Uyghurs remain as land-based peasants or continue running their small businesses. They also experienced job discrimination a being characterized as part of an ill-educated group. According to a recent report, 90% of the unemployed are Uyghurs. Economic prosperity, that was supposed to improve living standard of locals, thus maintaining stability, did not necessarily benefit Uyghurs. It instead became an exclusive privilege of Han Chinese. As a result of these sinification policies, the Uyghurs are gradually excluded from the mainstream of the society, and have become second-class citizens. Deprived of religious freedom, equal economic rights, and political power, Uyghurs are increasingly dissatisfied with the central government’s Han-centered policy.
Chinese education: To eradicate Islam from Uyghur society and incorporate Uyghurs completely into the Han nation, Chinese communists strictly controlled the opening of religious schools and development of Islamic education on one hand, and actively broadened and strengthened Chinese education on the other. Even though the Law of Regional Autonomy for Minority Nationalities explicitly states that all minorities have the right to practice their religion, develop their own culture, and educate their children in their native language, the government has imposed Chinese education on Uyghur children from elementary school to college. The teachers are also forced to learn Chinese, and teach Uyghur children in Chinese; otherwise they would loss their jobs. This coercive policy, adversely, has led to inefficiency of the education system because teachers were not trained in Chinese nor could they teach as well in Chinese as they could in their local Uyghur language. Some professors are kicked out from the universities the on grounds that they were not able to teach in Chinese. Students are not allowed to study their history, to attend masques, and are forced to accept Chinese written history books which mostly spread Chinese values; many religious schools are closed, and imams are arrested under the accusation of threatening the security of the society by giving lessons about Islam. The Chinese government also fabricated and rewrote Uyghur history, taught students a distorted history of Islam, and discouraged them from studying and practicing Islam. These policies are definitely harmful to the preservation of Uyghur culture and the transmission of Islam to successive generations. This cultural and religious disrespect, blatant disregard for history and the complete process of educational assimilation has only led to the rise of anti-government, anti-Han sentiment. For Uyghurs, Islam is inextricably linked to their culture and identity, and is one of the most important marks which differentiate them from Han Chinese. Losing their religious belief, culture, and language mean losing their nationality as a Turkic people. This crucial importance placed on religious and cultural identity may explain why Uyghurs have been persisting strong resistance against Chinese rule. Most importantly, these tensions are exacerbated by social, political, and economical inequities, and has triggered a series of anti-Han, anti-government movements, such as Baren Incident, and Ghulja Uprising.

3.Violent crackdown of demonstrations for real autonomy

China has taken draconian measures to smother Islam as a means of subordinating Uyghur nationalist sentiment. Especially after Sep 11, the PRC, which has been blamed by the international community for its abuse of human rights and religious disrespect, intentionally linked Uyghurs with radical Muslims in the Middle East, and largely suppressed Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang. Thousands of Uyghurs are arrested under the suspicion of “terrorists”, or even executed with any fair trial . As many human rights organizations blamed, China has been using global anti-terror war as an excuse to justify its repression of any resistance against its dominance. If we look at the recent movements, none of them have been Islamic in nature. On the contrary, most of the activities are peaceful demonstrations against Chinese oppressive assimilation policy, and demands for religious freedom, and equal economic and political rights. Just as “China’s Rebellious Province” put it “Though Uighurs are Muslims, they see their cause as anti-colonial, not Islamic.” Uyghurs believe their resistance to Chinese rule has nothing to do with the religion they believe in. By linking Uyghur resistance to Islam, the Chinese government makes itself vulnerable to the question of why have these movements become increasingly pervasive in recent years, not before. It is also worth noting that the Chinese government has a totally different attitude toward the Uyghurs and Hui, even though they both are Muslims. Hui have more freedom in practicing Islam and the government generally does not intervene in their religious activities, probably because, as many scholars believe, the Hui share the same language and same ancestry with Han Chinese. But I would argue that Hui enjoy greater religious freedom because they have never questioned Chinese legitimacy, nor did they challenge Chinese rule in the West. On the contrary, Uyghurs, although fell under Chinese rule more than 50 years, never view themselves as Chinese citizens, and have constantly resisted the incorporation into Chinese nation. Just as Hasan Nader put it,” Uyghurs' unwillingness to submit to Chinese authority and their kinship with the Islamic states of the region make Xinjiang the most serious internal security threat to China in the eyes of the Beijing leadership”. This defiance may explain why Chinese authorities are so intolerant and violent toward the Uyghur demand for greater autonomy.
Of course, violent suppression of the movements for real autonomy has started long before the attack of Sep 11, 2001. In two most famous “Uprisings”, Baren Massacre in April 1990 and Ghulja Uprising in February 1997, for example, the Chinese government labeled the protests as “counter-revolutionary rebellions”, and took cruel measures to crack down the originally peaceful demonstrations. Both incidents were triggered from the religious oppression by the government. According to a report, more than 2000 people were killed, hundreds injured, and unknown numbers of organizers of the protest were sentenced to imprisonment or death. As reported by Amnesty International, a high proportion of executions have triggered further anti-government sentiments, and violent resistance.
The 9/11 attack has provided the Chinese government the best pretense to suppress Uyghurs and other Muslim dissidents in Xinjiang. Since then, the Chinese communists’ response to religion became even more violent. With the support of the United States and the international community, the CCP started unscrupulous crackdown on any sign of unrest, regardless of peaceful or violent, under the name of anti-terror war. It is really hard to estimate the precise number of victims of this so-called “anti-terrorist” movement because the Chinese government never releases the real figure in public in the fear of arousing western media’s attention on the abuse of human rights in China. In occasions, some reports can be publicized, but they are far from reliable.
Even though the CCP didn’t find any evidence up to now to prove that Uyghurs have any actual relation with the international terrorist organizations, it is still continuing its crackdown of independence movement and religious activities under the banner of anti-terrorism. This harsh oppression, on the contrary, caused stronger resistance and hatred toward Han Chinese, and contributed to the revival of interest in Islam.

4.Secularization or Indigenization

In its more than one millennium history in Xinjiang, Islam has experienced remarkable changes by the practice of the people, and no longer an “untouched”, “pristine” religion as it was. The transformation of Islam in Xinjiang can not be completely considered as the consequence of Chinese authorities’ harsh oppressions of religious life, and assimilation policy. It is also the result of growing invidualization or secularization of religious practices.
As Sunni Muslims, Uyghurs are relatively secular when it comes to religion. They are recognized as practicing most moderate form of Islam in the Muslim world. Most Uyghurs follow a liberal Islamic way of life that is compatible with the larger modernization. Uyghur women prefer to wear western style attire, and generally do not cover their face with a hajib, which is very common among women in Middle East and other Muslim countries. Even those Uyghur men who have strong faith do not pray five times a day. Especially the new generations of Chinese educated Uyghur youth do not visit mosques very often; neither do they strictly behave on the basis of the tenets of Koran even though they believe they are Muslims. While most religious obligations, such as the five pillars of Islam, are regarded as obligatory as being Muslims, many Uyghurs do not fulfill all of these responsibilities on a regular basis. For them faith is more important than practice. In many occasions, the Uyghurs believe the Islamic faith not practice is a crucial element in determining whether someone is faithful and loyal to Allah.
There are two reasons which can be used to explain this kind of personalization of Islamic belief. On one hand, in an atheist country like China, the religious practices definitely encounter many restrictions, which contribute to the weakening of religious identity and practice. On the other hand, being a minority in a non-Islamic state without the supervision and support of the state on religious affairs, the people have more freedom to practice the religion in the way they deem appropriate, therefore the religious faith and practice tends to a more secular and liberal way.
Nowadays, most of Uyghurs support the idea of establishing secular schools rather than building masques, presumably because they have realized the difficulty of being pure religious in a hostile environment where religious belief viewed as a backward and dangerous threat. They tend to be secular and moderate in their practice, but they are still keeping firm belief in Islam. They strongly believe they are true Muslims, even though they are “too Chinese” in the eyes of Muslims in Middle East. Truly, there are many compromises between Islamic practice and everyday life. For Uyghurs, fasting during Ramadan, and visiting Mecca and Medina are a couple of the most important and most favorable, but not absolutely required, duties. Students, and employers do not fast at all during the month of Ramadan, neither do they go to the mosques everyday. Hajj is one of the five basic responsibilities of being a Muslim. However, people who visited the sacred places in Mecca and Medina account for only a small part of the whole Uyghur population. The Uyghurs believe this kind of secularization or personalization of religion can be reasonable, therefore forgivable by Allah, considering the particular social, cultural and cultural situation they are facing. This might be what Olivier Roy calls “religiosity”. Religiosity, not religion, became more important for Uyghurs even though Roy argues that “religiosity” is “a faith, not a religion”. Islam in Xinjiang, whether it is called religion or religiosity, the Uyghurs still practice it as they deem fit, or at least to the degree they could afford. It has been a crucial marker for Uyghurs which helps keep their cultural and religious identity, therefore differentiating them from the dominant Han Chinese, rather than a mere religion.
Except the domestic impacts on religious life, foreign influences also play a significant role, regardless of positive or negative, in the transformation of contemporary Islam.

1. Interaction with Arab states in the Middle East and Turkic states in Central Asia

With the deepening of the Chinese open door policy and economic reform, the interaction between Uyghurs and Muslims in the Middle East has greatly increased. Xinjiang is no longer an isolated region of no connection with the outside world. The number of visitors to sacred places in the Middle East, still heavily restricted, is has been increasing. Each year the Chinese government allows a certain number of Muslims, more or less, to visit sacred places in Mecca and Medina. Although the number is very small indeed when compared to the relative size of the Uygur Muslim population because Islam requires each Muslim to make one pilgrimage in their life, it is still of great importance and significance to preserve and strengthen their religious identity, and to keep relations with the Muslim brothers in the other countries throughout the world. The route of the Hajj would always include a stop-over in Pakistani religious schools (madrassas) on the way to Saudi Arabia. In this manner, thousands of Uyghur men developed connections with Pakistani religious schools and organizations. After visiting sacred places, the Uyghurs return with an even stronger belief in Islam, and passion that contributes to the transmission and development of Islamic knowledge. Some Hajjis open religious schools (madrasah) and train Uyghur Children (In most case, it is banned from the government; however they do it secretly at their house). They also transfer many positive aspects of Islam to the people who have no opportunity to experience such a sacred journey, and encourage the people to be unshakable in their belief in Islam. This kind of positive role of Hajjis also has an ideological significance in that they give a hope to the people in this long-isolated province that they are not alone, and they have potential allies in the other parts of the world. That is why Hajjis receive greatest respect from the people, and are regarded as the important leaders in resolving many internal affairs. In the mean time, many scholars and visitors from sacred places come to Xinjiang with new Islamic knowledge and tradition, which definitely has contributed to the development of Islam in this region.
The fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of newly Independent Turkic states of Central Asia--Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan--by Muslim brothers on the borderland also gave hope to Uyghurs and have contributed to the emergence of Islamic nationalist movements in Xinjiang. With the increased trade and other relations, many Uyghurs have traveled to these new independent countries, and realized the significant importance of having a self-governing nation. Their aspiration for an independent state is further strengthened by increasing limits on religious life by the government, most importantly, social, cultural, and political disparities.
Despite their kinship with the Islamic states, Uyghurs are destined to fight alone for their freedom. Neither Arabic countries in Middle East, nor the new Turkic states in Central Asia are so enthusiastic about the Uyghur cause because of their increasing dependency on China with trade and diplomatic relations. Considering the political and economic incentives offered by China, they seem unwilling to support Uyghurs at the risk of sacrificing their own national interest. Even though Chinese authorities are anxious to establish good relations with these Muslim countries by being more tolerable to Islam, or at least treat the Muslims the same way they treat other minorities, they are still reluctant to give more autonomy to Uyghurs under the deep-seated fear of their further request for an independent state. The Chinese government has been claiming that Underground Islamist groups in Xinjiang have received support for their covert educational and organizational efforts from sources including Saudi Arabia, Afghan Taliban, Turkey, and other Islamic states, whose curricula and political programs all emphasize a pan-Islamic, militant revival of Muslim rule. Whether it is true or not, the very presence of Islamic states in the Middle East and Central Asia has been of great significance for the Uyghurs, who firmly believe they have potential allies in this world, and has offered further encouragement to Uyghur nationalist and separatist movements.

2.Global Anti-terror War

The terrorist attack of the 9/11 on the USA has completely changed Uyghurs’ fate, and placed Islam in an even more awkward position in China. In some sense, Muslims, especially the Uyghurs, became one of the most unfortunate victims of this tragedy. Uyghurs have strongly believed that a strong outside force, like the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, can help them achieve their goal of an independent state. However, this dream was totally ruined by the Sep 11 tragedy. Since then, the U.S. and other countries seem to have a serious stigmatism for presenting them as terrorists. Losing the greatest supporter for their cause made Uyghurs more desperate than ever. The even worse thing is that Islam is completely denied as the root of terrorism even though there is no sign of violence in Islam itself. The Chinese crackdown on religious activities became even more open and cruel. The Chinese authorities claimed that they wanted to eradicate the threat of terrorism in Xinjiang and other Muslim areas, and arrested and executed many Uyghurs and Muslim groups. Just as Vicziany said, “no meaningful distinction is made by Chinese Government between separatism and terrorism. In lexicon of Chinese government, the former automatically seems to assume the latter.” Anyone who opposed the Chinese rule, or supported Xinjiang independence was arrested as “terrorist”, and brutally tortured to extract information, and sometimes was executed without trial.
In fact, Beijing did little, if any, for global anti-terrorism. It is not new news that China is one of the biggest weapon providers to Middle East countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. Taking advantage of the US’s eagerness to obtain support on anti-terror war, the Chinese government has been largely crushing any potential threat to its regime. The Bush administration has further abetted Chinese persecution on religious freedom and human rights by placing the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) on the terrorist list under the political intrigue of Beijing. Since then, the State’s response to Islam became even more violent. The Chinese government has unscrupulously connected religious activities with terrorism, and crushed “illegal organizations” in Xinjiang under the banner of protecting world peace. Many Uyghur organizations, whatever their ultimate goal would be, labeled as terrorist groups on grounds that they have “close connections” with Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization, the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, and other terrorist organizations, and called on the authorities in all countries to disband these organizations, to ban their activities, and extradite them to China. In 2004, for example, 50 Uyghurs were executed by the government under the suspicion of being “terrorists”, hundreds awaiting life-term imprisonment or death. The Chinese government should have recognized that deliberate killings will force the people to act outside the law, and triggers violent response.
It is true that some radical Muslims fled to Afghnistan, and fought for the Taliban. However, as they admitted, they joined Jihad against infidels on individual basis only. Till now, the Chinese government couldn’t find any evidence to prove that Uyghur organizations have strong ties with terrorist groups. But the crackdown on religious activities is still continuing. In China, Islam became synonymous with terrorism, and the CCP treated all Muslims as terrorists without any differentiation. Uyghurs, however, view their movements as reasonable, or even as a democratic request for equal political, economic, and cultural rights, which has nothing to do with the religion they believe. As Cookman put it, ”Contrary to the claims of the CCP, many Uyghur nationalists both inside and outside Xinjiang, despite strong personal religious faith, remain more focused on what is seen as an infringement upon their historical sovereignty and human rights, rather than religious appeals to jihad.” Uyghur nationalists repeatedly emphasize that their ultimate mission is to overthrow Chinese dictatorship and reestablish a free East Turkistan, therefore their cause is anti-colonial, not religious.
As Amnesty International said, "China has repackaged its repression of Uyghurs as a fight against 'terrorism'". Despite the little evidence to prove that there is a strong link between Islam and violent activities, the Chinese government has been claiming Islam is the root of the global threat of terrorism, and suspected all violent actions, including bombings, and official attacks, were the works of Muslim groups. The Beijing bus bombing in 1997, for example, was attributed to Uyghur separatists without any sufficient evidence to prove such link.
Even though Uyghurs are Muslims, unlike some radical Muslims in the Middle East, they have been firmly opposed to the practice of violence and armed force throughout the history. Their persistent struggle is completely different from the violent actions committed by some radical terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, Chechen. Despite there have been some violent reactions by Uyghurs, most of them were triggered by the Chinese government’s ruthless crackdown of peaceful movements for greater autonomy. Human rights Watch demonstrated that it is unlikely any of Uyghur groups have a strong tie with Al-Qaeda or other international terrorist groups, since Uyghurs, by nature, oppose to use any kind of violence, and Uyghur leaders have been advocating peaceful, democratic change in Xinjiang, therefore they are unlikely to pose a real threat to the world peace.
After the 9/ 11 tragedy, however, the United States and other countries seem to fight with Islam, not with terrorism, therefore driving Uyghurs to desperation. Since Washington has placed ETIM on the global terrorist list under the political plot of Beijing, Uyghurs are suffering even more religious suppressions. Any group related to Islam was banned by the government. Police prohibited all forms of religious activities, and arrested many Uyghurs under the suspicion of being terrorists. Along with China’s emergence as an economic power in Asia Pacific Region, many Islamic states, in spite of their kinship with Uyghurs, have started to disband Uyghur organizations, and to expatriate the members into China, where they might be put into jail or even executed. Under such domestic and international pressure, Islamization of Uyghur conflict, and emergence of violent responses is not impossible, which in turn gives rise to actions that further exacerbate the situation. Kurlantzick is right by stating that this pressure could lead the Uyghurs to become even more radicalized and to turn to the very Islamist groups with which Beijing has accused them of cooperating. The extent of Islam’s role in defining influence within Uyghur independence movements is still disputable. But one thing can concluded with certainty that international prejudice against Muslims, particularly toward Uyghurs, and the Chinese government’s economic, political, cultural, and religious persecution on Uyghur society, if continue, will force the Uyghurs to run to the extremes, the situation no one desires.

The revival of Islam, and emergence of radical Muslims

The beginning of the 21st century has witnessed the revival of Islam in Muslim world, especially after the Sep11 attack, the interest in Islam has surged in an unprecedented way. The number of pilgrims has risen from 82,000 in 1954 to over two million in 2004. The situation in Xinjiang, of course, is not exceptional. Even young Uyghur men began to frequently attend mosques in great numbers; religious schools mushroomed across Xinjiang to meet an increasing demand of young people; Students even take time out during breaks to perform prayers; the numbers of people who apply for approval to visit sacred places in Mecca and Medina also swelled in the last few years; the desire for an Islamic education for the children is also increasing; many Uyghur men and women started to wear Islamic dress; congregations thrived by the people who inspired by Islamic knowledge and tradition. The resurgence of Islam in Xinjiang caused an uneasy relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and Uyghurs. The communists fear that Uyghur nationalists will seek to reestablish the independent state of East Turkistan by using Islam as a base to win popular support. By clamping down on all Islamic practice as fundamentalist or potentially militant, China has aggravated historical religious and ethnic tension. The harsh control of religious activities, however, did little effect. On the contrary it has triggered even stronger resistance and hatred to Han Chinese, and led to the resurgence of radical Uyghurs or extremists, despite the fact that Xinjiang has no real tradition of Islamist radicalism. Secondly, Uyghurs’ loss of social, political power, cultural identity crisis in a sinified society have caused their appeal to Islam as one of the best means to resist Beijing's rule. The Chinese communists obviously failed in believing that economic incentives or modernization would undermine Uyghurs’ struggle for independence. In fact, Uyghurs are increasingly weary of sinified modernization which actually benefits few Uyghurs. Endangered ethnic and religious identity and second class citizenship in their own homeland have forced some Uyghurs turn to a radicalized or militant Islam. Furthermore, interaction with Middle East and Central Asia is one of the most important factors which also accounts for the revival interest in Islam. The greater exposure of Uyghurs to other Muslim societies and authentic experience in sacred places has increased their desire for breaking away from non-Muslim domination, or even more radically, pan-Islamic alliance throughout the Muslim world. Finally, global anti-terror war totally changed Uyghurs’ attitude toward international affairs, especially toward the United States. The Uyghurs, who are known as the one of most pro-American Muslims in the world, are increasingly dissatisfied with Washington’s policies toward the Islamic world. Many young Uyghurs began to condemn the United States’ unfair treatment of Muslims; some radials among them even organized anti-American groups. Despite Uyghurs’ natural inclination for peace, and their opposition against any kind of violence, after witnessing Afghan War, Iraq War, and continuing international anti-terror war, they began to hate the increasing western influence on Muslim culture, therefore starting to support Sadam Hussain and Osama Bin Ladin by their heart, and view them as national heroes. This radical attitude among Chinese Muslims was totally absent in First Gulf War during which most of them were pro-Americans.
Despite of some radical changes among Uyghurs, there is a fundamental difference between Uyghurs and extremists in Middle East or other parts of Muslim world. I would argue that the Uyghur restless resistance, in nature, is the struggle for an independent state, rather than a Islamic war against non-believers. Unlike Chechnya or even Afghanistan, where rebellion was led by a few militant leaders calling for a Jihad against non-Muslims (Kafirs), a majority of the Uyghur population of Xinjiang supports independent state of East Turkistan. Their persistent struggle is the inevitable consequence of social, economic, and political disparities, religious and cultural disrespect, and violent oppression of all forms of religious or political activities. As stated by Dr. Paul George, “Whereas there has clearly been heightened awareness of their ethno-religious roots amongst the Muslims of Xinjiang in recent years, it is not apparent that this can be equated with the beginning of an Islamic fundamentalist movement. In fact, with some exceptions, Uyghurs are not generally considered to be fundamentalists and the organized lethal combination of religion and violence seen in the Islamic world from Algeria to Afghanistan is so far missing in Xinjiang.” The spirit of Islam is only a means that keeping Uyghurs united and urges them to fight for the same goal - an independent state. The Chinese government’s harshness to any sign of unrest can only cause Uyghurs’ even stronger resistance, and most likely force them to seek for rally elsewhere in Muslim world.
Thus far, there is little evidence to prove that Uyghurs or Uyghur organizations’ connection to radical Muslims in the Middle East or terrorist groups. Beijing's labeling the Uyghurs as terrorists with connections to the Taliban, al Qaeda and bin Laden seems to be based on the assumption that Uyghur separatist movements are led by Muslim fundamentalists who seek to separate Xinjiang from China and establish an Islamic state. By emphasizing the Islamic character of Uyghur resistance, China has been trying to obtain international sympathy and assistance for its crackdown of Uyghurs dissidents, which merely strengthens the existing conflicts. While the Chinese government has been able to restrict the practice of Islam through the power of coercion, it is unlikely to wipe it out from Uyghur society. On the contrary, the deliberate victimization of Uyghurs and violation of religious freedom further alienated Uyghurs from Beijing, and made it easier for them to turn to outside alliance or violent reaction. The recent revival of Islam, and Uyghurs’ even more adherence to it, has proved this fact.

The future of Islam

The practice of Islam has never been an easy job in Communist China. Although vigorous Islamic practices are still discernable in some small villages where the Uyghur population is highly concentrated, the government’s harsh control on religious activities made extremely difficult for overall healthy growth of Islam in Xinjiang. Considering the constant pressure from the Chinese government and increasing international prejudice against Muslims, the future on Islam in Xinjiang seems quite unpromising. The result of this concerted attack is the weakening of Islam within Uyghur community, and side-effects of “modernization”. Some young generations of Uyghurs became ignorant or indifferent to the religion by indulging in materialism and the pursuit of pleasure, while others turned to fanatic or radical ways of Islam. Both occasions have a destructive influence on Uyghur culture and religion, and of course, are not desirable. Recently another new threat on Islam is gradually emerging in Xinjiang, that is, Christianity. The Uyghurs had almost no opportunity to hear about Christianity several decades ago. However, by the end of 1990s, western missionaries and tourists have brought Christianity into this region. According to a report, there are roughly 3000 Christian Uyghurs in the world; most of them are in Central Asia. Even though it is almost a negligible figure comparing with 17 million Uyghur populations in the world, it still indicates the fact Islam is losing its popularity, and no one can say for sure that this figure is not going to increase. Regardless of what reason has caused this conversion, the emergence of Christianity shows, more or less, the weakening of the Islamic faith among Uyghurs. However, it doesn’t mean Christianity is gaining popularity. Deep hatred against Christianity still exists among most Uyghurs, not because of Christianity is a religion as such, but because it is closely associated with Western imperialism. After witnessing the Afghan war, Iraq war, originally pro-USA Uyghurs have started to become increasingly resentful to USA policy, and began to be convinced that the West led by the United States is fighting with Islam, not with terrorists. If Chinese oppressive policies have caused deleterious impact both on Uyghur society and culture, the USA has facilitated such persecution for its own political and economic interest. Having suffered heavy blow from Americans as a result of 9/11 attack, many Uyghur nationalists plunged into deep despair in their cause for independence. Neither Arabic countries in Middle East, nor Turkic states on the border are sympathetic with Uyghur cause for independent state and religious freedom due to their increasing dependency on economic, political, and military assistance from China. The Uyghurs are unlikely to escape the fate of suffering continuous economic, political, cultural, and religious threat until China has completed the transition from an authoritarian state to a democratic one. However, this day doesn’t seem to come in the foreseeable future given the Chinese communists’ constant intolerance toward any kind of resistance related to sovereignty issue and their lack of interest in democratic change. This situation has further exacerbated by the increasing Western prejudice and hostility against Islam. All of these factors have fragmented formerly disparate Uyghur society into even more disunited world. While the Islamic component of Uyghur resistance is still highly debatable, continued discriminatory state policies and international pressure, if not changed, merely increase the possibility of the radicalization or Islamization of Uyghur resistance, and force them to turn to militant Islam.

03-05-05, 22:14
However, this is not written by native speaker. Got to rewrite some of the sentences.

On the other hand, it is ok.

03-05-05, 22:26
Another thing, as a writer you shall verify where you get these information from.

No end note,either foot note.

I ve got a question on "transformation of Islam" that why do you think in 1949 is era of "transformation of Islam" in the regoin. It is not very clear.

I do not wish to be rude to you, but I d remind you if there is no work sited or source info it is fake paper. I would sincerely hope you would them as soon as possible.


P.S I am very interested in finding out where you get these info.

03-05-05, 22:59
I do have footnotes, but they were just gone when I post the paper into this message board. : (
By the way, I am not Native speaker of English. But I have tried my best to make it looks ok. Of course it needs to be revised.
Thank you for your suggestions.

03-05-05, 23:32
As to the information, not all of them came from certain book, or an artcile. I can post the resources here if you are really interested in. But most of the ideas are derived from my personal observation and understanding of Islam and Uyghur society. I had a really hard time to figure out how and when the great transformation has happened. Maybe not objective or persuvasive enough. I am looking forward to your opinions.

03-05-05, 23:39
What the Chinese government want uyghurs to be; real Chinese citizens?
Why Uyghurs are not, easily, allowed to live in provinces of China.

Why Uyghurs are not given free Chinese language learning.

Chinese may need the wealth in the Uyghur region but not the Uyghurs. Why Uyghurs are not allowed to escape from their home.
.................................................. ......................

There are lot of questions like these

04-05-05, 01:34
Tell me whether this is for 300 level class or 400 level? However it is a well written paper.

I think, although there is less info or books, but not entirely difficult to find some qts which would lively express what you are going to tell readers.

In the "transformation Of Islam", I believe you need to write down the consequence of transformation and how it affected ordinary Uighur's life in the region. More importantly, it would, sure enough, be related your main thesis.

Future references, please be very clear on your thesis.

If you need help on the thesis please forward your executive summary to me.

04-05-05, 09:16
Dear SS:

Actually it is 600 level (Graduate class). I know I should've done better. : )

Yes, you brought up a very important point. Unfortunately, that is a major issue which is missing from this paper. I did intend to include how Islam affected the lives of the people, and how it was, in turn, changed throughout the years by internal and foreign influences. But it is a too big topic to discuss in maximum 20 pages paper. Please let me know if you have any good suggestion on this.

I tried to be consistant and objective in my opinions, but it's been really hard. There might be some rough assumptions or personal prejudices. If you can help me point them out, that would be great.

Thank you for your taking time to answer my message.

04-05-05, 10:39
2 Student.

Paper is OK.
Especially if you are not native English - to write that good and if you are not Uyghur - to know that much.

Who are you?

And why are you writing about this?

Please do not be insulted by my questions.
But who knows...


04-05-05, 11:43

"It is true that some radical Muslims fled to Afghnistan, and fought for the Taliban. However, as they admitted, they joined Jihad against infidels on individual basis only. Till now, the Chinese government couldn’t find any evidence to prove that Uyghur organizations have strong ties with terrorist groups."

Where did you get this idea from? If you are not sure please put in qut mark.
Would you please send the excutive summary? And if you still have time to turn in please post it in meshrep.com.

04-05-05, 20:36
Ok, I'll do that. Actually it came from an article I read at the univesity library.

Be honest I don't really understand what executive summary exactly means. Is that a berief outline of the paper, or ??? Sorry. : (

I can either send it to you or post it in the website you mentioned.

Thank you.

04-05-05, 20:40
What if I am a Uyghur?

to student by Taklamakan
05-05-05, 07:43

What is it to be Uighur?

To know your history and roots
To dream about your nativeland
To be brave enough to answer the question "what is your nationality?" - "Uighur"
To help elderly
To teach youngsters
To be all the time as an example of humanity and wisdom...


Do you really consider yourself to be Uighur?

05-05-05, 12:35
watan soygusu imandandur.imani bolmagan kisidur watan muhabbeti icide bolmagan kixlerge bir iki nese ohturux kerek deymen.
eziz karindaxim,
watanni watan kilgan elbette watan icide yasawatgan kixilerdur.watan menpehati kixinin oz menpeetinden yukarudur.Ondak bolmasa watan degen nese bolmaydu.watan iqide togulgan bolsun muhacerette bolsun her kixi ozunun watani iqun mucaadele berixi parzdir hudaning buyrugudur.Bu uluig dawada sizni de bu dawaning icide korus bizni guclendirudur.
Hudayim hemmi ixinizni muaapakiyet kilsun

05-05-05, 15:43
Of course, I am! I am proud that! And I always be whereever I go.

06-05-05, 03:51
Deep hatred against Christianity still exists among most Uyghurs, not because of Christianity is a religion as such, but because it is closely associated with Western imperialism.....................

I do not agree with the sentence above, I believe mojority of Uyghurs still believe americans are friends, and can be resentment but not hatred.

This is what I believe.
other than that , I believe paper is well written.

06-05-05, 05:19
It is my understanding that Uyghurs are becoming impatient against the growing western influence on Muslim culture. As you might see, Christianity is the crucial element of Western culture. Of course I am not saying USA is a Christian country, but it is dominated by Christians. The clash of cultural and religious difference is clear. Since the Gulf War,the West's treatment of Muslims has stirred,much or less, anti-west sentiment and resistance. I think it has much to do with colonialism, and western encroachment of Muslim world.

Anyway, I really appreciate your comments.

08-05-05, 02:16

08-05-05, 13:19
Your sentence at the very beginning:
" Xinjiang, known as East Turkistan until 1876, when the Manchu Dynasty invaded and subdued the area...............,

is wrong.

official date for calling the area as Xinjiang was Nov 18, 1884.
you may request Dr. Kahar Barat as well for the source of this peace of info.

09-05-05, 03:15
I really want to tell that this is not well supporative research paper. Don't forget, please be aware of sources, you are writing a research paper not a fiction.

I will give D on this paper if I am a proffessor. Check with soem website how people write about a historical, analytical papers. www.bbc.co.uk/history.