Displaying items by tag: Uighur

Friday, 03 January 2020 12:36

Have dialogues over Uighur issue

There have been conflicting views of how the Uighurs are being treated in their home province of Xinjiang.

Western media believes over a million Uighurs are locked up in “thought transformation” detention centres. The Chinese government, however, denies this, describing the centres as vocational schools.

While the Communist Party of China wants the Uighurs to be assimilated into a “happy, prosperous and united country”, the West condemns the move as an outright abuse of human rights.

There are 11 million Uighurs. It seems they are not ready to accept any form of assimilation. It’s good for them to assimilate to an extent but to disallow the Uighurs from speaking up and practising their way of life and religion is unjust.

In a bid to tell its side of the story, the Chinese government has invited Western media and interest groups from Muslim countries and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to see for themselves how the “vocational schools” operate.

Chinese officials describe the schools as free vocational education and training centres where Uighurs willingly learn the Chinese language and employment skills in order to assist with their rehabilitation and reintegration.

The foreign media and NGOs also witnessed the daily lives of Uighurs in the densely populated cities of Urumqi and Kashgar. Journalists are saying many of the excursions were staged to show that everything is fine in Xinjiang.

Piqued with curiosity, I read articles and videos that portray the treatment of the Uighurs. But I have yet to read the testimonies of Muslim groups, including those from Malaysia which have been officially invited to see what’s going on in Xinjiang.

A friend who has gone to Xinjiang umpteen times told me he decided against going there any more as the state is imposing stricter laws with excessive surveillance of the Uighurs via street cameras and cameras installed at homes.

Ever since the July 2009 Urumqi riots that killed 197 people and left thousands injured, the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar have been on lockdown.

A few days ago,the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations expressed dismay over a report by Ryan Fahey in the British Daily Mail on Dec 24 that China is contemplating rewriting the Quran and the Bible to reflect socialist values. Is this true? If it is, Muslims (and Christians, too) should protest.

Then again, this news item comes from a Western media organisation. There is nothing from the media in Muslim countries.

I wonder if the Chinese central government is prepared to deny the news report. We need to have more news organisations from Muslim countries reporting on Muslims around the world. But it is also important for Muslim countries to get down to business with China quickly to explain the gross misconception it has about Islam and Muslims.

What can Muslim nations in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation do? They need to engage with Beijing in a series of dialogues.

Bai Tian, China’s ambassador to Malaysia, in a letter to this newspaper on Dec 9, defends his country by describing the Western media reports as sensationalist and half-truths.

Muslims across the globe want to believe in what he and his compatriots in Beijing are saying. Engage and convince the Muslim nations more by showing civility and social justice to the Muslims in Xinjiang and Greater China in the efforts to create a “happy, prosperous and united China”.

C’est la vie.

The writer is a former NST journalist, now a film scriptwriter whose penchant is finding new food haunts in the country.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Sunday 29 December 2019

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/12/551545/have-dialogues-over-uighur-issue

Tuesday, 05 November 2019 17:15

In China, every day is Kristallnacht

Eighty-one years ago this week, in what is also known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” hundreds of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Nazi Germany were damaged or destroyed, along with thousands of Jewish-owned businesses. It was in a sense the starting gun for the genocide that culminated in the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka.

In western China, the demolition of mosques and bulldozing of cemeteries is a continuing, relentless process.

In a cultural genocide with few parallels since World War II, thousands of Muslim religious sites have been destroyed. At least 1 million Muslims have been confined to camps, where aging imams are shackled and young men are forced to renounce their faith. Muslims not locked away are forced to eat during the fasting month of Ramadan, forced to drink and smoke in violation of their faith, barred from praying or studying the Koran or making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

And — in possibly the most astonishing feature of this crime against humanity — China has managed to stifle, through 21st century repression and age-old thuggery, virtually any reporting from the crime scene.

Which makes all the more significant the publication last week of a heartrending compendium of evidence: “Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines,” by Bahram K. Sintash.

Sintash, 37, lives in the United States but grew up in what is now, he says, “a police surveillance state unlike any the world has ever known.” Sintash knows: Chinese police took his father into custody in February 2018, and Sintash has not heard from him since.

Unable to help his father — who, if he is still alive, turned 69 last month — Barham has channeled his anguish into documenting the destruction of the Uighur culture heritage.

Uighurs — Barham, his father and millions of other Chinese citizens — are an ethnically Turkic and religiously Muslim people. For decades, they found a place in Communist China. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party vetted imams, approved their sermons and authorized the study of Uighur culture.

But in the increasingly intolerant rule of Xi Jinping, nothing that competes with party loyalty can be tolerated. Previously vetted clerics, even octogenarians, receive 20-year sentences. Anything that looks too “Islamic” — even a dome atop a department store — is flattened.

Based on satellite imagery and interviews with recent exiles — escapees might be an apter term — Sintash estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 religious sites have been destroyed, he told a conference at the National Endowment for Democracy last week.

Many of these are village mosques, too small to stand out in Google satellite imagery, and no one on the ground will send pictures, because to do so would guarantee confinement in the camps. But Sintash has documented the destruction of more than 150 larger mosques in before-and-after, shrine-to-parking-lot photographs. In big cities, one mosque may be spared, for tourism or propaganda purposes, but even that one will have its dome and minarets removed, its religious inscriptions displaced by party banners.

Even starker are the images of cemeteries, such as the centuries-old Sultanim burial ground in Hotan, replaced by what look like giant fields of mud.

“My father and my grandfather were also buried in this cemetery,” one exiled Uighur scholar told Sintash. “The cemetery was the most important holy place for millions of people to go and visit in Hotan every year.”

Workers in the world of human rights tend to be highly reticent when it comes to Nazi analogies. The Holocaust was a unique event.

Yet at the unveiling of the report last week, the Holocaust kept pushing itself into the conversation as the only adequate point of comparison. Omer Kanat, director and co-founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, noted the Kristallnacht anniversary.

Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, likened the brave reporters of Radio Free Asia to Jan Karski, the Pole who tried to alert the West to Nazi atrocities. Those RFA reporters are living in exile, since China does not let them in, but dozens of their family members in western China have been imprisoned in retribution.

And what is the meaning of such destruction of sacred spaces?

Rahile Dawut is a respected scholar who in 2017 was preparing to travel to Beijing from her home in Urumqi when she was taken away. Years before she disappeared, she said, “If one were to remove these . . . shrines, the Uighur people would lose contact with earth. They would no longer have a personal, cultural and spiritual history. After a few years we would not have a memory of why we live here or where we belong.”

Sintash himself says he fears this is China’s “final solution” to destroy the Uighur people.

“I don’t know if my father died or is alive right now,” he says. “But I can see the mosque where we prayed is gone.”

Published in: The Washington Post, Sunday 03 November 2019

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/11/03/china-every-day-is-kristallnacht