Radicalisation of chinese muslims

Discussion in 'China' started by ajtr, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    By B.Raman

    Is the jihadi ideology spreading in the Muslim community of China ---- geographically as well as ethnically? Has it started infecting Muslims in provinces other than the Xinjiang Autonomous Region? Has it started affecting the Huis and other non-Uighur segements of the Chinese Muslim community? Is the Uighur separatist movement becoming part of the global jihadi movement? What has been the influence of Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban on the Chinese Muslims? What role has the Internet, which has spread spectacularly in China, been playing in facilitating the self-radicalisation of sections of the Chinese Muslim community?

    2. These are questions which China analysts will be increasingly confronted with as they study the scanty information coming out of Xinjiang and other areas where there is a Muslim community. This is a sensitive subject for the Chinese. Their analysts rarely pose these questions and seek answers for them. The Chinese media merely repeats the Government propaganda---- the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is the source of all evil; it operates from the Af-Pak region; it is associated with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban; it exploits the economic grievances of the UIghurs for achieving religious objectives; there is no religious anger in Xinjiang; people are happy as Muslims; the Government gives them all the facilities they need as Muslims; their grievances are mainly because they are economically not as advanced as the Chinese in the other provinces; the Government has decided to pour money into Xinjiang for its economic development; once that happens the Uighur splittist problem will be over. So the people in the rest of China and the international community are told. These are not lies, but these are not the whole truth either.

    3. There has always been religious anger in Xinjiang over issues such as restrictions on people going on Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. curbs on the observance of the holy fasting period, ban on private Koranic schools and classes, the requirement of Government's prior approval for religious sermons in mosques, the alleged imposition of Islam in Chinese colours etc.New religious issues have come up after the violent riots of July last year. One such issue is the alleged practice by the Chinese police of cremating the dead bodies of Muslims whose relatives cannot be traced. Another is the on-going replacement of exclusively Uighur quartiers in Urumqi by mixed quarters where the Uighurs are forced to live side by side with Han Chinese in order to break their religious solidarity.

    4. These grievances are keeping the anger against the Government alive. Is the anger also showing a tendency to spread---geographically and ethnically? It is difficult to answer this question definitively in the absence of data, But one occasionally finds tits-bits of information here and there as one monitors the Chinese media for information regarding the Chinese Muslim community. One such bit of information was found in an article published by the "China Daily" on July 3 on the joint Sino-Pakistani counter-terrorism exercise. It quoted Mr. Li Wei, a Beijing-based anti-terrorism researcher, as saying that besides the Xinjiang Region, the ETIM has also made its presence felt in central-eastern China, including in the Henan and Shanxi provinces. He said: "After the July 5 riot last year, China beefed up border security checks in Xinjiang, so instead of getting out of China through that region, more ETIM terrorists are now fleeing to the southwestern parts of China and getting out of the country there." He added that another new challenge for all countries is that terrorists have turned to the Internet where they recruit and brainwash new members. "This kind of prevention is even harder to do." He spoke generally about the problem faced by the rest of the world due to dangers of radicalisation through the Internet, but he did not say specifically whether there have been such instances in the Muslim community in China itself.



    Muslims live in every region in China. The highest concentrations are found in the northwest provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, and Ningxia, with significant populations also found throughout Yunnan province in southwest China and Henan province in central China. Of China’s 55 officially recognized minority peoples, ten groups are predominately Muslim. The largest groups in descending order are Hui (9.8 million in year 2000 census, or 48% of the officially tabulated number of Muslims), Uyghur (8.4 million, 41%), Kazakh (1.25 million , 6.1%), Dongxiang (514,000, 2.5%), Kyrgyz (161,000), Salar (105,000), Tajik (41,000), Uzbeks, Bonan (17,000), and Tatar (5,000). However, individual members of traditionally Muslim ethnic groups may profess other religions or none at all. Additionally, Tibetan Muslims are officially classified along with the Tibetan people, unlike the Hui who are classified as a separate people, even though they are indistinguishable from the Han. Muslims live predominantly in the areas that border Central Asia, Tibet and Mongolia, i.e. Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai, which is known as the "Quran Belt".

    China is home to a large population of adherents of Islam. According to the CIA World Factbook, about 1%-2% of the total population in China are Muslims, while the US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report shows that Muslims constitute about 1.5% of the Chinese population. Recent census counts imply that there may be up to 20 million Muslims in China. However, the last three national censuses (1982, 1990, and 2000) did not include questions about religion. The number of religious believers can be inferred indirectly from census counts of the number of people who identify themselves as belonging to particular ethnic groups, some of whom are known to be predominantly members of certain religious groups. A 2009 study done by the Pew Research Center, based on China's census, concluded there are 21,667,000 Muslims in China, accounting for 1.6% of the total population. According to data provided by the San Diego State University's International Population Center to U.S. News & World Report, China has 65.3 million Muslims. The BBC's "Religion and Ethics" website gave a range of 20 million to 100 million (1.5% to 7.5% of the total) Muslims in China.

    ( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: [email protected] )
  3. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 29, 2010
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    Would advise them to behave correctly there in China they will get a ruthless answer from government not vote bank politics...
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Faith against odds

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    China's 20 million Muslims face an uncertain future. In Ningxia, Islam has thrived for centuries, but a fading interest in the next generation of Hui Muslims is creating anxieties. For the Uighurs of Xinjiang, ethnic unrest has brought local mosques unwanted attention. As Muslims the world over get ready for Ramadan, ANANTH KRISHNAN, in a series of articles, looks at how religion and cultural traditions in China are coming to terms with the changes brought about by the country's rapid development.

    A s the sun sets on a Friday evening, it is almost prayer time. The faithful silently, and patiently, gather outside the Xiguan mosque, located at the heart of Yinchuan's old district in this far-western corner of China. Among them is Hai Ming Tang, 78. He hasn't missed a prayer at Xiguan in three decades. The last time, he says for the record, was during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when Mao Zedong's Red Guards were running amok, decrying the ‘four olds' — customs, culture, habits and ideas. The mosque then had to close its doors to save itself from the rampaging mobs. “Things are better now,” he says matter-of-factly.

    Hai Ming is one of China's 10 million Hui Muslims, the country's biggest minority Muslim group. Huis have lived in China for more than 10 centuries — they are the descendants of the first Arab traders the Silk Road brought to China. Over a millennium, they assimilated into Chinese culture, marrying with the local Hans, China's majority ethnic group, and setting up their own communities, such as this quaint neighbourhood in Ningxia. Hai Ming looks ‘Chinese' — he even dresses in the dull, blue workman's uniform that is a common sight in small-town China, a legacy from the days of Mao. The only clues to his faith are his grey, square hat, and a small, white beard that protrudes from his wrinkled chin. As the light dims, the call to prayer finally arrives, diffusing through the stillness of the hot, desert evening. Hai Ming briskly jogs up the steps of the grand mosque, and disappears into the darkness of the prayer hall.

    Contrasting picture

    It is also prayer-time some 2,500 km to the west, on another hot Friday evening. Mahsum (Name has been changed on request), in his early 30s, relaxes with his friends at the sprawling square which is the centre of life in Kashgar, the ancient Silk Road city on China's western frontier. Young women, in brightly-coloured headscarves, stroll around the square, children in tow. Old men sit side-by-side on a rickety wooden bench. They silently watch the proceedings, indistinguishable from each other with their tanned, weathered faces and in the intricately-designed hats that are unique to the Uighurs (pronounced wee-ghurs), the ethnic Turkic-speaking people who inhabit Xinjiang. The grand 550-year-old Id Kah mosque, freshly painted in a jarring yellow, glistens in the fading evening light, casting a shadow over the square. Mahsum waits for the call to prayer.

    But in Kashgar, it will not come. A ban on the use of loudspeakers means his wristwatch is his only guide. The only sound comes from a nearby police-van — a recorded message urging all ethnic groups “to maintain harmony, support the Communist Party and serve the motherland.” A battalion of armed police, with guns at the ready, watch over the square. Mahsum heads towards the Id Kah's bronze gates in silence.

    Prayer-time at the two mosques presents two snapshots of Islam's complicated, and continuing, journey into China. In Ningxia, the Huis have flourished and thrived for centuries, developing their own unique brand of Islam, acquiring a following of millions and largely co-existing peacefully with other ethnic groups. Xinjiang, however, has had a troubled relationship with the People's Republic of China (PRC) since it came under Chinese rule in 1949. This has been a relationship of increasing tension; last July saw the worst ethnic unrest in the PRC's history, as deadly riots between Uighurs and Hans left at least 197 people dead in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital.

    Opposing takes

    The riots, Uighurs say, were the result of years of simmering tension between the two groups, exacerbated by what they see as Beijing's flawed developmental policies. The increasing migration of Hans has stirred local resentment; so have recent restrictions on local mosques. Uighur unemployment is on the rise, as is the income disparity between the two groups. The Chinese government has, however, blamed exiled separatist groups — as well as some local religious leaders — for fomenting the recent unrest. It has since launched a campaign against “the three evils” — terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. Xinjiang's mosques — and its worshippers — are now on the government's radar.

    In Ningxia, the days of the Cultural Revolution, when mosques were under siege and religious books were burnt in the streets, are long-forgotten. The “autonomous region” is now being promoted by Beijing as a model of “ethnic harmony”. Huis make up 36 per cent of the region's population. The Hans are the majority, with 60 per cent. A scattering of a dozen other ethnic groups makes up the rest. An increasing source of the region's revenue is tourism, which is part of the reason behind the government's drive to promote ethnic diversity. Ningxia has 3,760 mosques, many of which run on government support.

    “We are largely left to pray as we wish, and they don't interfere,” says Lou Zhan Jun, the soft-spoken and professorial Imam at Xiguan. He stresses the government did not interfere with his appointment — he was elected by the local community. The Imams, however, have to be registered with the government's ethnic affairs department; so do all places of religious worship. “Huis have lived here for centuries, and we don't have any of the problems between ethnic groups [as in Xinjiang],” says Yang Shengrui, who serves as the department's deputy director. “So where is the need for us to interfere?”

    Beyond the harmonious surface, Luo Zhan has deep concerns about Islam's future in Ningxia. Most of Xiguan's visitors are in their sixties and seventies; young worshippers are hard to spot, even on a relaxed Friday evening. “They have better things to do,” he chuckles, “in their coffee shops and bars.” Part of the reason for the fading interest is that under the PRC laws, schools are forbidden from teaching religion. So, during the first nine years of compulsory schooling, young Huis have no formal religious education. Instead, they will only learn of the Communist Party's history and of New China's progress.

    “When children are 10, they start coming here for lessons in the summer,” Luo Zhan says. “By then, it is too late for them to learn Arabic, so we teach them very little. But with the pressures of this society, there is no time for such study.” Few Huis now speak Arabic; Mandarin is their only language. The other problem for Luo Zhan is financial. He started a school at Xiguan to teach several hundred children Arabic, but finds it difficult to keep it running. His only source of funding is an annual grant from the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank. He says he receives no funding from the local government. Luo Zhan, however, is still optimistic. “For 500 years, this community has survived,” he says. “So it will continue. And, we have had no ethnic problems here for 100 years. This is a model for the rest of China.”

    On July 6, 2009, when Urumqi was in flames, the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar was closed down by the Chinese government. The local community was enraged. Faced with the strong public backlash, the government opened the mosque the next day. Following prayers that Tuesday morning, around 200 Uighurs staged a protest in the square in front of the mosque, calling for greater autonomy and religious freedom. The protest was quickly dispersed by forewarned armed police.

    Source of anxiety

    The Chinese government, it is clear, views the influence that local Imams wield in the Kashgar community with considerable anxiety, if only for the reason that this is one public forum over which they cannot exercise complete control. Unlike in Ningxia, Imams chosen by local communities are often replaced in Xinjiang, locals in Kashgar and Urumqi said in interviews, if they are found deviating even a little from the official script.

    In April, the local government in the town of Aksu issued a public notice, calling for all religious texts, even those used in local schools, to be submitted for government approval. It also began a monthly inspection of religious sites. “Religious teachers are strictly prohibited from using non-approved texts, and no person may conduct religious activities outside of pre-approved religious sites, or face investigation as an unapproved Imam,” read one regulation. The government has also cracked down on informal religious schools in Kashgar, where young Uighurs like Mahsum would get together to study the Quran. These gatherings are now deemed illegal.

    Communist Party members — who dominate government positions — are also discouraged from being believers. Those who are found attending mosques will likely lose their jobs, says Mahsum. One advertisement for a job position in the Xinjiang government's education department openly calls for candidates “who do not believe in religion” and “do not participate in religious activities”. Students in State-run schools are routinely encouraged to follow the Party's officially atheist line, though state policy suggests otherwise. “The government thinks religious schools are stirring up trouble after what happened on July 5,” says Mahsum, referring to last year's riots. There has been little evidence to suggest religious leaders had any role in organising the protests. But what is clear is that the violence has left Xinjiang's mosques facing an uncertain future.

    Outside the Id Kah is a conspicuously-displayed sign from the local government. It reads: “All ethnic groups live together here in a friendly manner. They cooperate to build a beautiful homeland, heartily support the unity of the country and oppose ethnic separatism and illegal religious activities.” As prayers conclude, the faithful quietly file out, walking past the sign, and out through the old mosque's gates into the square. As darkness falls on the square, the evening calm is only interrupted by the familiar drone from a nearby police-van.

    Email the writer at: [email protected]

    Prayer-time at the two mosques presents snapshots of Islam's complicated, and continuing, journey into China.

    Growing numbers There are an estimated 20 million Muslims in China, though there are no current official statistics. In officially atheist China, there is no State-sanctioned data on different religious groups. The Huis, one of China's 55 ethnic groups, make up the majority of Muslims, with an estimated 9.8 million population (according to the 2000 census). They are concentrated mainly in Ningxia and in China's northwest, but have established large communities in many other provinces. The Uighurs, mainly residing in Xinjiang, are the second biggest group, with around 8.4 million (according to the 2000 census). China's Muslims are likely the country's third-biggest religious group, behind Buddhists and Christians. Christianity is considered by many to be the fastest growing religion in China -- there are an estimated 50 million Christians, though there are few reliable statistics. Officially, there are 14 million Christians who pray in State-sanctioned churches, though more Chinese Christians pray in unofficial underground churches. There are no official statistics on the most widely followed faith - Buddhism - though unofficial surveys estimate there are at least 100 million Buddhists in the People's Republic.
  5. tarunraju

    tarunraju Moderator Moderator

    Sep 18, 2009
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    I'm not inclined to believe that Chinese Muslims are radicalizing to fight the Chinese government. Maybe something else. Maybe something outside China.

    There's a reason why despite such a non-free state there has been very little organized dissent against the government. It's because the government can (and has) outdone terrorist groups in terms of ruthlessness.

    SHAILENDRA New Member

    Jul 18, 2010
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    Pakistan bears the responsibility for tall the muslims in the world. Why dont they ask pak for help?

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