Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Uighur Muslim crisis is worse than you think


China is sparing no effort in its attempt to erase any proof of its Uighur Muslim population in what the Communist state calls Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The area, known affectionately as East Turkistan by its 12 million Uighurs, was an independent nation state Until China began occupying and colonising it in 1949. 

For the past several years, barely more than a trickle of information has seeped out of the tightly controlled Chinese occupied territory, but what we do know suggests China is using an array of brutal measures to eradicate any vestige of Uighur culture.

These measures include a total ban on any form of expression of Islam in Xinjiang. China has not only shut down mosques, but also has banned all Islamic texts, including the Quran, while Muslim sounding names are also outlawed, as are beards and clothing that suggest adherence to the Islamic faith.

More recently, China has made it mandatory for all Uighur Muslims to have their motorbikes and cars fitted with a GPS tracking device, so that authorities can pinpoint any Uighur at any given moment.

If you're thinking this sounds like the making a dystopian futuristic novel, then consider also the fact that Chinese police in the province have been fitted out with "smart glasses," which use facial recognition software to identify Uighur Muslims on trains, buses and in public places.
Linked to a central database, the "smart glasses" are designed to notify a patrolling officer when a Uighur Muslim has moved beyond his orher 'safe area', that is home or place of work.

These hardline measures form just the tip of the iceberg, however. Uighur Muslims who refuse to give up their Muslim identity are forced into what China calls "reeducation camps", which are designed to convert Uighur Muslims to the official ideology of the state: Atheism.
"We target people who are religious… for example, those who grow beards despite being young," one Chinese government officer admitted in a report.
According to reports from human rights watchers, China has ordered its officials in Xinjiang to send almost half of its population to "re-education camps." For those who stubbornly defy China's indoctrination programme, prison or forced disappearance awaits.
Alarmingly, these reports do little to convey the extent of the horror taking place against Uighur Muslims in East Turkistan today.
Interviews I have conducted with several Uighur Muslim refugees who have escaped persecution and likely death at the hands of the Chinese government have confirmed as such.

When I spoke with Sadam Musapir, a Uighur Muslim who successfully applied for asylum seeker status in 2017 while on a student visa in Australia, he told me China is now incarcerating any Uighur Muslim who attempts to travel abroad. His wife and nine-month-old child suffered just that, as the authorities fear the world will learn the full depth and breadth of China's orchestrated campaign to culturally eradicate the Uighur people.
"In 60 days time from now, when my baby son, who I haven't seen yet turns one year of age, China will imprison my wife for five years, and then sell my baby to adoption agencies," Musapir told me.

When I asked why China was taking this action against his wife and child, he explained that they arrested her for trying to leave the country to join him in Australia. "China is desperate for the world not to know what is happening there [Xinjiang]," said Musapir.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Shaykh Qaradawi to his imprisoned daughter: A year has passed and I haven’t forgotten you

Egyptian born and Qatar-based Shaykh, Prof Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi who is the Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars wrote a letter to his daughter Ola, who has spent an entire year imprisoned in solitary confinement in Egypt. In his letter he protested the injustice that she has been suffering, and how his heart burns at her being subjected to a “deliberately slow execution”.
Al-Qaradawi said: “For an entire year in solitary confinement, in one of the world’s worst prisons, my daughter Ola al-Qaradawi has been subjected to terrible treatment in her tragic imprisonment. This unceasing abuse and humiliation is a deprivation of her most basic rights.”
He continued in his letter:
“A year has passed and we still wait for the consciousness of the people to move, for the asleep to wake up, and for the imprisoned to become free, and the dead hearts to regain their life.”
He added: “A year ago she was taken away from her home, her children, her grandchildren, her father, and from her brothers and sisters, to be put in solitary confinement that strips the individual of any rights and stops them from doing anything. Why? Simply because she is the daughter of al-Qaradawi, and she has Qatari citizenship. There’s no doubt that they (the Egyptian state) subjected a weak individual to this punishment to get back at Qatar and al-Qaradawi”.
The authorities arrested Ola al-Qaradawi and her husband Hossam Khalaf in early July 2017. She has since been held in solitary confinement in al-Qanaater Women’s Prison. Human rights organisation, Amnesty International has already concluded that the way the Egyptian state has dealt with her case amounts to torture by international standards.

Friday, 13 July 2018

French Muslim families who lost loved ones in the Nice truck attack struggle with bereavement and Islamophobia.

One of Bouhlel's first victims was Fatima Charrihi, a Moroccan woman wearing a headscarf. In fact a third of the victims that day were Muslim men, women and children - including four year-old Kylan al-Majri who had come out to enjoy the fireworks with his family.
Truck Attack in Nice looks at the event through the eyes of three Muslim families who lost two young sons and a wife and mother. They re-tell their own versions of their ordeals on an evening that started with celebration and ended in violent tragedy, as they all struggle to come to terms with a loss that they simply cannot comprehend.
The relatively high numbers of Muslim victims in Nice and in the similar Barcelona attacks a year later, challenge the common perception that this type of violence is somehow an expression of Islamic teaching or values.
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been radicalised quickly through ISIL propaganda a few weeks before Bastille Day. He was known to French police for threatening behaviour, violence and petty theft but did not figure on the "Fiche S", or France's high-security watch list. He was a loner whose neighbours said smelled of alcohol and behaved strangely.
The 2016 attack in Nice followed those in 2015 on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and Bataclan nightclub and neighbouring restaurants in Paris. Each incident turned up the heat in the debate about the relationship between Islam and violence in French politics and society.
In the months following Nice, politicians were campaigning for the French presidency.
Marine Le Pen seized the opportunity to make political capital out what she and her party call "the Islamisation of France", and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon spoke of what he called a new type of fear running through some parts of French society.
"This radical Islam is plaguing some of our fellow citizens. It challenges our common values. I won't allow this. I want strict administrative control of the Muslim religion before it takes root within the Republic," he said.
But the French Muslims families in this film see things quite differently. For them, it's not about Islam at all.
"Don't involve Islam in this issue," said Tahar al-Majri, who lost his ex-wife and four-year-old son Kylan in the Nice attack. "He ran down people aged four to 80. You can't kill people and say, 'God is Great'. God never tells us to kill people."

Slam from Sudan: how Emtithal Mahmoud shook the world

Emtithal Mahmoud was brimming with rage and misery when she sat down to write her poem Mama. Her grandmother had just died in Sudan, her mother was on a plane to the funeral and she felt consumed by anger.
“I wrote it in one of the darkest times of my life,” she says. “It felt like my grandmother had survived everything, the war, famine, and in the end it was not just cancer, it was lack of access to proper medical research. It was a very dark time. And that poem helped me get through it.”
Hours after writing Mama, Mahmoud – also known as Emi, who was born in Darfur but moved to the US from Yemen as a four-year-old – performed it at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship in Washington DC – and won the competition. Full of fury, Mama opens as a man asks Mahmoud: “Hey yo sistah, you from the motherland? … ’cause you got a little bit of flavor in you, / I’m just admiring what your mama gave you.” It becomes a paean to Mahmoud’s mother, who “can reduce a man to tattered flesh without so much as blinking”, who “walks into a war zone and has warriors cowering at her feet”.
Mahmoud will return to Sudan in July, where she has big plans for more community groups and workshops around the country. Mostly she is volunteering, saving the money she makes from events “run by magazines or businesses that pay very well … to do the kind of work you can’t get funding for.”
Mahmoud writes to explore her feelings; she performs, she says, because she has somehow found herself this platform. “A lot of things are said about people like me - young people, black people, Muslim people, women,” she says. “The reason I perform is to answer those things, to be a voice I didn’t really have growing up.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The story of Aitzaz Hasan

Aitzaz Hasan (15) was on his way to school when he and his friends spotted a man wearing a suicide vest. Intercepting the bomber, Aitzaz saved his friends but lost his life in the process. Based on true events this film highlights the heroic efforts of a young boy who sought to stand up to intolerance and violence, to protect those he loved.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Gaza family mourns slain son, 11: 'Not last child to be killed'

On Friday afternoon, as Israeli soldiers from the other side of the fence were firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition, Yaser Abu al-Naja and a few friends took cover behind a waste container away from the front lines of a protest in the Gaza Strip.
As Yaser briefly peeked out from behind the bin, an explosive bullet hit him in the head. His skull was shattered, resulting a bloody pulp in one side, eye-witnesses said.
Yaser was 11 years old.
His killing on Friday made him the 16th Palestinian child to be shot dead by Israeli forces since the launch on March 30 of the Great March of Return protests calling for the right of refugees and their descendants to return to the homes and lands from which they were violently expelled from in 1948.
A few hours later, at sundown, Yaser's mother Samah Abu al-Naja was browsing through Facebook on her mobile phone when she came upon a photo of an "unidentified boy" with his head blurred and bloodied clothes. 
"His face was not showing, but I recognised him as my son from the clothes he was wearing," the 30-year-old told Al Jazeera from her home east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
"My neighbour and one of my daughters were sitting with me," she added. "I turned to them with the phone in my hand and said: 'This is my son.'"

Monday, 9 July 2018

The Chinese government is rounding up Muslims and throwing them in camps

The camps started appearing over the past few years, but details are scarce. Reporting on the region is tightly constricted, and Beijing has made a habit of arresting and disappearing the family members of American reporters who have attempted to cover the topic.
“We heard at the beginning of this year that more than one million Uyghurs are currently in the camps,” Dolkun Isa, the president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told ThinkProgress. “But it’s already been six months, and we’ve never heard of anyone being released… [There] may be 1.5 million, maybe 2 million, in the camps. We don’t know.”
Given that there are approximately 8 million Uyghurs in the region, that would mean over 10 percent — and potentially as many as 25 percent — of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs are currently housed in these camps.
These camps have rapidly formed the backbone of China’s broader “assimilation” effort: a set of policies aimed at banning Uyghurs’ religious education, language, and broader culture.
Following a 2009 protest-turned-massacre in Xinjiang, China’s deadliest domestic event in decades, Beijing accelerated its policy of forced assimilation — actions ranging from banning the teaching of the Uyghur language to barring certain Islamic names, all while installing one of the most stifling security regimes this side of North Korea.