Friday, 22 February 2019

Uighurs fled persecution in China. Now Beijing’s harassment has followed them to Australia



Alfiraa Dilshat and Rashida Abdughufur were picnicking in the small seaside town of Victor Harbor in late December when Abdughufur got a video call from her mother.

With Abdughufur living in Adelaide, a city in southern Australia, and her mother in the Xinjiang region of China, it was a rare chance for the two to connect. At first, Abdughufur said, she was excited because she hadn’t talked to her mother in a long time.

Then came “disaster.”

Abdughufur’s mother appeared on the screen in handcuffs, sitting next to a police officer. “They started interrogating me,” Abdughufur said. Fearing for her safety, she complied, sharing sensitive details and documents the police demanded from her, including her Australian driver’s license.

When Abdughufur finished the call, “her face was pale,” her friend Dilshat remembered. Shortly thereafter, an audio message from Abdughufur’s mother arrived. “These people will look for you,” it said. The WeChat account used to contact Abdughufur was disconnected soon after. Abdughufur hasn’t heard from her mother since.


This was the kind of danger that she and other Uighurs had hoped to escape. In the past few years, China has conducted a sweeping campaign to suppress Uighur identity and restrict the practice of Islam. As many as 1 million Uighurs and members of other minority groups — mostly Muslim ones — are being held without charges in brutal internment camps, according to the United Nations. It is just the latest episode in a decades-long history of tension between Uighurs and the staunchly secular, Han Chinese-dominated government in Beijing.

Abdughufur herself fled Xinjiang in 2017, when China intensified its crackdown. Shortly after moving to Australia, her younger brother and father were sent to internment camps.

After months of denying the camps existed, China switched last year to justifying them. Beijing insists it is merely providing job training and “de-extremism education” in a region that is poor and steeped in fundamentalism. “As a result of the vocational education and training, the social environment of Xinjiang has seen notable changes, with a healthy atmosphere on the rise and improper practices declining,” said Shohrat Zakir, the de facto No. 2 official in Xinjiang, in October.

The Chinese embassy in Australia did not respond to requests for comment.


On Friday, Uighurs across Australia rallied in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to highlight the plight of their communities in China, but also to protest against their treatment by Beijing abroad.

Uighurs in Adelaide said efforts to infiltrate their community go back more than a decade. One man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still has family in China, said that during a visit to China in 2005, he was offered what was then an average wage in Australia if he agreed to spy on his community. Another woman, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her family, said she was approached with a similar request as recently as 2011.

Open intimidation on Australian soil is a much more recent concern. It has taken the form of WeChat messages or phone calls, often from individuals claiming to be Chinese officials. They may ask for a call back regarding passport or visa matters, or claim a package has arrived at the embassy for the person they are calling; many of them demand sensitive personal information that Uighurs believe Chinese authorities would already have because of prior visa requests.


That pattern, said Michael Clarke, who researches the treatment of Uighurs at Australia’s National Security College, is “consistent, not just with incidents in Australia, but also in other places around the world.”

Some researchers caution that there is no statistical evidence of such tactics, but Uighur community leaders say complaints about calls, messages and video chats have proliferated as Adelaide’s Uighurs have become more politically active over the last two years. Uighurs say the calls began in March, just hours after the community staged its largest-ever protest in Canberra, Australia’s capital, to highlight the plight of China’s Uighurs.

“After the protest in Canberra, even young kids who were born here got the phone calls,” said 37-year-old Adam Turan, who said his 80-year-old father died weeks after being released from an internment camp in Xinjiang in the fall.


A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs told The Post that “the Australian Government takes seriously its responsibility to protect our sovereignty, values and national interests from foreign interference" and highlighted the passage of a stringent new espionage and foreign interference law last year.

The calls and messages have taken a heavy toll. The tightknit Adelaide Uighur community of about 170 families has watched helplessly as an increasing number of their relatives in China have been taken to the internment camps. Many think their activism has led to such imprisonments — and, in some cases, deaths. The community’s growth has also trickled to a standstill as leaving China has become harder and harder for Uighurs.

“Because we live here, they suffer,” Turan said. As he sat in a Uighur restaurant in central Adelaide and recalled his own father’s death, he was interrupted by the restaurant’s owner, who approached the table to share details about his own family’s disappearance.


Police officers walk alongside two women in Kashgar, in the Xinjiang autonomous region, China, on Nov. 8, 2018. (Bloomberg/Bloomberg)
All of the Uighurs interviewed for this report said they had experienced depression or anxiety following the detention of their relatives and continuing harassment. “Sometimes I want to kill myself,” said Almas Nizamidin, 28, a construction worker who says his wife is being detained in a Chinese internment camp and who has lobbied Australian lawmakers unsuccessfully to raise the issue with Chinese officials.


“We all have psychological issues here,” Turan agreed. “At work, I try not to cry.”

For him, the questions he used to fear most began early in the morning, at the breakfast table with his children. “Do you have parents?” his 5-year-old son repeatedly asked. “Why are they not here?”

“Even the children go through this trauma,” Turan said. “That’s the hardest part.”

China is Australia’s biggest export market, putting Canberra in an awkward position. Australia’s government is a vocal critic of the treatment of Uighurs; it joined the United States as recently as November in calling on China to close its camps. But Nurmuhammad Said Majid, the president of the East Turkistan Australian Association (“East Turkistan” is the term used by Uighurs to describe Xinjiang), believes that Australia’s increasing dependence on China has made it made it more difficult for his community to have their complaints heard.


“We’re paying a heavy price for what we do here,” Majid said.

While sitting for an interview at Southern Australia’s State Library in Adelaide, Majid noticed red lanterns outside the library, announcing a new exhibition on ancient China. Such exhibitions and other intercultural exchanges have become more frequent in recent years, despite Australia’s criticisms of China’s human rights record.

“When I see those lanterns,” Majid said, pointing to them, “I see the blood of our families.”


Link

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

‘It was definitely about the Benjamins’ — former campaign staffer details AIPAC’s far-reaching financial power




Ady Barkan, a Democratic progressive activist who is dying of ALS, just put up this thread on Twitter in response to Ilhan Omar’s powerful tweet of last night about AIPAC. He tells the story of how AIPAC reached out to a candidate he was working for, and the candidate’s compliance was “definitely about the Benjamins.” He describes the importance of Omar’s intervention in calling out AIPAC, a “pillar of the occupation,” and the refusal to discuss the lobby’s financially-driven power to do “terrible things.”

Barkan wrote:

A thread on @IlhanMN, anti-semitism, and my personal experience with @AIPAC’s money.

In 2006, I was the first real staffer on a long-shot Democratic Congressional race in deep red Ohio. My boss was a hippie doctor with a lefty perspective on international affairs. . . .very skeptical of military force, opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, etc.

A month after winning the Dem primary, we were struggling to gain attention or money. Nobody gave us a snowball’s chance to win. But one political action org proactively reached out to us.
It wasn’t Emily’s List, although we were fiercely prochoice. Wasn’t a doctor’s lobby or an enviro or labor org. It was AIPAC.

A local Dem volunteer leader of the Cincinnati AIPAC group came over and said they would like to donate the PAC max (I believe $5000) and would also like to see Vic take a public stance on two issues that, I thought, were relatively obscure: an Iran sanctions bill and something else I can’t recall, perhaps about continuing arms sales to Israel. Suffice to say, these were not hot button issues in the race.

Vic and I both thought of ourselves as pro-peace, not pro-Israel. (Note: I am an Israeli citizen, have many family there, have lived there & visited perhaps 20 times). We both felt a bit icky about doing it, because it was too hawkish and too quid pro quo but we were desperate for cash and so we put online a statement about how Vic supported a two-state peace agreement and AIPAC’s two pet issues of the cycle.

It was definitely about the Benjamins. Never would have done it otherwise. AIPAC’s power is also about great organizing (they sent a local Dem volunteer emissary) and about diligence (they paid attention to us before anyone else and were happy to donate to both us and the pro-Likud incumbent). But money is the lubricant that makes the whole machine run.

@IlhanMN is right to point this out. AIPAC is a central pillar of the occupation. Without Congressional support, the Likud/anti-Palestine/pro-occupation project would be radically undermined. AIPAC is the anchor of that support, and its money and Sheldon Adelson’s money are indispensable to the work.

We have a growing anti-semitism problem in America. @IlhanMN is not part of it. @lindasrsour is not part of it. They are allies of mine and of Jews across this country who are fighting for peace, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, and the defeat of fascism. I am deeply disappointed in @SpeakerPelosi for her failure today.

When AIPAC and its army try to silence criticism of the immoral, illegal, inhumane occupation by screaming about anti-semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk about how the Israel lobby uses money to build power, don’t fall for their bullshit. They are doing terrible things in the name of Jews and of Israel, and it behooves the American Jewish community to resist them, resist their agenda, stand up for Free Speech, and stand up for justice.


Link

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Why Lynchings Have Become A Substitute For Communal Riots




Indeed, lynching has replaced the age-old communal riot as a means of polarization. Lynching comes without the burden of guilt that used to accompany riots. It is more effective, lethal and sinister. It strikes at the very identity of the community. It is far more demoralizing than the traditional communal violence, but serves the same purpose as riots did in the years gone by: to engender a climate of distrust and fear. 

On one side are Hindus who begin to look at any Muslim, particularly those with conspicuous manifestation of being one, with distrust. In their mind, all Muslims are beefeaters. And, maybe, even cow slaughterers. Nothing wrong with that if you are in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and vast stretches of the Northeast, but often a fatal flaw in north and west India. To those Hindus denied the benefit of education and economic cushion, a Muslim is one who deliberately provokes Hindus by eating beef. They do not know the reality or the history of beef eating in their own religion. For such a misled vigilante, the Muslim is the ‘other’ who must be shown his place. For him, a Muslim is what the latest video, real or fake, on WhatsApp shows him to be. Also, a Muslim is to be tackled, again, in the way those hooligans do in the lynching videos. That brings us to Muslims. With each lynching incident, the community slips deeper into fear, and into its own shell. And a community which is often told to join the mainstream slips further away.

Muslim traders in Ghansali town of Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal district said on Wednesday they are wary of opening their shops, two days after a man from their community was beaten up by a mob when he was found with a minor Hindu girl, sparking calls for their ouster.

Around the same time came another media report wherein young men and women in Delhi revealed that they call up their parents and grandparents not to offer namaz (prayer) on a train for the fear of being identified. This in a country where it was not unusual for people to make space for Muslim travellers to offer namaz as a train halted at the railway station, or even on the train itself. Writing in The Wire, Apoorvanand stated,

A friend narrated his experience of offering namaz at the railway platform while waiting for his train. On earlier occasions, it had always been normal for him and others to pray in public. But this time, he was extra alert. A shout, a loud voice made him strain his ears. Was it for him? We who used to make space for namazis in train, in our homes, offices, and even offer a prayer mat to them have gone silent. Goondas have become our voice. This silence will drown India if we allow it to spread.


Link

Friday, 15 February 2019

Lawmaker who changed Jordan’s rape law takes on child marriage





A Jordanian lawmaker praised for her role in abolishing a law that let rapists off the hook if they married their victims has set tackling child marriage as her next challenge, reported Reuters.

Nearly 10,500 girls in Jordan were married before reaching their 18th birthdays in 2017, according to the most up to date figures from the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Girls in Jordan can be married from age 15 with a judge’s approval, even though the legal marriageable age is 18. Lawmaker Wafa Bani Mustafa said that even raising it to 16 would reduce the numbers.

“This is not an exception. This is something that is happening every day, and too many young girls are getting married,” the 39-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a recent visit to Beirut, adding:

I am very optimistic child marriage will decrease if we change the age to 16. It doesn’t matter if they are Jordanian or Syrian – we need to protect all girls.

A significant proportion are believed to be Syrian girls after an influx of refugees from Jordan’s war-ravaged neighbour, with families marrying off daughters young to give them financial security and protection from sexual violence.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their homeland since the war started in 2011 and there are now more than 670,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan according to the United Nations.

“If you are not old enough to vote or drive a car – how can you open a house and build a family,” said Bani Mustafa, one of only 20 women in Jordan’s 130-seat House of Representatives.

“We need to first change the culture by raising the age of exceptions to 16 – then slowly maybe this will be the first step to making it to 18 with no exceptions.”

In 2017 Jordan’s parliament voted to abolish a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims after a years-long campaign led by Bani Mustafa.

Now she is seeking a change to a section of the law governing inheritance, arguing that it disadvantages women.

As things stand, the children of a father who dies before his own parents will inherit the assets he would have received had he survived them, while the children of a mother who dies before her parents will not.

“If we push changing women’s rights through law it will change the culture of the society to accept women’s rights. The law helps change our society’s mentality,” she said.

Globally, 12 million girls marry before age 18 every year, according to Girls Not Brides, a coalition working to end child marriage.

In Jordan, Bani Mustafa said there were legal provisions to protect child brides – including a maximum 15-year age gap and the requirement that they be allowed to continue their education – but they were not being adhered to.

“I will keep fighting for Jordanian women – nothing will slow me down. We deserve better lives and equal rights to men. It is not easy, but we have to keep fighting,” she said.

“I think women’s rights are slowly changing in Jordan.”


Link

MY GRANDPA TOOK SHAHADA ON HIS DEATH BED - HIS REVERT STORY || Samantha J Boyle


Thursday, 14 February 2019

Joram van Klaveren: 'I Want to Explain Islam with all My Love'




Former PVV (Freedom Party) politician in Netherlands, Joram van Klaveren (39), made tough Islamic criticism for seven years. Now he is Muslim himself.


On October 26, 2018, he officially joined what Muslims call the Umma , the community of believers. Joram van Klaveren (39) who for seven years in the Lower House of Netherlands did hard anti-islam politiek on behalf of the PVV. This man is now Muslim himself. He is converted. "Because that is actually what you do," he explains, "if you pronounce the shahada - La ilaha illa llah, moehammad rasoolu llah."  He speaks the creed from memory. But that evening in October, at his publisher's home, Imam Mhamed Aarab, he spoke the words and said after him.

It is very strange to hear this former confidant of Geert Wilders speak like that.  It is the man who use to say 'Islam is a lie' and 'the Koran is poison'. Who did not get tired of repeating that Islam is an ideology of terror, death and destruction.  He initiated the so-called 'Moroccan debate' in the House of Representatives, calling attention to the high proportion of Moroccan-Dutch boys to crime.  He finally broke up with the PVV in 2014 when Wilders made his notorious 'less, less, less' statements. "I thought that went too far." He remained, in the very anti-Islam politicians - Van Klaveren / Bontes Group.

The unexpected conversion of Joram van Klaveren, formerly Protestant Reformed, appears to be the end of a long search for religious meaning. Looking back, you could say that it started at the age of 12 or 13, says Van Klaveren. We speak to the now Muslim former PVV in the Marriott Hotel in The Hague. His publisher accompanies him. The atmosphere is cheerful.

It all started with the intention to write an ánti-Islam book. When he and Louis Bontes did not come to the Lower House with the new party VoorNederland (VNL), Van Klaveren decided to leave politics. Finally he had time to write a book. Not just an anti-Islam book. He intended to show all Muslim misery - violence, Jews who must be beheaded, contempt of women, homophobia - is justified by faith. So that Muslims could no longer ignore it.

It was different. Halfway through his research, now he was deep in the Islamic tradition, he had to rewrite. The outcome of his search is called, Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in Times of Secular Terror. No Islamic misery. It was precisely a refutation of objections that non-Muslims have against Islam.

You write only one sentence about what you felt when you made the creed: "I noticed a certain personal joy and peace."

People whom have read the book said to me: you are very dry. But I'm not that extravagant, I'm not going to hype when the Netherlands wins a match at the World Cup. It did not rain gold after the shahada and I did not suddenly think, wow, why does the world look different?

It was not really a happy moment for me either. I thought: if everything I have written so far is correct, if I believe all that, then I am de facto a Muslim. If I felt something, it was disgust. I looked at my Bible in the closet, on the table in front of me were books about Prophet Muhammad. In previous years I had developed a great aversion to Islam. If you then have to conclude that you were not right, that is not fun. But as a God seeker I always felt a certain unrest. And that gradually disappeared. It felt a bit like coming home, in a religious sense.

How did your relatives react?

My wife accepts that I am a Muslim. If you are happy about that, she finds, I do not stop you. Incidentally, she never felt the repugnance I felt for Islam. She was not so happy that I was with the PVV. But it is your journey, she said. She does not feel the need to go with that. My daughters are still too young to talk about this.

And your family?

Not everyone knows it yet. My brothers and sister reacted alternately, from positive to indifferent. My mother was not very happy with it. I understand that. Such a turnaround is not common.

Do you not fear the reactions from the PVV corner?

Many people will not react enthusiastically. Undoubtedly it will be violent, GeenStijl might break me down, De Telegraaf will dedicate an article to it. But it is what it is. Even when I was with the PVV, I did not worry about what others thought of me. I had a conviction and then you go for it. That is also true now.

Who helped you in your search?

With Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad [a British Islamologist at the University of Cambridge, also a convert, ed.] I have had a solid mail exchange. That proved very valuable. And Mohamed Ben Hammouch, my publisher. It was funny how I ended up with him. I was actually looking for an ordinary publisher, I came across the Kennishuys. I did not know at first that they were Muslim. That old-Dutch way of writing, that immediately attracted me. Intuitively I chose them.

Do you see the hand of God afterwards?

Haha, no, rather the hand of Google.

What is actually changing in your life now? Do you pray five times a day? Will your name change?
No, I do not feel the need to change my name. I also do not feel that I have been sworn from God. Furthermore, I am fresh from the press, I still have to make it my own. Until now it was mainly a rational exercise. So I still have to practice praying. Alcohol, I did not drink that much anyway and I ate mainly chicken. I only know two Suras [chapters of the Qur'an, ed.], Al-Fatiha and al-Ikhlaas, the shortest ones. I bought a small book, it is called 'I learn the Koran' and it is actually for children up to 10 years old, a nice pink book.

And your children, are they Muslim?

They really need to know that for themselves. I have agreed with my wife that if the children need answers, they will receive them from us. They are also not deliberately baptized. I did not want to impose Christianity, so I will not do that with Islam either.
Earlier you once said that your daughter can come home with a Muslim if that were her choice. If he was kind to her and would not forbid her to go outside. Can she now come home with a non-Muslim?

It is ultimately her own decision. If the man takes good care of her and makes her happy, fine. His faith did not matter to me then, nor will it now.

Jew-hatred, women's oppression, violence, one by one you break the prejudices against Islam until nothing but a beautiful faith remains. Do you suddenly find Islam an enrichment for the Netherlands?

I discovered that many of these negative stories originated in medieval Europe. Christians saw Islam as a competitive religion and did everything to disqualify it.  Actually, my biggest obstacle was Mohammed.  There are a lot of lies spread out about him. In my book, I quote the nineteenth-century historian Thomas Carlyle: "The lies that well-meaning believers have poured out over this man Mohammed, only shame on ourselves." Only when I discovered that, I could say that I was a Muslim.

So an enrichment for the Netherlands? Yes, I think so. But I also write that much of Islam that you see now is colored by Wahabism from Saudi Arabia. Very unfortunate, because that is a very puritan view of Islam, extreme in the eyes of many people. The big bite of Dutch Muslims is of course not Wahabitian. They do not withdraw from social life and do not think that everyone who is non-Muslim is wrong or scary. There are so many prejudices about real Islam.

Eh ... until recently you have contributed to it

I know, but I've only noticed it since my conversion. I suddenly get questions like: do you hate gay people now? Are you going to Syria now? Can you still pet a dog? I have contributed to maintaining and nurturing a poor image of Islam, but you can not imagine how these prejudices work until you deal with them yourself.

Don't you feel guilty?

Yes, of course, I have a responsibility in that. I can not brush that away. It is not something I cheerfully look back on, but I can not do anything about it. Except now share my findings. It would be nice if the PVV supporters also read my book.

Do you understand if many Dutch Muslims do not immediately support you?

Yes. I know. But I did not do this for Muslims, I did this for myself. I think that everyone deserves a second chance, that is also an Islamic principle. So it would be nice if people support me in this but if that is not the case: so be it. My feelings and ideas do not change.

How is your relationship with Christianity now?

I still think it's a beautiful belief that has contributed a lot for the development of humanity. Only in dogma such as the crucifixion, the original sin and the trinity I can no longer believe. And if I do not believe that anymore, then I can no longer call myself a Christian.

In your book, a theme shines through absence: homosexuality

Because it did not really play for me personally. I do not know many gay people. My book is a theological search about things that touch me. Of course, I do not hate gay men all of a sudden, I think it's just as nice or annoying people as before.

Have you also looked at social issues differently since your conversion?


I have not suddenly turn Left if you mean that. I am still a supporter of low taxes and a small government. And I still think that we need to implement an immigration policy whereby you bring in people who can add something to society, such as Japan and Australia does. A total immigration stop for people from Islamic countries, I thought was pretty absurd before my conversion. And the idea that all Islam should be banished from the Netherlands, which I once submitted a motion for, of course I do not support that anymore.

And the Moroccan problem?

That was specifically about criminals. The analysis I made, namely that everything is the fault of Islam, was simply incorrect. But that was PVV policy: everything that did not work had to be linked to Islam in one way or another.

Okay, so you would resubmit the motion without a Islam component?


No of course not. There are many problems with Moroccan Dutch who are criminally active, no one denies that. Only, does it make sense to consistently refer to 'Moroccans'? I do not think so.

If there is now an attack in the Netherlands, how would you react?


If an attacker calls himself a Muslim and looks for legitimacy in Islam, then you can not say that it has nothing to do with it. Supporters of the khawaridj movement turned against the moderate Islam in the seventh century. They murdered their own leaders if they found it too stretchy. That principle has never disappeared. That is now IS.

It is not only the historical doctrine of Islam. It is important to explain that extremists are wandering. Again and again. That is difficult. People want bite-sized answers. Or have their judgment ready.

Most Muslims are tired of explaining

I am fresh, so I want to do that well in the coming years. With all the love.

You observe in your book that a lack of intellectual framework among Dutch Muslims causes problems. Can you explain that?

The small group of people who have a thorough knowledge of Islam, speak good Dutch and operate publicly, are very small. The extremes get the stage and that creates a one-sided image.

What is the solution?


Reading and teaching. If Dutch Muslims are educated from an early age in that historical context, then we become a community of the middle way. "


Link

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Women and the Mosque: Hadith




"A wife of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb used to go to the mosque for the prayers of fajr and ʿishāʾ. It was said to her, "Why do you go out when you know that ʿUmar does not like it, and he feels jealous?" She said, "So what stops him from forbidding me?" It was said to her, "What stops him are the words of the Prophet (ﷺ) 'Do not stop women servants of God from the mosques of God.'"
[Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī]

Monday, 11 February 2019

Verse of the day: Quran, 18:45-46








"O Prophet! Give them the similitude of the life of this world. It is like the vegetation of the earth that flourishes with the rain from the sky, but afterwards the same vegetation turns into dry stubble that is blown away by the winds. God is the One Who has power over everything. Likewise, wealth and children are an attraction of this worldly life; yet honorable actions that last forever are better rewarded by your Lord and hold for you a better hope of salvation." The Holy Quran, 18:45-46