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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

So this is "Uygur Terrorism"?


Uygur GirlsThe Uygur ethnic minority of China are a turkic Muslim people and are by far the most distinct ethnic group in China in terms of appearance, language and culture.

Inhabiting Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China's northwest, so named to recognise that once the Uygur were far and away the most dominant ethnic group in Xinjiang, the Uygur are devout if rather secular Muslims. Being Sunni Muslims and following the Hanafi school of Islam they are both moderate and liberal in their practice of Islam.

In the Muslim world today they are rather unique in as much as that generally, as a people, they have an extremely high regard for the "West" and the United States in particular. In my considerable research on the Uygur, my monitoring of their discussion forums and my conversations with them I have but on rare occasions ever seen or heard any Uygur denouncing the west or America. I might also add I have only on one occasion happened across anyone who has advocated violence as a means of achieving their dream of an Independent Uygur Republic of Eastern Turkistan.

The Uygur are represented abroad by a variety of organisations that attempt to publicise the plight of the Uygur to a wider world. One of the most respected Uygur diaspora organisations in the world is the Uyghur American Association headquartered in Washington D.C in the United States.

Like most of the Uygur diaspora associations the level of their activity waxes and wanes but generally has decreased in recent years as a result of many factors such as available funding, swings in world opinion etc. No matter how passionate one can be it is hard to every day maintain a high level of enthusiasm in face of general world disinterest in your cause. Banging your head against a brick wall can take it's toll.

The UAA has a "phorum", a discussion board where Uygurs in diaspora and their supporters, or those just interested, can post news and discuss issues. It, like the organisation that supports it, runs hot and cold, depending on the type of news occurring at the time, but there is a core of stalwarts who scour the world news looking for articles that in some way impact the Uygur at home. Occasionally such a news item will fire up a flourish of posts as people have their say. Occasionally someone will post something that is a little controversial and that too will get the "boards" pounding for a while.

There is an interesting discussion going on at the moment that for someone not very aware of the Uygur or feel, like many, that being Muslim they are automatically anti the west and anti-America, may be worth while having a look at.

It started when a poster commenced a thread essentially criticising the United States and calling for the Uygur to rely only on Islam to further their cause.

If one believes the propaganda of the Chinese that the Uygur are "Islamic extremists" "Islamic fundamentalists" and "Islamic terrorists" who are a common enemy in the "War on terror" then the replies to this original post may change your opinion.

It is well worth taking a look at, I think you will see a passionate but peaceful and conservative people who, whilst being devout Muslims, do not fit the world stereotype of what a follower of Islam is especially a group that is so often called Islamic terrorists by the Chinese government. (If you are so inclined feel free to offer your opinion as they are most welcoming of any show of support or interest even if you diagree with them.)

Whilst mentioning the UAA they have announced that they have received some funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) a bipartisan not-for-profit foundation that supports the advance of democracy abroad through grants to non-governmental organization worldwide. This will allow the UAA to increase the level of advocacy for Uygur rights. Theyalso have just moved to 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington ( a stone thow from the White House). Not a bad address for an organisation representing a people who the Chinese call "terrorists".

You can visit the UAA forums by clicking on the following link.

phorum - UAA English Forum - R