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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.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Coming Chinese Jihad?

I link to an interesting but somewhat confusing article by a Stephen Schwartz who leads in by talking about the fourth annual general meeting of the Uyghur American Association a Washington based Uygur diaspora group representing American based Uygurs and active in lobbying the U.S government over the situation of the Uygur people in China.

The meeting over the June Memorial day weekend in the United States involves elections, budgets and cultural events the latter being attended by politicians supportive of the Uygur cause.

I say it is an interesting article because it sheds some more light on what China refers to as "Uygur terrorism" particularly the fact of some 22 Uygurs being caught in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

It is also interesting in that it talks about Islam in China and the apparent preference the Chinese Government has for Hui Muslims as distinct from Uygur Muslims.

What is totally confusing to me is how the author jumps from a diaspora group meeting to entitling his piece "The Coming Chinese Jihad"

Firstly as to the Uygurs and Afghanistan.

The UAA meeting was addressed by one Erkin Alptekin an Uygur now resident in Europe who is the son of a deceased hero of the Uygur independence movement Isa Alptekin. Alptekin senior was a minister in the short lived Eastern Turkistan Republic that controlled 25% of Xinjiang in the death throes period of the Nationalist government and before the Communist takeover.

Erkin junior, whom like his father has devoted his life to the Uygur cause, escaped China with his family after the Communist takeover and is presently president of the World Uighur Congress based in Munich which is an umbrella group comprising Uygur diaspora groups world wide.

Alptekin believes that the existence of Uygurs among the Taliban in Afghanistan was as a result of several reasons. He is reported to have said that some Uighurs were trained by the Chinese, in tandem with the Pakistanis, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan and remained after the Soviet withdrawal.

Others he claims were driven out of Xinjiang by Chinese repression whilst others were sent to Pakistan as children to escape communist indoctrination and to learn Islam only to be driven out by the Pakistani authorities at the behest of China. These people, Alptekin was reported to have said, were natural targets for al Qaeda and Taliban recruitment.

Whilst I believe that this is certainly the case there were undoubtedly some small minority that were voluntarily there with the express objective of taking the independence fight to China and to think elsewise would be naive.

The UAA meeting was also addressed by the slightly discredited Wu'er Kaixi an Uygur student leader of the Tiananmen protest in 1989 ( I say discredited because he maintained at one time that he had witnessed scores of students shot dead around him in Tiannamen square when in fact no such shootings as he described occurred and he was later found not to have even been in the Square at the time he claimed).

Then we jump to the "Coming Jihad" and this is where it gets confusing because this bears no association with either the UAA or what was said at the meeting and as an argument rates very poorly.

The author starts out by quoting professor Dru Gladney a well respected expert on the Uygurs, Xinjiang and Chinese Islam talking about the influence of Wahhabism, a more radical manifestation of Islam, on the Hui (pronounced whee) Muslims and China's tacit support of them.

The Hui are found all over China and are ethnically and culturally closer to the Han Chinese than the Uygurs.

Then, drawing a rather long bow, Schwartz reasons that the Government's support of the Hui, with their supposed Wahhabi leanings, and it's oppression of the sufi Uygur muslims will ultimately push both camps closer to those proponents of Islamic jihad and presto a "Chinese Jihad".

Not likely Mr Schwartz.

Anyway back to the UAA meeting Alptekin did also give some good advice

"The United States should raise the problem of the Uighurs to the same level as that of the Tibetans, and pressure China to open dialogue with all its minorities,"

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Coming Chinese Jihad by Stephen Schwartz: "The Coming Chinese Jihad
By Stephen Schwartz
Weekly Standard | June 17, 2004