A Holy Month Stained With Fear

Last week as the new moon was sighted, the holy month of Ramadan was eagerly welcomed by Muslims across the world. However, for some it sparked the beginning of more fear and violence, oppression and danger. For the Uighur Muslims living in the Xinjiang province of China, the start of this month was marked by the death of innocent locals and greater restriction on their rights to practice their religion freely.

The end of July saw attacks, where at least 18 people were killed in the region, and then a further 11 the day before the start of Ramadan. A female resident of Xinjian, Yang Hongme exclaimed "There were cries and blood everywhere... Terrified people flooded into our office to hide," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Uighur reports state that the security forces had opened attack on peaceful protestors and this had consequently sparked more instability in the area. With fatal memories of the July 5th attacks in 2009 attacks in Urumqi, where official reports claim just 200 died (real accounts reveal to be many hundreds more), such instability unfortunately is not uncommon. The attacks in the lead up and even the day before Ramadan, according to the Chinese authorities were at the hands terrorists from the Uighur region. Such claims are used to justify their continuously abhorrent repressive policies against the Uighurs. With state run media, the authorities are of course free to spread their political propaganda to ensure the vilification of the ethnic minority groups.

In spite of the outcry after the violence that erupted in Urumqi in 2009 the Chinese government continue to oppress the Muslims Uighur community. Their latest measures to curb the freedom of the Uighur Muslims is to amplify the clamp down on any religious activity with as many as 100 people being detained as a result of the violence the night before Ramadan last week. As per their policy to further economic prosperity and control at the cost of religious and personal freedom, the Chinese government have increased the policing of the Uighurs to ensure that, especially so in this month, the Uighurs are unable to practice their religion in any manner.

All outward appearances that signify someone to be Muslim are banned, with women wearing veils being ordered to uncover their faces. One man, interviewed by The Associated Press, told of how he had to, like many other young men in the Xinjiang region, shave off his beard, leaving him with just patches of stubble. In not complying, Uighurs would face immediate arrest and detainment.

Employees of the Government, teachers, and students under 18 are banned from fasting during Ramadan. Some private companies have even said to be offering their Muslim employees complimentary lunches in their bid to indignify them at an opportunity. Furthermore, restaurants have been ordered to stay open during daylight hours and mosques have been prohibited from creating noise of any kind and welcoming out of town visitors, with all forms of public Islamic teaching banned. The pilgrimage to Mecca is also forbidden unless as part of a government sanctioned tour group. Dilxat raxit, the spokesman for the World Uighur Congress based in Munich said last Friday:

If any religious figure discusses Ramadan during the course of religious activities, or encourages people to take part, then they will lose their license to practice… The more serious cases will result in arrests for incitement to engage in illegal religious activity

The restrictions on the Uighurs stretch to all parts of their life, with restricting police controlled access in and out of the Xinjiang region and thousands of surveillance cameras monitoring the activity of the Uighurs.

Short of enlisting the thought police the Chinese authorities are aiming to even infiltrate the way that Islam is being practiced. It has been reported that the Imams, who must study at state sanctioned schools are in fact informants for the Government reporting on the Muslim communities.

Restless Beings has reported of an array of atrocities committed continuously at the hands of the Chinese government. It is sad to say that even in this peaceful religious month, the Uighur Muslims continue to be persecuted and dehumanised in every manner. Policed under martial law, with no opportunity to peacefully protest, the massacres and injustice continues.

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Join us for dinner this Friday 12th August at Jungle Braai to help raise funds for the Uighur community, by helping Krygyz women’s rights as well as the Rohingyan refugees, Roma gypsy children, Dhaka street children who face drug and sexual abuse daily and also for those suffering from the famine in East Africa.