Muslim Nations Told To Help Uighurs

China’s Uighur population may now have a new ally in its struggle against the Chinese government; Islamic groups within Indonesia are calling upon all Muslims to set aside ethnic differences and aid the Uighurs, scores of whom have been killed in recent clashes. Several organizations within Indonesia have already called upon the Chinese government to stop the violence and have urged international bodies to investigate the deaths. The Indonesian move comes close on the heel of the Turkish government’s expression of concern about the situation in Xinjiang. Though the Uighurs have faced discrimination at the hands of Beijing and have had tense moments in their relations with their fellow Han Chinese citizens, international awareness of this fact has been limited. Indeed, some Uighurs compare themselves to the Tibetans, with notable exception: they have no Dalai Lama who can draw global attention to their plight. However, worldwide coverage of the recent events has taken the awareness beyond Uighur groups to the broader public. Indonesia is the latest example. – YaleGlobal

Muslim Nations Told To Help Uighurs

Ary Hermawan
Friday, July 10, 2009

The Indonesian Chinese Muslim Association (PITI) has criticized China's brutality against the Uighur Muslim minority, and regretted the silence of Muslim nations ignore the group's decades of suffering discrimination and persecution. "The Chinese Muslims are on the periphery *of the Muslim world*. They have long been persecuted, but they are neglected," PITI spokesman Steven Indra Wijaya told The Jakarta Post over the phone. "We are calling on all Muslims to cast aside their *ethnic* identities and help the Uighurs."

More than 150 people were killed in the recent rioting and ethnic clashes involving Han Chinese and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The riots broke out after thousands of Uighurs rallied to protest the killing of two fellow Uighurs at a factory in Guangdong. Tifatul Sembiring, chairman of the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), condemned the killing of Xinjiang Muslims. "As part of an international community, China has to stop all actions that lead to rights violations.," he said. "China can no longer act arbitrarily against its people who happen to embrace different faiths . *We* demand the Chinese government take action against those responsible for the killing." The PKS also urged international human rights bodies to investigate the case.

The Chinese government has blamed exiled separatists for the unrest. President Hu Jintao said Thursday the incident was planned and organized by "three forces at home and abroad", referring to religious extremists, separatists and terrorists.

The rising ethnic tension in Xinjiang was apparently also triggered by the influx of Han Chinese into the traditionally Muslim and resource-rich region, which the Uighurs said had led to the dilution of their culture and also high unemployment. They also claimed to have been discriminated against by the communist government, claiming their plight was on a par with that of the Tibetans. The difference, they say, is they do not have a Dalai Lama to call the world's attention.

The Chinese government quelled the riots and on Thursday began calling for ethnic unity in the province. Media reports, however, said both sides doubted they could ever live side by side again. "It is possible for the Uighurs to coexist with the Han people after the riot, although the challenge is extremely tough," said Amelia Fauzia, director of the State Islamic University's Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC). "The main problem is the government's attitude. If they continue their discriminative policies and keep seeing the Uighurs as troublemakers and terrorists, the problem will never end."

In a repressive situation, she went on, coexistence was artificial because the conflict had not been resolved and the wounded would continue to seek justice. PITI has a close relationship with Muslims from Xinjiang, which Wijaya said was an important center of Islamic civilization in China. Xinjiang Muslims, he added, usually visited the Zheng He cultural center in Central Java whenever they came to Indonesia. Zheng He was a Chinese Muslim explorer who visited Indonesia in the 15th century. While it remains disputed, a number of historians believe Islam in the archipelago was brought and spread by Chinese Muslims.

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