What They wrote about Hajiya Bridget Aisha Lemu ?! & Who is she ?!!

Hajiya Bridget Aisha Lemu

What They wrote about  Hajiya Bridget Aisha Lemu ?! & Who is she ?!!

Bashir Mundi :
I have lost my second mother.
We belong to God and to Him is our return.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.

With the passing of the great Hajiya Bridget Aisha Lemu, on Saturday, 5th January, 2019, in Minna, Nigeria, I’ve lost a second, very loving, and inspirational mother. I am always humbled and pleased that she used to call me her second son.

An accomplished educator and author of several Islamic books used by institutions all around the world, Hajiya continues to influence and inspire millions across generations, genders, nationalities, and creeds. Prayers and deepest condolences to our esteemed father and mentor, Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, my beloved brother and sister, Ustaz Nuruddeen Lemu and Sister Maryam S. Lemu, and the rest of the Lemu family.

Our deep regards also to the great institutions that she has helped found, the Islamic Education Trust, New Horizons College, FOMWAN, and all those who she has inspired with her remarkable life.

As I grieve feeling alone and far from home, I give gratitude to God that He blessed us and the world with you.

What a beautiful life.

What beautiful soul. Your remarkable life was lived truly as a Sign of God – an Ayah of Allah. I rejoice at the eternal bliss and tranquility that greet you in the Divine Presence of Your Loving Lord. May God color your extraordinary life with values of infinity by His infinite Mercy.

Dearest Mum, may Allah grant you the highest stations in jannat al firdaus, the garden of paradise. Ameen

Your son, Bashir Mundi


Abdul Malik Mujahid
else said om his account on FB :

Just heard from brother Bashir Mundi about the passing away of a great scholar Aisha Lemu in Nigeria. May Allah give her the best.

I had the honor of introducing two of her books about 20 years ago to the US Muslim weekend schools: Islamic Tahdhib and Akhlaq and Islamic ‘Aqidah and Fiqh. Both books are extra-ordinary textbooks for Muslim youth.

Both books were later revised and published by Iqra Foundation in Chicago.

I also promoted her booklet about the Ideal Muslim Husband. It was a unique take.
May Allah bless her and her family and may her book continue to be a source of reward for her.


A Muslim Divide in China

Uyghur Muslims face stricter controls on religion than Hui Muslims.

By: Rukiye Turdush 

File photo of Muslim Uyghurs praying at the Jame Mosque during Ramadan in Hotan in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

China says its laws provide equal religious freedom for Uyghurs and the country’s other main Muslim group, the Hui, but Uyghurs face stricter controls on religious education and worship and how they dress because of Islam’s links to their political identity, analysts say.

Islam flourishes in China’s Ningxia and Gansu provinces, home to many of the country’s 10 million Hui Muslims, where mosque-based schools offer religious teachings to adults and children.

Hui Muslims in other parts of China as well are also allowed to run religious schools.

But in the Xinjiang region in China’s far west, where the mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs form an ethnic group 9 million strong, government policies bar women and anyone under age 18 from attending mosques.

Uyghur parents are forbidden to teach religion to their children at home, and private religious education is subject to harsh crackdowns.

Many Uyghurs believe China is practicing a double standard in its religious policy toward Uyghur and Hui Muslims.

Although the laws on the books were the same, in practice, policies vary for both groups, said Dru Gladney, an anthropologist at Pomona College in California.

“Chinese laws about religious freedom are very clear. But like any other good Chinese law, there is uneven enforcement,” he said.

“Xinjiang has strict religious freedom because the political situation of the region is much different than other regions.”

But officials maintain Uyghurs are not getting the short end of the stick.

The head of the government-sanctioned Islamic Association of Urumqi, in the Xinjiang capital, said this month that China allows equal religious freedom for Uyghurs and Hui Muslims.

“There is no difference in religious policy,” Keram told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“Uyghurs enjoy the same religious freedoms as Hui Muslims do,” he said.

But he refused to comment on crackdowns on Uyghurs’ religious freedom, including harsh sentences for unauthorized Islamic study and police raids on illegal schools in the region.

Crackdowns and police raids

Six teenaged Uyghur boys who were arrested for studying the Quran on their own after school are now serving sentences of 8 to 14 years in jail, a Uyghur farmer in the area who wished to remain anonymous told RFA this month.

The boys, who were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time, had been arrested in April 2010 in Hotan’s Keriye county, and are now being held in jails in Aksu and Yarkand far from their hometowns, he said.

In May this year, an 11-year-old Uyghur boy died under suspicious circumstances in police custody after being detained when police raided his teacher’s home in Korla prefecture where he had been studying the Koran with two other boys when police took him away.

In a separate incident weeks later, a dozen children in Hotan prefecture suffered burns after police using teargas and stormed a religious school where some 50 children were studying under “illegal preachers.”

Aside from restrictions on Islamic education and worship, Uyghurs are also subject to restrictions on traditional Islamic dress.

Chinese officials have denied there were such restrictions, which in theory are prohibited by laws protecting religious freedom.

Earlier this month, a Uyghur member of the Xinjiang delegation to the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s 18th congress in Beijing, Kurex Kanjir, said there is “absolutely no ban” on Uyghurs wearing traditional Islamic dress, according to the Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post.

Political identity

Hui Muslims, on the other hand, are much freer to practice Islam, although Hui Muslims in Ningxia suffered persecution during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Hui Muslims do not suffer the same level of repression as faced by Uyghurs because they have been much more assimilated into Chinese culture, says Uyghur writer Ghulam Osman.

“Hui Muslims are Chinese Muslims, but Uyghurs are not. Uyghurs are of a different race than the Chinese.”

“Hui Muslims have never been a nation-state; they always lived together with the Chinese, because they belong to the same ethnic group as the Chinese,” he said.

The Hui, whose forefathers hundreds of years ago were traders from Central Asia or other places who practiced Islam, live throughout China and, unlike the Uyghurs, many of them speak Chinese as their mother tongue.

The Hui are counted as one of China’s 55 distinct ethnic minorities, but are unique in that they are the only group to be defined solely on the basis of their religion, rather than language or genealogical differences. By definition, China’s Hui minority includes all historically Muslim communities in the country who are not members of other ethnic groups.

“Uyghurs are different; they had their own land and were invaded by China,” Ghulam Osman said, referring to Xinjiang’s past before it came under Chinese control following two short-lived East Turkestan Republics in the 1930s and 1940s.

China, fearing a separatist movement in Xinjiang, represses Uyghurs’ religious freedom because Islam is significant in the survival of their identity, he said.

But if China is worried about an independence movement blossoming among Uyghurs, such a movement would be more likely to be spurred in reaction to repressive religious policies than religion on its own, Gladney said.

“All the Uyghur movements against the Chinese government were caused by frustration that resulted from the heavy-handed repression of the Chinese government in the region, not by radical religious forces,” Gladney said.

But the political role of Islam in allowing Uyghurs to maintain an identity separate from the rest of China should not be underestimated, Ghulam Osman said.

“It is true that all political movements of Uyghurs are caused by the heavy handed policy of China and not by radical religious forces.”

“However, this does not mean religion does not play a significant role in Uyghur survival and Uyghur political movements,” he said.

“Islam and the Uyghur language are deeply embedded in Uyghur identity. They strengthen our racial and historical differences with Han Chinese.”

Reported by Rukiye Turdush for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
From the Source

Why China Is Not Worried About Offending Muslim Allies

By: Rukiye Turdush 

Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak and China’s National Energy Administration Chairman Nur Bekri signed a nuclear energy agreement between the two countries, Beijing, September 2016.

The Chinese government released a New Silk Road project action plan in 2015 to facilitate the achievement of its global ambition. The project aimed to materialize China’s dream of expansion through Central Asia to Europe.

China colonized East Turkistan (which the Chinese government also calls the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) in 1949. The region is located at the major gateway to this “New Silk Road” project and is mainly populated by Turkic-speaking ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs.

To promote the success of the “New Silk Road” project and make it easier to gain access to Muslim countries, China should respect the religious identity of Uyghurs and implement fair policy in the colonized land. Uyghurs and Kazakhs share the religion of the Central Asian nation, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and many other countries that play integral roles in the project. However, China has harshly implemented a destruction policy in the region, locking up several million Muslims in so-called re-education camps that are no different from Nazi-style concentration camps.

According to eye witnesses and countless of media reports, belief in Islam, praying to God, eating halal food, practicing Islamic funeral ceremonies and refusing to marry Han Chinese have all been banned. Moreover, Chinese officials have called Islam a mental disease. The Han-centric nation-building manifestation of China has aggressively moved to abolish Islam in the region. This should offend all Islamic nations. Surprisingly, it does not offend them at all.

Why doesn’t China have to worry about offending its Muslim allies? The reasons could vary. For one, China has mastered its cheating and bullying strategy. For example, through economic war, China’s cheating has cost the United States alone two million jobs since it became a member of the World Trade Organization. In addition, the bullying of Taiwan and building of an artificial island in the South China Sea have manifested the Thick Black Theory (Hou Hei Xue) of China.

After getting away with all of this, China believed that it could also get away with offending its Muslim allies. Alternatively, it may have believed that such a risk was worth taking since East Turkistan has significant strategic importance to China.

The purpose of the “New Silk Road” or “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) is to use China’s economic power and capital export as leverage to shape its main interest in geostrategic targets and to export the dominance of Han Chinese nationalism. China believes that it cannot fulfill these imperialistic goals without achieving total Han nationalist dominance in East Turkistan. Based on this belief, China has banned religion and Uyghur ethnic identity in East Turkistan to eliminate spaces that would allow the influence of other worlds.

Secondly, China has effectively manipulated the conflict between the West and Muslim countries, took the position of guardian over the Muslim countries in exchange for their silence regarding the issue. For example, the Turkish government was previously very supportive of East Turkistan. Back in 2009, President Erdogan criticized China and depicted the Urumqi massacre as a “genocide”. China demanded an official apology for that but never received one. In recent years, however, the adversary relationship between Turkey and the US has pushed Turkey further into the strategic circle of China. On numerous occasions, Turkish President Erdogan was quoted as saying, “Only atheist Satan can be silent in the face injustices”. Yet he now chooses to remain silent in the face of the tremendous injustices the Uyghurs are experiencing.

Furthermore, the financial crisis, the weakening of Western democratic ideology and rise of illiberal democracy in the West have given the green light to China’s genocidal policy against the Uyghurs. In fact, China tested the water before implementing the destruction of the religion and identity of Muslims in the region. Chinese state media produced vast amounts of propaganda material in several languages and circulated them around the world to further their agenda. They tried to illustrate that state oppression was a consequence of separatism and religious extremism or terrorism despite the fact that there was little evidence of organized terrorism, separatism or religious extremism.

Detainees listening to speeches in a re-education camp in Lop County, April, 2017
In 2014, China was successful at convincing Egypt to deport thousands of Uyghur students in exchange for a $40 billion trade deal. Furthermore, China arrested hundreds of ethnic Kazakhs in the region in the absence of any pending charges just to see the reaction of the Kazakh government. China also succeeded in getting the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister, Cavus Ogli, to promise not to allow the Turkish media to publish items on Uyghur human rights. The reactions of these Muslim countries eased China’s worries that it would offend them. As a result, China enhanced its genocidal policy in the region.

China’s multistage and political strategy based on Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” states: “befriend them to get their guard down, then attack their weakest point.” Chinese political strategies have never been based on transparency and honesty. If China is buying these Muslim countries trust to open their door for OBOR project and making them ignore religious and moral obligations, then soon, there will be a day that China can attack their weakest point.

“Rukiye Turdush is an independent human rights activist and writer based in Toronto.”

Uyghur Muslims: Victims of the World’s Largest Ethnic Cleansing

Uyghur Muslims: Victims of the World’s Largest Ethnic Cleansing.


 (Pic via Radio Free Asia)

China is carrying out a systematic campaign to ethnically cleanse up to 15 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, or rather what was East Turkistan until China began occupying and colonizing the region in 1949.

Moreover, China is sparing no effort to eradicate any memory or proof of Uyghur Muslim life. It is truly the stuff of dystopian nightmares, or a reenactment of the worst genocides carried out in the previous century. The handful of personal accounts that trickle out from behind China’s total control of the Internet and the media invoke memories of the Communist state’s darkest days — the period of the “Cultural revolution,” when religious people and sites were wiped from the country’s landscape.
For much of the 1970s and 80s, however, an increasingly open China softened its stance towards its religious and ethnic minorities, but this relative “openness” provided the space for minorities to express their economic, political, and religious grievances. When Uyghur Muslims renewed calls for a return to their independence, a status they enjoyed briefly as a sovereign state in the 1940, then known as the East Turkistan Republic, and as former neighboring Soviet states realized independence, China, fearing a growing separatist movement on its western frontier, began its crackdown on Xinjiang in the late 1990s.
China’s crackdown turned increasingly vicious when the United States declared its “War on Terrorism” in 2001, with China seizing the opportunity to erroneously portray Uyghur Muslims as one-part of the global Islamic insurgency, going so far to tie Uyghur nationalist dreams with the goals of the terror group al-Qaeda. In doing so, China gambled that it could pretty much do whatever it pleased to Uyghur Muslims, so long as it could dupe Western states into believing it, too, was at war with “radical Islam.” It’s the exact same kind of manipulative ploy successfully deployed by Israel, insofar as the manner the Jewish state mischievously conflates the Palestinian liberation struggle with “Islamic terrorism,” so it’s not like China needed to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
What began as a crackdown, however, has morphed into arguably the world’s largest state sponsored campaign of ethnic cleansing.
China has banned any form of expression of Islam in East Turkistan, forcing Uyghur Muslims to publicly denounce their faith and swear allegiance to the Communist state. Recently I posted on Twitter a video of Chinese authorities informing a group of Uyghur Muslims that it is now illegal for them to greet one another with the Islamic greeting, “Assalamu Alaykum.”
Islamic texts are also banned, including the Quran, as are beards that appear “abnormal,” i.e. too Muslim-y. Last year, China published a document titled, “Naming Rules for Ethnic Minorities,” which prohibits names associated with Islam, including Medina, Islam, Imam, Medina, Hajj, and others.
“In setting limits on the naming of Uyghurs, the Chinese government is in fact engaging in political persecution under another guise,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress group, told Radio Free Asia. “They are afraid that people with such names will become alienated from Chinese policies in the region.”
These are just a sample of a new tranche of restrictive and discriminatory measures that have come into force for those living in the region. Uyghur Muslims are now required by the government to have tracking devices installed on their cars and mobile phones.
But baby names, beards, and tracking devices are the least of problems faced by Uyghur Muslims in the face of brutal Chinese oppression, however. Torture, imprisonment, state sanctioned murder and forced disappearances have become the new reality in the Xinjiang area.
According to reports from human rights watchers, China has ordered its officials in Xinjiang to send almost half of its population to “re-education camps,” otherwise known as forced labor and indoctrination camps, the kind long associated with North Korea.
“We target people who are religious…for example, those who grow beards despite being young,” one Chinese government officer admitted in a report.
When I spoke to Abdugheni Thabit, a Uyghur Muslim journalist who now resides in The Netherlands, he told me that up to 1 million of his people are now in what he calls “prison camps.” Steven Zhang, a Hui Muslim who now lives in Houston, Texas, and who is suing the Chinese government for the murder of his Uyghur Muslim wife, described Thabit’s figure as “very conservative,” claiming, “Within the last 5 years at least 5 million Uyghurs were detained or secretly disappeared.”
Forced disappearances have become a notable and alarming trend in the past year or two. According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Chinese security forces have forcibly disappeared at least 26 journalists, writers, bloggers, and human rights activists alone.
“Victims are often violently abducted, denied their right to due legal process and contact with loved ones or lawyers, and are at high risk of torture while in custody,” observes The Uyghur American Association.
All of which is happening out of the gaze of the international community, thanks largely to China’s control of the Internet and social media. Thabit told me he hadn’t heard from his Uyghur Muslim family in East Turkistan since 2009 as China controls all form of communication coming out of the area. All he knows is they were still alive in 2014, the year his sister, who lives in Washington DC, visited. Again, parallels to North Korea come to mind.
The situation in Xinjiang has “further deteriorated,” according to a statement issued by the US Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) earlier this month.
“Civilians are detained without cause, ‘political education’ camps proliferate, and a vast surveillance apparatus invades every aspect of daily life. These rights violations are deeply troubling and risk serving as a catalyst for radicalization,” said CECC chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Adding to the woes of Uygur Muslims is the absence of a friend anywhere in the international system. Traditional allies Turkey and Pakistan have been brought into China’s sphere of economic influence, and wealthy Gulf Arab states are too preoccupied with Iran, Qatar, or both.
If history is a guide, and should the existential woes of the Uyghur Muslims continue to fall on the disinterested ears of the international community, then one can be sure that where Chinese “re-education” and “assimilation” programs fail, mass extermination will likely follow.

Is China Embellishing its economy through despotism?

The Land of Dragon, propaganda and ulterior motives i.e. China has always been a part of discussions among countries across the globe. Some of these nations are rapidly becoming its ‘economical’ partners and few of them like USA, India,Japan and nowadays Australia (after knowing that Beijing is trying to influence their politicians) are speaking against it. The others are still deciding, Policies of Trump has shook their faith in USA but they do not trust Xi Jinping either. Speculations are rife that China is on the verge of becoming a Global force able to change the world order. Though, is this road made by supporting Dictorians and using the blood of innocents? To know the answer, we first need to peek inside China itself. Let’s start with its Achilles’ heel, East Turkestan.

There is a famous Chinese proverb, A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections. East Turkestan is just that for PRC,an Imperfect Diamond. It was occupied by them in October 1949.This realm is home to Millions of Uyghurs who are a Turkic ethnic group. Alas, its name was changed to Xinjiang, means new territory. Uyghurs never liked the communist regime and after their nation’s accession. There was nothing common between both the regions. From Turkish traditions to their belief in Quran. From the songs they sung to the pictures they painted. From their food to the clothes they wore. Even their Names, language and games were different from that of Chinese. One can understand these disparities by a single fact that Uyghurs have a religion while China believes in atheism.

The above Dissimilarities were always dealt in a harsh manner. The PRC put unthinkable restrictions on Uyghur community. No one was allowed to practice Islam or study Quran. Their farmlands and ancestral homes were being snatched away. The influential leaders, nationalist scholars and artists were all being hanged to death. People even came out on streets to save East Turkestan but they were butchered by military. Basically, anyone who uttered a single word against China was behind the bar. Then came the cultural revolution by Mao, only the mention of this incident and one can recall all the horrors of that time. During this incident too, Uyghurs remained the main targets of Maoists. In spite of being poles apart and its unlikeliness for the people, China occupied East Turkestan.

Till this day, Uyghurs are suffering in the hands of communist regime as it desperately tries to hold on this territory but Why????

At present, East Turkestan is the largest Chinese occupied division and the eighth largest country subdivision in the world, spanning over 1.6 million km2.. Not only this,the most well-known route of the historical Silk Road ran through the territory from the east to its northwestern border. In recent decades, abundant oil and mineral reserves have been found here, and it is the largest natural gas-producing region for Beijing. Traditionally an agricultural region, East Turkestan also has large deposits of minerals and oil including abundant reserves of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. 

Ripping off the Uyghur land of its resources,the oil and gas extraction industry in Aksu and Karamay is booming, with the West–East Gas Pipeline connecting to Shanghai. Over a fifth of China’s coal, natural gas and oil resources came due to the invasion of East Turkestan. And today it plays a vital role in Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. He is leaving no stone unturned to exploit Uyghurs and suppress their voice of freedom.

Though it is not only the people of East Turkestan who are being punished for their natural wealth. If we take a look at the countries who think China as their ally, we will find that those Governments are themselves wolves in sheep’s clothing. A large number of investments made by Beijing have been in conflicted zones with an authoritarian Government. Countries like Maldives,Philippines, Cambodia, parts of Africa, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc. have one thing in common and that is lack of freedom. The common people in these countries are already suffering and by filling the pockets of corrupt politicians, China is making sure that the situation remains the same.

This attitude of a wannabe super power is due to one reason, Economy. China wants to increase and expand its economy by Hook or crook.”

The economic interests of Beijing has always overshadowed the Humanitarian issues all over the world and recent Rohingya crisis is a testimony to this fact. China’s reaction to it has uncovered its true intentions. Millions of Rohingyas were left without homes, many died and children were orphaned but PRCsupported the Myanmar Government. All of this because of a pipeline which will let Beijing acquire 200,000 barrels of crude a day. It is no coincidence that the areas of the pipeline passing through Myanmar’sRakhine states includes ethnic cleansing ofthe Rohingya. 

Same is the case in other countries. Beijing’s giant state corporations have invested billions of dollars in dams, oilfields and mines to dominate theCambodian investment landscape. In Maldives, it has given Huge loans to the corrupt PPM Government and investing in infrastructure projects like Hulhumale Housing schemes, bridges etc. It has influenced the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte so well that he is supporting Xi Jinpingin claiming most of the South China Sea. China has also set up funds with the UAE and Qatar worth a total $20 billion to invest in conventional energy. It extended its contracts to buy oil and half of Beijing’s oil imports originate from the Middle East. The Governments of these countries are either too weak or draconian in nature.

According to Xi Jinping or any Dragon leader it isn’t worth one’s while if millions of people are dying or living in horrible condition. They will keep ignoring Rohingya Genocide, imprisonment of Human Rights activists and journalists, murders of politicians, bloggers being flogged 100 times or Millions forced to step on Land Mines until they hinder China’s growth. They will keep flourishing an economy on the cost of Human lives and pave its way amid corpses. Its been more than 60 years since Uyghurs are suffering and now the Dragon is trapping other countries too.

According to Mao Zedong, Political power grew out of the barrel of the gun. Following his leader, Xi Jinping is growing Economic power too from that same barrel of gun.

Originally posted on Turkistan Times

Silent Prayer: The Chinese State’s Siege on Uyghur Ways of Worship

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Alice Su

The tomb of the Muslim saint Imam Asim lies in China’s Taklamakan Desert, at the end of a long walkway lined with poplar trees. An elevated mud structure, the shrine would easily be camouflaged by the sand if not for the flags, rams’ skulls and strips of cloth decorating it. It is located near the town of Hotan, in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, in the country’s northwest— the homeland of the Turkic-speaking Uyghur Muslim community. For centuries, Uyghur Sufis would journey through the desert between shrines such as this one, stopping at each to recite poems celebrating religious heroes.

“Chinese people don’t come here,” said Tudi Mohammad, a 50-year-old sheikh who is the shrine’s guardian. “It’s not a tourist site.”

Mohammad has lived near the shrine for most of his life; his father was also its guardian. He remembered how thousands of people would visit the shrine in May, when locals commemorated the anniversary of the saint’s death. But now, he said, the government has prohibited that ceremony, and Uyghurs come to the tomb in tens, at most. Before he could elaborate, a police car arrived at the shrine. Several personnel entered the building with large batons in hand, demanding that we leave.

Mohammad turned around and returned to his room near the shrine’s entrance, glancing pointedly at a security camera hanging above his door.
Xinjiang is one of China’s most politically tense regions, and the government maintains a heavy security presence here in the name of countering extremism and separatism. In June, China’s State Council Information Office released a white paper praising what it claimed were unprecedented levels of religious freedom for Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Its claims ring true at some level: select religious and cultural sites—including some state-constructed ones—are open and functioning. Others, however, such as the shrine of Imam Asim, are heavily policed. Some are even closed completely; the Orda Padishahim shrine, about 60 kilometres from the city of Kashgar, which used to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually, has been shut for a decade. When I told locals I hoped to visit the shrine, they said that doing so was illegal, and warned that I would be stopped by the police.

The crackdown on Uyghur places of worship is part of a larger programme of persecution of the minority group by the Chinese state. Uyghurs in schools or government offices are forbidden from wearing headscarves or fasting during Ramadan. Those under 18 years of age cannot enter mosques, young men cannot grow beards, and no one can wear clothing marked with a crescent moon. While these restrictions have existed for decades, their enforcement has intensified since 2009, after Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, was wracked by violent ethnic riots. In the wake of such repression, fear, militancy and ethnic strife have grown in Xinjiang.

When I visited the region in June, Ramadan celebrations were muted. Even in the mostly Uyghur city of Yarkand, the streets were nearly empty in the evenings and only one restaurant was open for iftar. Uyghur families filled the tables to share meals of carrot, raisin and lamb pilaf, pulled noodles in beef stew, yogurt pitchers and plates of fruit.

“It’s too quiet,” one Uyghur, a driver in his mid twenties, told me. He added that “the last few years have been bad,” and that before then, people would have been spilling out into the streets to break their fasts, but now they weren’t even leaving their houses. “The economy is down, but also, people are afraid.”

During Ramadan in 2014, ethnic riots broke out in Yarkand. According to Chinese state sources, at least 96 people were killed and 215 arrested when separatists attacked a police station. Local authorities’ discovery of suspicious explosives had prompted an extremist rampage, the state narrative went, as knife-wielding gangs terrorised the streets, burning cars, killing civilians and targeting government offices. In contrast, the US-sponsored Radio Free Asia reported that Chinese security forces massacred at least 2,000 Uyghurs after a violent riot over the extrajudicial killing of a Uyghur family that had disputed the headscarf restrictions.

Even after two years, the Uyghurs I met in Yarkand refused to tell me what had happened. But one Kashgar resident—a woman of the nationally dominant Han ethnicity—said that many more Uyghurs had been killed than the state sources acknowledged. “So many Han people left Yarkand after that,” she said. “They’re afraid of southern Xinjiang.” Even in Kashgar, she continued, clashes between Uyghurs and security forces are regular but usually go unreported. “The government wants people to settle here, so they want Xinjiang to seem safe. But you never know what will happen.”

Since the Urumqi riots, some Uyghurs have escalated their resistance tactics to the point of militancy. In 2013, a radical Uyghur Islamist group claimed responsibility for a car attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed five people. In 2014, hundreds of civilians were killed or injured over the course of several attacks, including a mass stabbing in Kunming and a bombing at a street market in Urumqi. In September 2015, knife-wielding attackers killed at least 50 civilians—mostly Han—at a coal mine in Aksu. Some radicals have pointed to state violence as a reason for their militancy. The May 2016 issue of the magazine of the Turkestan Islamic Party, which fights for the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Xinjiang, carried headlines that included “Crimes of the Chinese Communist Regime,” and “China has adopted controversial laws on the fight against terrorism.”

The state has adopted heavy-handed measures to stem such militancy. In November 2014, the prominent Uyghur intellectual Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of separatism, after he criticised Chinese policies in Xinjiang. In November 2015, Chinese security forces killed 28 Uyghurs who they claimed were criminals responsible for the Aksu attack. But Radio Free Asia again disputed this, saying that those killed included innocent women and children.

In everyday life, this crackdown can take the form of excessive police scrutiny. At a night market in Hotan, I saw Uyghurs and Han Chinese socialising, mostly speaking in Mandarin and eating each other’s versions of kebabs, dumplings and glutinous rice desserts. Yet police standing at the market entrance routinely searched passing Uyghurs, checking their IDs and mobile phones, all the while waving Han individuals through. One Uyghur policeman apologised to a Uyghur man as he was searched. “This is just policy,” he said. “We have to fill a quota of people that we’ve checked every day.” At least ten checkpoints exist on the 500-kilometre road between Hotan and Kashgar, where Uyghur travellers are thoroughly searched, and some forced to turn back.

This strict policing may not even be in the interest of the Chinese state. Rian Thum, a scholar who recently published a book on Uyghur pilgrimages in southern Xinjiang, noted that the forms of Islam practised in many of the community’s shrines have long been peaceful alternatives to more extremist ideologies. “Many people involved in nationalist movements were very anti-shrine,” Thum told me over the phone. “The reformist or even fundamentalist approaches to Islam saw shrine veneration as a type of shirk—associating other deities with God.” Ironically, suppressing such types of Islam may only make Uyghurs more susceptible to calls for violent resistance.

In Yarkand’s old-town area, I visited a state-designated tourist site: the mausoleum of Ammanishahan, a sixteenth-century queen famous for composing muqam—a type of traditional Uyghur opera. At the entrance, a sign read: “Great Mistress ad Poetress of Mukam Music: Ammanishahan’s Mausoleum,” in English, with adjacent translations in Mandarin and Uyghur. The mausoleum sat beside a garden filled with engraved white tombs. The Chinese government had spent 420,000 renminbi in 1993 to restore this site, an informational sign read. Ammanishahan’s muqams are “a jewel in the brilliant treasure chest of Chinese ethnic culture,” another added. One pair of Han tourists walked around the otherwise empty site, their 20-renminbi entrance tickets in hand.

But Uyghur visitors to Yarkand flock instead to the public Muslim cemetery, several minutes’ walk away from the mausoleum. There, I saw a stream of Uyghurs trickling in and out of the Chiltenmalik shrine, a towering brick structure housing the tombs of seven holy men. A sheikh sat cross-legged at the entrance, his eyes closed. When I asked my Uyghur guide whether Han tourists ever visited this site, he laughed. “No. This cemetery is a home for the homeless,” he said, pointing to a beggar sleeping inside an abandoned structure, and elderly Uyghurs panhandling amid rows of mud graves. He brought me to another tomb, several feet away from the shrine, its façade adorned with fading, centuries-old blue tiles. Its gate was padlocked, letting in only a sliver of light to reveal Arabic inscriptions on the walls. “The authorities closed this for security reasons, saying the building was too old and might injure visitors,” the guide said. “But no one has come to fix or open it for years.”

Source: http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/silent-prayer-chinese-states-siege-uyghur-ways-worship