When looking at the global oppression of Muslims in the modern world, China is a key country to study. The oppression of Muslims is not only historical, but is in full force today.
History of Muslims in China:
Islam was first introduced to Central Asia in the 8th Century. There are 10 ethnic groups in China that are predominantly Muslim: Hui, Uyghur, Kazak, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek , Bonan, and Tatar.
Various policies have been enacted from integration to oppression of Muslims in China. In Imperial China, everybody other than the Han Chinese were considered barbaric. Despite Muslims being viewed as being barbaric, Muslim support and loyalty was needed to expand, therefore policies were developed for integration.
How Muslims were treated by the Russians is of significance, as the Chinese attempted to copy the Russian attitude towards Muslims.
1644 – 1911: A policy of divide and rule was adopted and military force was employed to ‘control’ Muslims.
At the same time, Russians were aiming to oust Muslim education through ‘Russianization’ and to modify the application of the Sharia; this was done by controlling the construction of Mosques and Madrassas.
This lead to Pan Islamic and Pan Turk Movements , in order to achieve organised and political movements; these peaked in WW1. This then lead to the massacre of Muslims. Krygs and Kazaksw were forced in to China. Here, they suffered oppression of public practice of faith, therefore Muslims religious life was forced underground. This obviously caused ethnic tensions and it became harder to practice religious tradition.
Both Russia and China took little notice of Muslims strong sense of political identity, as they had a policy of forced atheism. So, anti - Muslim attacks were launched in both countries. Muslim nationalist leaders, ulema and sheikhs were exterminated in labour camps.
1918-20: Russian Civil War: Official spheres of Muslims life were crushed: Mosques destroyed, Arabic alphabet replaced by Latin and land belonging to Muslims was nationalised.
Islam was made legal again when the Red Army fought Germany, in order to prevent further destabilisation.
China followed Russia’s example, and Muslims were rewarded for their support in the revolution. However, non - Chinese Muslims were antagonised for a sense of nationalism.
Mao’s early support of equality between minorities and Han Chinese attracted Turkic Muslims to join Communist forces. Muslims were promised protection of religious freedom in return for their known fighting skills.
So basically, there was always an inconsistency in policies towards Islam and Muslims, which was linked to how stable the government was at the time. Stringer dynasties (Tang and Yuan) allowed freedom. Unstable governments chose to oppress for fear of reprisal.
Late 19th century: Quing struggled to control Muslims.
1944: A rebellion by Muslims.
1946: Rebellion put down by Russians.
East Turkistan Republic was established. Muslims were then shown respect again; religious and ceremonial practices were permitted.
1953: Islamic Association established.
1955: Institute of Islamic theology established.
1956: Hundered Flowers Campaign for Thought reform (encouragement of criticism of Communist policy).
1957: Polices again changed to contain Muslim separatist tendencies. Anti - Muslim campaigns were again launched. There was a large scale relocation programme, in order to dilute ethnic composition of Muslim areas. It was then realised that diplomatic support was being jeopardised. Anti -Muslim action was reversed again, to the extent that people were sent for pilgrimage and interaction with foreign countries was encouraged.
1959: There was a great famine. At the same time Muslims were sent to Al- Aharuni in Egypt and brought back literature that funded the Muslim brotherhood ideology- roots of self preservation laid down.
1966-67: Cultural revolution took place. Mao’s red guards ended Muslim privileges and set about burning Mosques, killing Imams, persecuting leaders, dispersing families and prohibiting Koranic study.
1967: Mao’s death led to a slight improvement.
Uyghurs are ethnic Turkic, Muslim people and are the most oppressed Muslim group in China.
Since 1965, 35 million Uighurs have been martyred in East Turkistan. Thousands continue to be martyred and imprisoned. The Han Chinese are being moved in to Uyghur areas to dilute their population, while taking their homes and jobs. There are regular cases of riots, with Uygurs being harmed and killed, with public executions without legal justification. A key incident was in July 2009, when 10,000 Uygur women disappeared in the early hours and to date their whereabouts is not known.
Uyghurs are also only allowed a state approved version of the Quran. Mosques are strictly are controlled. Those working in state sectors aren’t allowed hijabs or to keep beards. Muslims are forced to eat during Ramadan. They are only allowed to go to Hajj and Umrah, through government run tours- which are virtually unaffordable for the average person.
There are currently about 22 Uyghurs held In Guantanamo Bay, in 2003 Colin Powell said that they would not be released and sent back home, due to fear of them being tortured and executed there.
While China is working its way towards becoming a superpower, its list of basic human rights violations is increasing.
Links and further reading:
http://docs.uyghuramerican.org/UNPO Press Release - Majority of China's Muslims Still Cannot Make it to Mecca.pdf