Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

NDONESIA

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

by Mathias Hariyadi

The bishop of Padang warns against the systematic and organised spread of radical Islamic ideology. Political authorities are criticised for failing to stop the wave of violence. In the meantime, police is out in force to prevent anti-Christian violence over the Christmas period.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Mathinus D Situmorang, president of the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s (KWI), warned Indonesian political elites on a potentially serious threat to the national interest. The prelate, who is the bishop of Padang (Western Sumatra), delivered his word of caution during the admission ceremony for new members of the Indonesian Catholic University Student Association (PMKRI). In his address, he criticised the state for its powerlessness in the face of dozens of attacks carried out by Islamic fundamentalist groups against churches and Christians. 

“In the past, Indonesia was occupied and colonised by foreign rulers. However, the present situation is not much better even if we are ruled by fellow Indonesian citizens,” the bishop said. Here, he was referring to recent attacks carried out by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), which stormed two places of worship in Rancaekek, Bandung Regency (West Java), forcing their closure. More broadly, he is deeply concerned that religious intolerance is spreading and taking rook among ordinary people. Muslim extremists, he explained, had no legal right to interfere with the aforementioned places of worship even if they did not have a building permit. What is more, the situation is getting worse because law enforcement is not stopping the Islamists, and it is not clear why.

Nonetheless, for the prelate, “A spirit of intolerance is finding fertile ground because of political interests”. In Parung, Bogor Regency, local authorities issued a ban against the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church to prevent Christmas celebrations. 

“If some Christian communities in Indonesia hold religious ceremonies in the streets or in the open, it is out of necessity because they have been unable to secure a building permit for their place of worship, and this, for years,” Bishop Situmorang explained.

“If the [central] government and local authorities are stopped by every extremist Muslim group, the situation will get worse and the state’s sovereignty will be given away to illegal groups that will carry out actions against the law,” he lamented.

Still, the 3,000 parishioners who belong to the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church will be able to celebrate Christmas at a local nuns’ compound. Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who is Catholic, rejected the accusation, saying that any violent act would be punished. Mgr Situmorang is not so sure. For him, the state is powerless and incapable of dealing with the problem. Yet, he is still “proud to belong to a multicultural society, where the spirit of intolerance is restrained”. 

In the meantime, hours before the start of Christmas services, the country has been placed under tight security with thousands of police deployed near churches, 8,000 in Jakarta alone. In Bali, police has secured every strategic site, including churches.

A study by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace warns that whilst most violent actions are carried out by the infamous FPI, less noticeable actions by other radical Muslim groups are equally worrisome, especially since they are increasingly supported by ordinary people and are attracting even liberal groups and moderate clerics.

There are also rumours that radical elements have infiltrated the moderate Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), the country’s most important organisation of Muslim clerics, which wields the greatest influence in moral and political terms. According to the Setara report, beside the FPI, other important violent Islamist groups are the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI).

The same study noted that in “2005, FUI’s chief Al Khaththath [. . .] made it to the MUI’s board of directors,” and at the organisation’s annual meeting that year, he was among those who “actively lobbied the MUI to issue an edict forbidding the practice of liberal Islam”

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Freedom of Religion

Christians and Moslem can not live together in harmony. Altough, uur country accept the principle “freedom of religion”, but the freedom is always limited by the mayority of moslem population.

I think that moslems and christians can not live together in harmony forever except all people become Mohammedan followers.

Is it true that a religion bring peace to the world?

One of story about this disharmony, here it is, I quoted from Kompas.com newspaper.

MUI: Christmas Decor in Indonesia ‘Excessive’

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia’s top Islamic body said Thursday that Christmas decorations in malls, amusement centers and public places were “excessive and provocative“ in the Muslim-majority country.

Christmas ornamentation had been put up in an “excessive and provocative way,“ said Muhyidin Junaedi, one of the chairmen of the Indonesia Ulema Council, or MUI.

“It should be done in a proportional manner as Muslims are the majority here, otherwise it will hurt their feelings,“ he said.

He said the MUI issued a recommendation urging mall and recreation center managers to act proportionally in decorating their premises.

“We received complaints from a number of malls’ employees who are forced to wear Santa Claus costumes, which are against their faith. Such things should not have happened,“ he said.

“We need to restrain Muslims from joining the festivities,“ Junaedi said.He said the body had no plan to turn the recommendation, made on Tuesday, into an Islamic edict.  Nearly 90% of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslims. ​

Editor: Jimmy Hitipeuw ​Source : AFP ​

Islamism versus Islam according to Professor Kara

http://www.majalla. com/en/interview /article86374. ece

Islamism Versus Islam
An Interview with Professor Ismail Kara

Turkish Islamists women attend 26 November 2006 in Istanbul a rally against the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

By Nicholas Birch

Published: Sunday 18 July 2010 Updated: Sunday 18 July 2010

In this interview with The Majalla, Ismail Kara, professor of Turkish intellectual history, speaks about Islam’s relationship with modernity and the state. Professor Kara discusses, among other things, political Islamism and its origins, and the increasing visibility of Islam in Turkey.

Born in 1955 in the north-eastern Turkish province of Rize, the son of a village religious teacher, Ismail Kara is professor of Turkish intellectual history at the Marmara University Theology Faculty in Istanbul. An editor at Dergah Yayinlari, one of Turkey’s most respected publishing houses, Kara is the author of 14 books, including Islamist Thought in Turkey, On Philosophical Language and, more recently, The Issue of Islam in Republican Turkey. Professor Kara spoke with The Majalla in his office at Marmara University, located on the Asia side of Istanbul.

Istanbul, 15 June 2010

The Majalla: In the West, Islamism tends to be understood as political Islamism. How do you define it?

To a certain extent, Islamism can be seen as the antithesis of traditional Islam, or popular Islam. From the start, back in the very early 19th century, it has been a movement of intellectuals, the product largely of people who had a western-style education. In effect, it set out to find answers to the question “what sort of a relation should Islam build with modernity.” That was its starting point.

Q: What were the main contradictions early Islamists saw between Islam and modernity?

Here, I think there is an issue that European scholars have perhaps not sufficiently understood. The idea of laïcité-a state without religion-is quite literally incomprehensible to traditional Muslims. Among Turks particularly, the idea of the state is infused with what you might call a religious or spiritual meaning.

Q: How is that “spiritual” meaning expressed?

One of the expressions you find very frequently in the communications of Ottoman bureaucrats is din u devlet: in other words “religion and state.” The two are inseparable. Among Ottoman intellectuals, meanwhile, one of the most common expressions for the same thing is din asil, devlet fer’idir: “religion is the foundation, the state one of its parts.” These are ideas that were shared by ordinary people, and still are.

Q: So Islamism played a sort of bridging role, then?

In a sense, yes. Islamism started because modernization movements imported from the West proved unable to provide a religious legitimization for change. It is what made modernization of the Muslim world possible, because popular conceptions of Islam were not compatible with modernity. It also had a secular character.

Q: In what way?

Let me give you a concrete example. In the 1970s, one of the most popular slogans of radical Turkish Islamists was “the Koran is our constitution. ” The slogan is a hybrid. Few words are more important to Muslims than the Koran. The word constitution is a key concept of modern, secular political thought.

Q: Can you give any other examples?

Think about that most Republican of concepts-milli hakimiyet-national sovereignty. It is a concept borrowed, again, from secular western political thought. But the word millet has a double meaning: It means nation, but it also means religious community. When a modern Turk says national sovereignty, the phrase contains both those meanings. Modernization in the Muslim world has been conceptualized in religious terms. That is perhaps the main reason why Islam has become more visible the more “modern” Muslim countries become.

Q: It would be wrong to see the increasing visibility of Islam in Turkey merely as a delayed response to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s radical secularizing reforms, then?

Yes. It is a fundamental attribute of the whole modernization process in the Muslim world as a whole. Furthermore, I would question the description of the Republic as radically secular. It is true that it represented a serious break with earlier reform movements, particularly after 1924 [when the Caliphate was abolished and traditional religious schools and dervish lodges were closed]. But it also shared some similarities with Islamist thought.

Q: What sort of similarities?

Islamism is about trying to pull Muslims towards an interpretation of Islam in step with the modern world, open to modern ideas. It does that by going back to the sources, trying to excavate what it sees as an “unadulterated” interpretation of Islam. To a degree, Republican ideology has tried to do something similar. It opposed popular Islam, which it saw as backward and superstitious. Set up immediately after the abolition of the Caliphate, the Diyanet [the state department in charge of religious affairs] has always advanced an interpretation of Islam which emphasizes the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet.

Q: Are you talking about the Republican authorities’ emphasis on Islam as a “religion of reason and science?”

That is part of it, but the real issue here is that, in the eyes of Islamist modernizers, the negative conditions of the Muslim world are not the result of Islam itself but of the fact that contemporary Muslims have misunderstood Islam’s teachings. They blame the accumulated traditions and history of the Islamic world for its backwardness. In essence, their call for a return to the sources means pulling Islam out of its history altogether.

Q: You are an outspoken critic of the Islamist movement. Is this why you criticize it?

What differentiates me from Turkey’s Islamists is that I am interested in the internal dynamics of change and they are not. Ideologically, they are internationalist, to use a Marxist concept. They defend a vision of Islam which has its roots outside Turkey.

Q: You are talking now about the radical political Islamists influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, I assume?

I am talking about them, but I am also talking about an attitude shared by many of the products of Turkey’s state-controlled religious education and many educated members of religious orders.

Q: When did this view arrive in Turkey?

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood began to radicalize immediately after the Second World War. Egypt was closer to the Soviet Union than the West, as you know, and the Muslim Brotherhood borrowed concepts from Marxism, became more rebellious, even revolutionary. Turkey had meanwhile allied itself with the United States. In the 1940s, the new radical rhetoric of the Egyptian Brotherhood had no equivalent here. It only began to grow in Turkey after the 1960 coup.

Q: Radical Islam contained an implicit criticism of the traditional idea of the state as defender of the faith, din u devlet. Is that why it took so long to put down roots in Turkey?

In part, yes. But it is also, as I implied before, because the Islamist vision of Islam clashed with the Islam practiced by many Turkish Muslims. Religious brotherhoods [tarikat] are powerful in Turkey. Radicals see them as the worst form of blasphemy. As far as they are concerned, the attachment a follower of one of these brotherhoods feels for his sheikh is idolatry.

Q: Are you saying religious brotherhoods are closer to popular Islam than the Islamists?

In terms of their structure and their rituals, yes. This is perfectly comprehensible. These are movements that address themselves to the masses. They are not particularly open to exceptional ideas. They seek a homogeneous style of person, a vision of the world. And that brings them closer to the views of your average Turkish Muslim.

Q: The most powerful Muslim group in Turkey today is the Fethullah Gulen Movement, a conservative group opposed to political Islam. Is its popularity a sign that radical Islamism was a blip, that Turkey is settling back into its traditional, conservative ways?

Political Islam was a product of a period when ideologies were everything. It grew after the 1960 coup, along with the other ideological movements of the time, socialism and right-wing nationalism. After 12 September 1980 [Turkey’s third military intervention] , they fell together. But today’s conservatives are not the same as the conservatives before 1960. Indeed, it is questionable whether they are conservative at all. Look at the AKP government. It calls itself a “conservative democratic” party. It is a good slogan. But the party behaves as though there isn’t very much in need of conserving at all.

Q: More radical Islamists criticize the AKP for having “taken its [Islamist] shirt off” and taken on a stance indistinguishable from liberalism. Is that your criticism?

I am making a broader point. Since 1980, the ideological heart of all the major political movements in Turkey has been emptied out-the left, Islamism, Kemalism. The current clash between the AKP government and secularists is an argument over bones. What worries me is that seems to me that a country needs to have an idea, an identity, if it is to carry itself forward. That requires reflection, self-criticism. I see neither.

Q: So what needs to be done, in your opinion?

A recent article I wrote was entitled “remembering what we have forgotten.” Turkey is a country whose language has changed so fast that the speeches of the man who founded it are now understood with difficulty by the younger generation. Ottoman Turkish, because the Republic introduced the Latin alphabet, is a foreign country. What is needed is a conscious effort to recuperate the past. You can only know where you are going if you know where you come from. Otherwise all you can do is to move in the direction the international or national wind is blowing.

Q: Every religious brotherhood has a silsile, a kind of family tree going right back to the time of the Prophet. Is this the sort of unbroken chain you are referring to when you talk about recuperating the past?

Sufism is an important aspect of this recuperation of the past, yes, but it is not enough. The silsile is a concept you find in religious schools too from the 12th century onwards. There is a concept of icazet starting with you and going all the way back to the Prophet himself. The point I am making is that Islamists’ criticisms of Sufism and the culture of the religious schools shares the same logic. Both are a critique of Islamic history. Early Islamists believed, wrongly in my opinion, that the traditional Islamic world they had grown up in was incapable of building a new world, and they made a deliberate decision to cut themselves off from this web of connections and obligations. When you do this, the only thing left is you and the sources. And you can get them to talk as much as you like.

Interview conducted by Nicholas Birch – Worked as a freelance reporter in Turkey for eight years. His work has appeared in a broad range of publications, including Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London.

Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

Manufacturing Consent For The “War On Terror”

Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

By Julio Godoy

August 20, 2009 — BERLIN, Aug 20 ( IPS) – It was announced as a terror plot busted. German police had captured three young Muslim men in the small village Medebach-Oberschled or, some 450 km southwest of Berlin Sep. 4 in 2007. The police declared they had seized 730 kilograms of hydrogen peroxide, enough to make 550 kg of explosives.

The three men, and a fourth, who was captured a year later in Turkey, wanted to bomb U.S. military and other facilities in Germany, and to kill “as many U.S. soldiers as possible,” one of the accused later confessed.

The four men told court their plans were in retaliation against the U.S. war on ‘Islamic terrorism’, especially the abuse of hundreds of Muslims detained at Guantanamo prison. German authorities and the media dubbed the four men ‘the Sauerland group’, in reference to the region where they were captured.

The Sauerland group were declared to be members of the Islamic Jihad Union, an alleged terrorist organisation based in Uzbekistan.

Almost two years later, the case is before the higher regional court in Duesseldorf, some 460 km southwest of Berlin, and should come to a close early 2010.

But now, the case has ceased to be “the serious terrorist threat” it was called. It is now a mysterious puzzle of secret service games, prosecutors’ alarmism spread by the media, and basic failures of justice.

The supposedly dangerous group members have emerged as no more than some muddle-heads. They had no links whatsoever to international Islamic terror groups.

“No Islamic chief villain…in Pakistan or somewhere else influenced the group,” says Hans Leyendecker, one of Germany’s top investigative journalists. “Its members are dumb, narrow-minded young men who hate the U.S.”

Moreover, the fifth member of the group, yet to be captured, has been described as a Turkish national known only as Mevlut K. He now appears as an informer of the Turkish national intelligence organisation (MIT, after its Turkish name). He was the key figure in the plot, according to confessions by other members of the Sauerland group.

“Without Mevlut, we would not have been able to go as far with the preparations as we did,” Attila Selek, one of the accused, told the court. ‘K’ had procured 26 fuses for the bombs the group was supposed to make, Selek said. Only, the fuses were useless. German police investigations showed that all but two were too humid to work.

Fritz Gelowicz, another member of the terrorist group, said the four men were informed of K’s links with the MIT. “We knew that Mevlut had links with several secret services,” Gelowicz told the court. “We though that these links were good for us.”

K apparently did not hide his links to the Turkish secret service. On at least one occasion K told the group they were being monitored by the German security agencies. “Then he told me he was stealing this information from secret services,” Selek told the court.

Despite warnings that the German police were constantly informed of their actions, the four men continued their preparations until they were captured.

Numerous sources have confirmed that the German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendi enst (BND) knew in 2004 that Mevlut K worked for the MIT. That year, the sources said, the MIT proposed to the BND that K be infiltrated into Islam movements in Germany. The BND reportedly rejected the Turkish plan.

Despite the confessions about K’s involvement, German justice failed to order his capture for a long time. Mevlut K. is believed to be living in Turkey.

German authorities only issued an international warrant against Mevlut K. Aug. 13, several weeks after depositions by the other four members of the group had been widely circulated.

The Sauerland group could have been “an orchestration to make believe that a huge terrorist threat” was looming over U.S. military facilities in Germany, says Rene Hellig, leading commentator with the Neues Deutschland daily.

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray calls it a fake case orchestrated by Uzbek security services.

“I should make plain that regrettably it is a fact that there are those who commit violence, motivated by a fanatic version of their faith,” Murray wrote in his personal blog. “Sadly the appalling aggression of the U.S. government and allied war policy has made such reaction much more frequent. They may or may not have been planning to commit explosions. But if they were, the question is who was really pulling their strings, and why?”

Murray says there is no evidence of the existence of Islamic Jihad Union, alleged to have been directing the Sauerland group, other than that given by Uzbek security services. “There are, for example, no communications intercepts between senior terrorists referring to themselves as the Islamic Jihad Union,” he said.

Murray said the planned attacks the Uzbekistan government attributed to the group since the spring of 2004 “are in fact largely fake and almost certainly the work of the Uzbek security services, from my investigations on the spot at the time.” (END/2009)

 
 

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

Moslem in China: The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009
12:36 Mecca time, 09:36 GMT
 
FOCUS: CHINA  
 
Uighurs blame ‘ethnic hatred’
 
 By Dinah Gardner in Beijing  
The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]
 

The riots that rocked the city of Urumqi in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are the area’s worst for more than a decade. 

In the 1990s, Uighur insurgent groups staged several deadly bomb attacks across the region; in 2008, attacks on police and government targets in Xinjiang ended with more than two dozen deaths.

What makes these riots different, however, is the high number of causalities. Exile groups say violence erupted after police moved in on Sunday to break up a peaceful demonstration protesting against the killing of two Uighur migrant workers in southern China last month.

Many Uighurs – the Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority of the region – and overseas scholars say the recent violence is rooted in deep-seated and long-standing resentment between the Uighur people and the Han Chinese majority, who account for 92 per cent of the population.

Andrew James Nathan, a political science professor at Columbia University in the US, says deteriorating relations between the Uighur and the Han are to blame for the latest riots.

“I don’t know what triggered this specific event, but the underlying tension that broke out in this as well as previous events reflects the alienation of the Uighur residents from the kind of rule imposed by Beijing, which is insufficiently respectful of their culture, religion, identity, and interests,” he says.

Ethnic tensions persist

From her exile in the US, Kadeer denied any involvement in the unrest in Xinjiang [AFP] 

The government, though, is clear about who is to blame – outside forces, in particular Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the US-based World Uighur Congress (WUC).

“The unrest was a pre-emptive, organised, [and a] violent crime. It was instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government spokesperson said.

Kadeer, a former political prisoner in China who now runs the WUC as a Uighur rights organisation, rejects the accusations.

“I did not organise any protests or call on the people to demonstrate, ” she says.

A young Uighur man, who has been living in Beijing for the past five years, agreed to an interview on the condition that he remain anonymous, saying he feared repercussions from the authorities.

He says Kadeer and the WUC could not have been behind the violence.

“Ever since I was born until now there has been this problem between Uighur and Han,” he says.

“Han people don’t treat us or our culture with any respect, and the key thing is that there are more and more Han coming to live in Xinjiang. And that means us Uighur people are losing our culture and we have less freedoms.”

Relations are so bad, he says, that Han taxi drivers will not even pick him up on the streets of Urumqi.

Uighur children, he says, are barred from learning their own language in schools – from middle school onward studies are solely in Chinese.

“They don’t allow us to teach our children about Islam in schools. They are not allowed to study religion until they are at least 18.”

“They have taken away our language and our culture. Han people treat us like dirt.”

Outside forces

Tensions had been reaching boiling point in the past week or so after the deaths of the two Uighur migrant workers. They were killed in a fight in a toy factory in Guangdong province following a rumour that six Uighur men had raped two Han Chinese women.

While Chinese media is acknowledging the link between the Urumqi riots and the tragic killings in Guangdong, it is insisting that outside forces used the incident “in the name of revenge” to “sow the seeds of racial and religious hatred in Xinjiang”.

Al Jazeera approached several Chinese scholars for comment on the riots in Xinjiang but they declined to be interviewed, saying they do not have permission to discuss the issue with journalists.

The killings were definitely the spark for this latest violence, says Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology and Xinjiang specialist at Pomona College in California.

“I think it is connected [with the Guangdong killings] at least that’s what I’ve been told by Uighurs I have spoken to,” Gladney says, adding that this time because the violence took place in Urumqi it is likely the protest is rooted in anger at Han treatment rather than any religious-based fight for independence.

“I think it was significant that it took place in Urumqi because Uighurs there only make up about 10 per cent of the population,” he explains by phone.

“Most protests have historically been outside Urumqi, in rural areas in the south or in Yili in the north … There are more worker solidarity issues [in Urumqi] – a lot of the Uighur intellectuals and more secular nationalist Uighurs are based in urban areas like Urumqi whereas more religious activists are in the countryside and places like Kashgar.”

Blaming insurgent groups

Beijing says the insurgent groups are fighting for independence and may be connected to al-Qaeda, but for the average Uighur, independence seems an unattainable dream.

The young Uighur man in Beijing says his people are powerless and it is useless pursuing notions of independence.

“China has caught and suppressed our culture and religion. They have destroyed our history and our ancient buildings in Kashgar. And now it’s all gone.”

Meanwhile, in Urumqi, the city is under lock-down, according to western media. Curfews have been imposed and mobile phone and Internet links cut, much as authorities crushed anti-government riots in Tibet last year.

Despite the crackdown, the chances are, say scholars, that this is not the end of it.

“Protests in Xinjiang have been increasing slowly for many years and I think the prospect is that they will continue to occur, both this year and in future years,” says Nathan.

Anniversary celebrations

Some analysts hope the level of violence will convince Beijing to heal rifts with the Uighur

The government is particularly on edge this year because of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.

While officially, the government insists this problem is caused by exile separatists and local “outlaws”, Gladney is hopeful that the scale of the violence will convince Beijing that the solution lies less in an authoritarian approach and more in trying to heal the rifts between the ethnic groups.

“I think some of us are hoping that it may cause them to rethink their strike hard tactics that they’ve used up until now, but certainly not until things settle down,” he says. “Clearly with this level of [violence] it should cause them to really rethink that.”

How do the local people see an eventual solution to the ethnic strife?

The Uighur man strokes his beard and laughs nervously.

“I don’t know how to solve this problem,” he says. “I wish I was in Xinjiang now but I’m not there. I feel helpless.”

 
 Source: Al Jazeera

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney

By Paul Craig Roberts

May 21, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — – America has lost her soul, and so has her president.

A despairing country elected a president who promised change. Americans arrived from every state to witness in bitter cold Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. The mall was packed in a way that it has never been for any other president.
The people’s good will toward Obama and the expectations they had for him were sufficient for Obama to end the gratuitous wars and enact major reforms. But Obama has deserted the people for the interests. He is relying on his non-threatening demeanor and rhetoric to convince the people that change is underway.
The change that we are witnessing is in Obama, not in policies. Obama is morphing into Dick Cheney.
Obama has not been in office four months and already a book could be written about his broken promises.
Obama said he would close the torture prison, Guantanamo, and abolish the kangaroo courts known as military tribunals. But now he says he is going to reform the tribunals and continue the process, but without confessions obtained with torture. Getting behind Obama’s validation of the Bush/Cheney policy, House Democrats pulled the budget funding that was to be used for closing Guantanamo.
The policy of kidnapping people (usually on the basis of disinformation supplied by their enemies) and whisking them off to Third World prisons to be interrogated is to be continued. Again, Obama has substituted a “reform” for his promise to abolish an illegal policy. Rendition, Obama says, has also been reformed and will no longer involve torture. How would anyone know? Is Obama going to assign a U.S. government agent to watch over the treatment given to disappeared people by Third World thugs? Given the proclivity of American police to brutalize U.S. citizens, nothing can save the victims of rendition from torture.
Obama has defended the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency and broadened the government’s legal argument that “sovereign immunity” protects government officials from prosecution and civil suits when they violate U.S. law and constitutional protections of citizens. Obama’s Justice Department has taken up the defense of Donald Rumsfeld against a case brought by detainees whose rights Rumsfeld violated.
In a signing statement this month, Obama abandoned his promise to protect whistleblowers who give information of executive branch illegality to Congress.
Obama is making even more expansive claims of executive power than Bush. As Bruce Fein puts it: “In principle, President Obama is maintaining that victims of constitutional wrongdoing by the U.S. government should be denied a remedy in order to prevent the American people and the world at large from learning of the lawlessness perpetrated in the name of national security and exacting political and legal accountability. ”
Obama, in other words, is committed to covering up the Bush regime’s crimes and to ensuring that his own regime can continue to operate in the same illegal and unconstitutional ways.
Obama is fighting the release of the latest batch of horrific torture photos that have come to light. Obama claims that release of the photos would anger insurgents and cause them to kill our troops. That, of course, is nonsense. Those resisting occupation of their land by U.S. troops and NATO mercenaries are already dedicated to killing our troops, and they know that Americans torture whomever they capture. Obama is fighting the release of the photos because he knows the barbaric image that the photos present of the U.S. military will undermine the public’s support for the wars that enrich the military/security complex, appease the Israel Lobby, and repay the campaign contributions that elect the U.S. government.
As for bringing the troops home from Iraq, this promise, too, has been reformed. To the consternation of his supporters, Obama is leaving 50,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The others are being sent to Afghanistan and to Pakistan, where on Obama’s watch war has broken out big time with already one million refugees from the indiscriminate bombing of civilians.
Meanwhile, war with Iran remains a possibility, and at Washington’s insistence, NATO is conducting war games on former Soviet territory, thus laying the groundwork for future enrichment of the U.S. military/security complex. The steeply rising U.S. unemployment rate will provide the needed troops for Obama’s expanding wars.
Obama can give a great speech without mangling the language. He can smile and make people believe his rhetoric. The world, or much of it, seems to be content with the soft words that now drape Dick Cheney’s policies in pursuit of executive supremacy and U.S. hegemony.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review.