Archive for the ‘Mecca’ Category

China tightens grip on Muslims in Xinjiang

October 19, 2008

The grand mosque that draws thousands of Muslims each week in this oasis town has all the usual trappings of piety: dusty wool carpets on which to kneel in prayer, a row of turbans and skullcaps for men without head wear, a wall niche facing the holy city of Mecca in the Arabian desert.

But large signs posted by the front door list edicts that are more Communist Party decrees than Koranic doctrines.

The imam’s sermon at Friday prayers must run no longer than a half-hour, the rules say. Prayer in public areas outside the mosque is forbidden. Residents of Khotan are not allowed to worship at mosques outside of town.

One rule on the wall says that government workers and nonreligious people may not be “forced” to attend services at the mosque – a generous wording of a law that prohibits government workers and Communist Party members from going at all.

“Of course this makes people angry,” said a teacher in the mosque courtyard, who would give only a partial name, Muhammad, for fear of government retribution. “Excitable people think the government is wrong in what it does. They say that government officials who are Muslims should also be allowed to pray.”
To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule.

The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim’s way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.

Two of Islam’s five pillars – the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj – are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.

Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.

The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognizes five religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism – and tightly regulates their administration and practice.

Its oversight in Xinjiang, though, is especially vigilant because it worries about separatist activity in the region.

Some officials contend that insurgent groups in Xinjiang pose one of the biggest security threats to China, and the government says the “three forces” of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism threaten to destabilize the region. But outside scholars of Xinjiang and terrorism experts argue that heavy-handed tactics like the restrictions on Islam will only radicalize more Uighurs.

Many of the rules have been on the books for…

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Pakistan and Afghanistan: Turmoil Continues

August 4, 2007

 By John E. Carey
August 4, 2007

Fox news is reporting Saturday afternoon that NATO air strikes in the tribal areas of Afghanistan have killed at least two key Taliban leaders.

The airstrikes targeted two Taliban commanders during a meeting in a remote area of Baghran district in Helmand province on Thursday, the coalition said in a statement.

“During a sizable meeting of senior Taliban commanders, coalition forces employed precision-guided munitions on their location after ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area,” it said.

The statement gave no details of casualties.

In apparent reference to the same incident, Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief, said that several Taliban and civilians were killed in an airstrike in the Shah Ibrahim area of Baghran district on Thursday.

Taliban militants were hanging two local people accused of spying for the government. Other villagers had come out to watch when the bombs fell, he said.

He said 20 wounded people were brought to the hospital in Helmand’s capital of Lashkar Gah.

Although confirmation has not been made, some news sources have said that the Taliban leaders were the men responsible for taking hostage Korean missionaries.

“All pressures need to be applied to the Taliban to get them to release these hostages,” Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said August 2. “The goal is to get these people released unharmed, to get them released peacefully and safely.”

Boucher spoke ahead of a weekend visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will meet with President George W. Bush at Camp David. In the hostage case, Boucher noted cooperation between the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and South Korea.

He declined to elaborate on what pressures or efforts were being used or considered but said they included the option of military force.

“There are things that we say, things that others say, things that are done and said within Afghan society as well as potential military pressures,” Boucher said.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that fresh violence left 23 people, including four soldiers, dead Saturday in an escalation of the bloody unrest that has rocked Pakistan over the past month.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has sworn he will remain Pakistan’s leader despite the violent opposition. But Musharraf did meet with former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto with the possibility that the two would reach an agreement on a coalition government.

Also on Saturday one of Pakistan’s top opposition leaders was released to the raucous cheers of supporters Saturday after four years in prison and immediately vowed to resume his campaign against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left prison a day after the Supreme Court granted him bail in his 23-year sentence on charges of reason and inciting an army mutiny against Musharraf.

Pakistan criticized U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday for saying that, if elected, he might order unilateral military strikes against terrorists hiding in this Islamic country.

Top Pakistan officials said Obama’s comment was irresponsible and likely made for political gain in the race for the Democratic nomination.

“It’s a very irresponsible statement, that’s all I can say,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khusheed Kasuri told AP Television News. “As the election campaign in America is heating up we would not like American candidates to fight their elections and contest elections at our expense.”

Also Friday, a senior Pakistani official condemned another presidential hopeful, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo, for saying the best way he could think of to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. would be to threaten to retaliate by bombing the holiest Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina.