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Irish Singer ‘Sinead O’Connor’ Converts to Islam

Irish Singer ‘Sinead O’Connor’ Converts to Islam

The Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor, also known as Magda Davitt, revealed on Twitter last week that she has ditched Catholicism for Islam and changed her name to Shuhada’ Davitt, Irish Central reported on October 24.

“This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim. This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant. I’ll be given (another) new name. It will be Shuhada’,” she tweeted.

O’Connor posted a video of herself singing the Azan, the Muslim call to prayer.

The video was captioned with: “Here is my 1st attempt at singing the Azan. I got some pronunciation (sic) wrong because emotions took me from my page… but there’ll be hundreds of others onstage to come …,” she wrote.

“When I’ve practiced it 30 times I’m gonna make the world stop turning.”

The 51-year-old Irish artist was an ordained priest in a breakaway Catholic sect, and last year she underwent intensive mental health treatment in the US.

Another tweet from O’Connor said: “My best friend, Elaine just gave me my 1st Hijab and she got chills all over her body when I put it on. Not gonna post a photo because is intensely personal. And I’m an ugly old hag. But I’m a very, very, very happy old hag,” she proclaimed.

The singer who made hits in the 1990s is back in Dublin to collaborate with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, Irish actor Cillian Murphy, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and singer Imelda May for a new EP, One More Yard, which pays tribute to a young Irish World War I soldier, Michael Thomas Wall, and uses words from the 90 letters he wrote home during the war.

O’Connor sings lead vocals, and proceeds from the project will go to charities raising awareness about cancer. In addition to her ten solo albums, her work includes many singles, songs for films, collaborations with many other artists, and appearances at charity fundraising concerts.

Conversion to Islam

The news of O’Connor’s conversion was welcomed by renowned Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi.

According to 2015’s international estimates, there were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, with one out of four humans being Muslim, making Islam the 2nd largest religion in the world.

According to a 2016 study by Pew Research Center, “0.3% of the global Muslim population growth in the period of 2010–2015 was due to conversions, while 99.7% of the global Muslim population growth was due natural increase.

In non-Muslim countries like the US, the New York Times estimated that 25% of American Muslims are converts. In Britain, around 6,000 people convert to Islam per year.

According to Pew Research, 77% of new Muslim converts come from Christianity, whereas 19% were from atheism. On the other hand, 55% of Muslims who left Islam went to atheism, and 22% converted to Christianity.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in News

 

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European Court of Human Rights: Insulting Prophet Muhammad not ‘free speech’

European Court of Human Rights: Insulting Prophet Muhammad not ‘free speech’

Defaming the Prophet Muhammed “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace” and thus exceeds the permissible limits of freedom of expression, ruled the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday, upholding a lower court decision.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that an Austrian woman’s criminal conviction and fine for her statements accusing the Prophet Muhammad of pedophilia did not breach her right to free speech.

The woman, named only as ES by the court, had held seminars on Islam in 2008 and 2009 for the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) where she discussed the prophet’s marriage to his wife Aisha, a child at the time, and implied that he was a pedophile.

An Austrian court convicted her of disparaging religious doctrines in 2011 and fined her 480 euros (548 dollars), a judgment that was upheld on two appeals.

Stating that the court had found that “the applicant’s statements had been likely to arouse justified indignation in Muslims” and “amounted to a generalization without factual basis”, the ECtHR said that the woman’s comments could not be covered by the freedom of expression.

ES’ statements “were not phrased in a neutral manner aimed at being an objective contribution to a public debate concerning child marriages,” the ECHR held, adding that the moderate fine imposed on her could not be considered disproportionate.

The Austrian courts had drawn a distinction between pedophilia and child marriage, which was also a common practice historically in European ruling families.

The ECtHR also underlined that it classified the ‘impugned’ statements as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which was capable of stirring up prejudice and putting at risk religious peace.”

It noted that the Austrian courts had held that ES was making value judgments partly based on untrue facts and without regard to the historical context.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in News

 

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France’s hijab ban violates human rights, UN committee

France’s hijab ban violates human rights, UN committee

Following complaints by two French Muslim women, fined for wearing a full-body veil or niqab, a UN Committee of independent human rights experts ruled in their favour on Tuesday, stating that their freedom to practice their religion had been infringed.

The Committee, mandated with monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, received the two complaints in 2016.

The women had been prosecuted, convicted and fined in 2012 for wearing the niqab, based on a 2010 French law which stipulates that “no one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.” The law has the effect of banning the wearing of the full Islamic veil in public, which covers the whole body, leaving only a narrow slit for the eyes.

The Committee of 18 independent experts from around the world, stated in two rulings, that the right to practice one’s religion includes the wearing of distinctive clothing and head coverings.

“The State has not demonstrated how the full veil presents a threat in itself for public security to justify this absolute ban,” the decision read, adding that the French Government had not adequately explained why hiding one’s face is forbidden for religious reasons, while it is authorized in other contexts such as sports, or artistic settings.

The experts also concluded that the ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them.

The Committee acknowledged that Governments’ law enforcement entities must be able “in some circumstances” to demand that individuals show their faces, meaning they would have to uncover them in specific and “concrete situations”, where public security was at stake, or for formal identification purposes.

Committee members noted, however, that the scope of the French law was not limited to such specific contexts and that it prevents people from hiding their faces in public spaces “at all times”.

“The decisions are not directed against the notion of secularity, nor are they an endorsement of a custom which many on the Committee, including myself, regard as a form of oppression of women,” said Yuval Shany, Chair of the Committee.

He explained that the decisions reflected the position that a general criminal ban did not allow for a reasonable balance between public interests and individual rights.

Anyone can bring an alleged violation of human rights to the attention of the United Nations committees tasked with monitoring the realization of various international human rights treaties, and thousands of people around the world do so every year. Once a case has been deemed admissible and a decision has been made, there is no possibility to appeal against the committees’ decisions, as they are final.

If a committee concludes that a violation of a treaty has taken place, the decisions – which are not legally-binding – offer recommendations for the State involved in the case, which then has 180 days to provide information on the steps it has taken to implement those recommendations.

In these two specific cases, recommendations include a compensation of the two petitioners, and measures to prevent similar violations in the future, including a review of the 2010 law.

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has been ratified by 172 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2018 in News, Sex !

 

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Study :Terror attacks by Muslims receive 357% more press attention.

Terrorist attacks committed by Muslim extremists receive 357% more US press coverage than those committed by non-Muslims, according to new research from the University of Alabama. The researchers controlled for factors like target type, number of fatalities, and whether or not the perpetrators were arrested before reaching their final statistic.

Terrorist attacks committed by non-Muslims (or where the religion was unknown) received an average of 15 headlines, while those committed by Muslim extremists received 105 headlines.

The findings, which are illustrated below, were based on all terrorist attacks in the US between 2006 and 2015 according to the Global Terrorism Database. The disparity in media coverage is particularly out of sync with the reality given that white and rightwing terrorists carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Muslim extremists between 2008 and 2016.

Not all headlines have the same audience, though. Lead researcher Erin Kearns explained: “We broke it down by the two different types of sources and we found that the over-coverage is much bigger among national news sources than local papers.”

A new Guardian documentary, White Fright, follows one case of an attack plotted by a non-Muslim. In 2015, Robert Doggart was convicted for planning an attack on Islamberg, a small community in New York. Doggart’s plan was described as “terroristic” by a US attorney.

The study is forthcoming in Justice Quarterly. A previous paper which looked only at the period 2011 to 2015 is available here.

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Posted by on July 20, 2018 in News

 

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What did the Muslims do for the Jews?

What did the Muslims do for the Jews?

 

Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth. The argument for it is double. First, in 570 CE, when the Prophet Mohammad was born, the Jews and Judaism were on the way to oblivion. And second, the coming of Islam saved them, providing a new context in which they not only survived, but flourished, laying foundations for subsequent Jewish cultural prosperity – also in Christendom – through the medieval period into the modern world.

By the fourth century, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the Roman empire. One aspect of this success was opposition to rival faiths, including Judaism, along with massive conversion of members of such faiths, sometimes by force, to Christianity. Much of our testimony about Jewish existence in the Roman empire from this time on consists of accounts of conversions.

Great and permanent reductions in numbers through conversion, between the fourth and the seventh centuries, brought with them a gradual but relentless whittling away of the status, rights, social and economic existence, and religious and cultural life of Jews all over the Roman empire.

A long series of enactments deprived Jewish people of their rights as citizens, prevented them from fulfilling their religious obligations, and excluded them from the society of their fellows.

This went along with the centuries-long military and political struggle with Persia. As a tiny element in the Christian world, the Jews should not have been affected much by this broad, political issue. Yet it affected them critically, because the Persian empire at this time included Babylon – now Iraq – at the time home to the world’s greatest concentration of Jews.

Had Islam not come along, Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance and Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult

Here also were the greatest centres of Jewish intellectual life. The most important single work of Jewish cultural creativity in over 3,000 years, apart from the Bible itself – the Talmud – came into being in Babylon. The struggle between Persia and Byzantium, in our period, led increasingly to a separation between Jews under Byzantine, Christian rule and Jews under Persian rule.

Beyond all this, the Jews who lived under Christian rule seemed to have lost the knowledge of their own culturally specific languages – Hebrew and Aramaic – and to have taken on the use of Latin or Greek or other non-Jewish, local, languages. This in turn must have meant that they also lost access to the central literary works of Jewish culture – the Torah, Mishnah, poetry, midrash, even liturgy.

The loss of the unifying force represented by language – and of the associated literature – was a major step towards assimilation and disappearance. In these circumstances, with contact with the one place where Jewish cultural life continued to prosper – Babylon – cut off by conflict with Persia, Jewish life in the Christian world of late antiquity was not simply a pale shadow of what it had been three or four centuries earlier. It was doomed.

Had Islam not come along, the conflict with Persia would have continued. The separation between western Judaism, that of Christendom, and Babylonian Judaism, that of Mesopotamia, would have intensified. Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance in many areas. And Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult.

But this was all prevented by the rise of Islam. The Islamic conquests of the seventh century changed the world, and did so with dramatic, wide-ranging and permanent effect for the Jews.

Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond. Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.

First, things improved politically. Almost everywhere in Christendom where Jews had lived now formed part of the same political space as Babylon – Cordoba and Basra lay in the same political world. The old frontier between the vital centre in Babylonia and the Jews of the Mediterranean basin was swept away, forever.

Political change was partnered by change in the legal status of the Jewish population: although it is not always clear what happened during the Muslim conquests, one thing is certain. The result of the conquests was, by and large, to make the Jews second-class citizens.

This should not be misunderstood: to be a second-class citizen was a far better thing to be than not to be a citizen at all. For most of these Jews, second-class citizenship represented a major advance. In Visigothic Spain, for example, shortly before the Muslim conquest in 711, the Jews had seen their children removed from them and forcibly converted to Christianity and had themselves been enslaved.

In the developing Islamic societies of the classical and medieval periods, being a Jew meant belonging to a category defined under law, enjoying certain rights and protections, alongside various obligations. These rights and protections were not as extensive or as generous as those enjoyed by Muslims, and the obligations were greater but, for the first few centuries, the Muslims themselves were a minority, and the practical differences were not all that great.

Along with legal near-equality came social and economic equality. Jews were not confined to ghettos, either literally or in terms of economic activity. The societies of Islam were, in effect, open societies. In religious terms, too, Jews enjoyed virtually full freedom. They might not build many new synagogues – in theory – and they might not make too public their profession of their faith, but there was no really significant restriction on the practice of their religion. Along with internal legal autonomy, they also enjoyed formal representation, through leaders of their own, before the authorities of the state. Imperfect and often not quite as rosy as this might sound, it was at least the broad norm.

The political unity brought by the new Islamic world-empire did not last, but it created a vast Islamic world civilisation, similar to the older Christian civilisation that it replaced. Within this huge area, Jews lived and enjoyed broadly similar status and rights everywhere. They could move around, maintain contacts, and develop their identity as Jews. A great new expansion of trade from the ninth century onwards brought the Spanish Jews – like the Muslims – into touch with the Jews and the Muslims even of India.

A ll this was encouraged by a further, critical development. Huge numbers of people in the new world of Islam adopted the language of the Muslim Arabs. Arabic gradually became the principal language of this vast area, excluding almost all the rest: Greek and Syriac, Aramaic and Coptic and Latin all died out, replaced by Arabic. Persian, too, went into a long retreat, to reappear later heavily influenced by Arabic.

The Jews moved over to Arabic very rapidly. By the early 10th century, only 300 years after the conquests, Sa’adya Gaon was translating the Bible into Arabic. Bible translation is a massive task – it is not undertaken unless there is a need for it. By about the year 900, the Jews had largely abandoned other languages and taken on Arabic.

The change of language in its turn brought the Jews into direct contact with broader cultural developments. The result from the 10th century on was a striking pairing of two cultures. The Jews of the Islamic world developed an entirely new culture, which differed from their culture before Islam in terms of language, cultural forms, influences, and uses. Instead of being concerned primarily with religion, the new Jewish culture of the Islamic world, like that of its neighbours, mixed the religious and the secular to a high degree. The contrast, both with the past and with medieval Christian Europe, was enormous.

Like their neighbours, these Jews wrote in Arabic in part, and in a Jewish form of that language. The use of Arabic brought them close to the Arabs. But the use of a specific Jewish form of that language maintained the barriers between Jew and Muslim. The subjects that Jews wrote about, and the literary forms in which they wrote about them, were largely new ones, borrowed from the Muslims and developed in tandem with developments in Arabic Islam.

Also at this time, Hebrew was revived as a language of high literature, parallel to the use among the Muslims of a high form of Arabic for similar purposes. Along with its use for poetry and artistic prose, secular writing of all forms in Hebrew and in (Judeo-)Arabic came into being, some of it of high quality.

Much of the greatest poetry in Hebrew written since the Bible comes from this period. Sa’adya Gaon, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Ibn Ezra (Moses and Abraham), Maimonides, Yehuda Halevi, Yehudah al-Harizi, Samuel ha-Nagid, and many more – all of these names, well known today, belong in the first rank of Jewish literary and cultural endeavour.

Where did these Jews produce all this? When did they and their neighbours achieve this symbiosis, this mode of living together? The Jews did it in a number of centres of excellence. The most outstanding of these was Islamic Spain, where there was a true Jewish Golden Age, alongside a wave of cultural achievement among the Muslim population. The Spanish case illustrates a more general pattern, too.

What happened in Islamic Spain – waves of Jewish cultural prosperity paralleling waves of cultural prosperity among the Muslims – exemplifies a larger pattern in Arab Islam. In Baghdad, between the ninth and the twelfth centuries; in Qayrawan (in north Africa), between the ninth and the 11th centuries; in Cairo, between the 10th and the 12th centuries, and elsewhere, the rise and fall of cultural centres of Islam tended to be reflected in the rise and fall of Jewish cultural activity in the same places.

This was not coincidence, and nor was it the product of particularly enlightened liberal patronage by Muslim rulers. It was the product of a number of deeper features of these societies, social and cultural, legal and economic, linguistic and political, which together enabled and indeed encouraged the Jews of the Islamic world to create a novel sub-culture within the high civilisation of the time.

This did not last for ever; the period of culturally successful symbiosis between Jew and Arab Muslim in the middle ages came to a close by about 1300. In reality, it had reached this point even earlier, with the overall relative decline in the importance and vitality of Arabic culture, both in relation to western European cultures and in relation to other cultural forms within Islam itself; Persian and Turkish.

Jewish cultural prosperity in the middle ages operated in large part as a function of Muslim, Arabic cultural (and to some degree political) prosperity: when Muslim Arabic culture thrived, so did that of the Jews; when Muslim Arabic culture declined, so did that of the Jews.

In the case of the Jews, however, the cultural capital thus created also served as the seed-bed of further growth elsewhere – in Christian Spain and in the Christian world more generally.

The Islamic world was not the only source of inspiration for the Jewish cultural revival that came later in Christian Europe, but it certainly was a major contributor to that development. Its significance cannot be overestimated.

David J Wasserstein is the Eugene Greener Jr Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. This article is adapted from last week’s Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Source: The Jewish Chronicle

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Relax

 

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USA: Muslim prison inmates forced to eat pork during Ramadan !

A federal judge granted a restraining order on Thursday (May 24) forcing prison guards in Alaska to stop giving Muslim inmates pork as they break their fasts during Ramadan, rights campaigners said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming Anchorage Correctional Complex had violated constitutional prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishment”.

CAIR said the US District Court for Alaska had granted its request for an emergency temporary order requiring guards to provide adequate meals in accordance with government health guidelines.

“CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as President,” the Washington-based organisation said in a statement.

Muslims are currently marking the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn until sunset, which means going without food for around 18 hours in Anchorage.

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Inmates observing the festival are given rations equating to 1,100 calories a day at most, according to the complaint, far short of the recommended daily amount of around 2,500 calories for men.

The packages contain food made of pork, which is forbidden in Islam, rendering the actual nutritional value of the meals even more inadequate.

CAIR said the treatment contravened the Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act and violated First and 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and free exercise of religion.

The suit seeks a “balanced nutritional diet” for inmates, as well as policy changes and compensatory and punitive damages.

The Alaska corrections department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ramadan began on May 16 in the United States and will end on or around June 15.

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Posted by on June 3, 2018 in News

 

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China: Muslims forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in “persecusion camps”.

China: Muslims forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in “persecusion camps”.

Omir Bekali, one among perhaps a million people reportedly arrested and held in mass re-education camps, said he was detained without trial or access to a lawyer and forced to disavow his beliefs while praising the Communist Party.

Mr Bekali, a Kazakh citizen, said he contemplated suicide after 20 days in the facility – which itself followed seven months in a prison.

Since spring last year authorities in Xinjiang region have confined tens or even hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the camps, including some foreign nationals. One estimate put the figure at a million or more.

A US commission called it the “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today” while a leading historian called it “cultural cleansing”.

The Independent has contacted the Chinese foreign ministry for comment.

Asked to comment on the camps by the Associated Press, the ministry said it “had not heard” of the situation. When asked why non-Chinese had been detained, it said the Chinese government protected the rights of foreigners in China and that they should also be law abiding. Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

When Mr Bekali refused to follow orders each day in the camp, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement, where he was deprived of food for 24 hours, he claimed. After 20 days in the heavily guarded camp, he wanted to kill himself.

“The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticise yourself, denounce your thinking – your own ethnic group,” said Mr Bekali, who broke down in tears as he described the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can’t sleep. The thoughts are with me all the time.”

The detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India.

Chinese are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism.

The internment programme aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork. Detainees who most vigorously criticise the people and things they love are rewarded, and those who refuse to do so are punished with solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation.

The recollections of Mr Bekali, a heavyset and quiet 42-year-old, offer what appears to be the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education camps. Rare interviews with three other former internees and a former instructor in other centres corroborated Mr Bekali’s depiction. Most spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their families in China.

Mr Bekali’s case stands out because he was a foreign citizen, of Kazakhstan, who was seized by China’s security agencies and detained for eight months last year without recourse. Although some details are impossible to verify, two Kazakh diplomats confirmed he was held for seven months and then sent to re-education.

The detention programme is a hallmark of China’s emboldened state security apparatus under the deeply nationalistic, hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping. It is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education – taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass thought reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Mr Xi.

Cultural cleansing is Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem,” said James Millward, a China historian at Georgetown University.

Rian Thum, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said China’s re-education system echoed some of the worst human rights violations in history.

“The closest analogue is maybe the Cultural Revolution in that this will leave long-term, psychological effects,” Prof Thum said. “This will create a multigenerational trauma from which many people will never recover.”

China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls the “transformation through education” drive in an “all-out effort” to fight separatism and extremism.

In a June 2017 paper published by a state-run journal, a researcher from Xinjiang’s Communist Party School reported that most of 588 surveyed participants did not know what they had done wrong when they were sent to re-education. But by the time they were released, nearly all – 98.8 percent– had learned their mistakes, the paper said.

Transformation through education, the researcher concluded, “is a permanent cure”.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released earlier this week claimed that Chinese officials were now regularly imposing themselves on families in Xinjiang in “home stays”.

During the visits unwilling hosts are allegedly forced to tell authorities about their lives and political views, and are subject to indoctrination.

“Muslim families across Xinjiang are now literally eating and sleeping under the watchful eye of the state in their own homes,” said HRW’s Maya Wang, a senior researcher. “The latest drive adds to a whole host of pervasive – and perverse – controls on everyday life in Xinjiang.”

‘People’s war on terror’

On the chilly morning of 23 March 2017, Mr Bekali drove up to the Chinese border from his home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, got a stamp in his Kazakh passport and crossed over for a work trip, not quite grasping the extraordinary circumstances he was stepping into.

Mr Bekali was born in China in 1976 to Kazakh and Uighur parents, moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and received citizenship three years later. He was out of China in 2016, when authorities sharply escalated a “People’s War on Terror” to root out what the government called religious extremism and separatism in Xinjiang, a large Chinese territory bordering Pakistan and several Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan.

The Xinjiang he returned to was unrecognizable. All-encompassing, data-driven surveillance tracked residents in a region with around 12 million Muslims, including ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs. Viewing a foreign website, taking phone calls from relatives abroad, praying regularly or growing a beard could land a person in a political indoctrination camp, or prison, or both.

The US State Department estimated those being held are “at the very least in the tens of thousands”. A Turkey-based TV station run by Xinjiang exiles said almost 900,000 were detained, citing leaked government documents.

Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, puts the number between several hundreds of thousands and just over 1 million. Government bids and recruitment ads studied by Zenz suggest that the camps have cost more than $100m (£74m) since 2016, and construction is ongoing.

Mr Bekali knew none of this when he visited his parents on March 25. He passed police checkpoints and handed over his decade-old Chinese identity card.

The next day, five armed policemen showed up at Mr Bekali’s parents’ doorstep and took him away. They said there was a warrant for his arrest in Karamay, a frontier oil town where he lived a decade earlier. He couldn’t call his parents or a lawyer, the police added, because his case was “special.”

Mr Bekali was held in a cell, incommunicado, for a week, and then was driven 500 miles to Karamay’s Baijiantan District public security office.

There, they strapped him into a “tiger chair”, a device that clamped down his wrists and ankles. They also hung him by his wrists against a barred wall, just high enough so he would feel excruciating pressure in his shoulder unless he stood on the balls of his bare feet, he claimed. They interrogated him about his work with a tourist agency inviting Chinese to apply for Kazakh tourist visas, which they claimed was a way to help Chinese Muslims escape.

“I haven’t committed any crimes!” Mr Bekali said he yelled.

They asked for days what he knew about two dozen prominent ethnic Uighur activists and businessmen in Kazakhstan. Exhausted and aching, Mr Bekali coughed up what he knew about a few names he recognised.

The police then sent Mr Bekali to a 10sqm cell in the prison with 17 others, their feet chained to the posts of two large beds. Some wore dark blue uniforms, while others wore orange for political crimes. Mr Bekali was given orange.

In mid-July, three months after his arrest, Mr Bekali received a visit from Kazakh diplomats. China’s mass detention of ethnic Kazakhs – and even Kazakh citizens – had begun to make waves in the Central Asian country of 18 million. Kazakh officials say China detained 10 Kazakh citizens and hundreds of ethnic Kazakh Chinese in Xinjiang over the past year, though they were released in late April following a visit by a Kazakh deputy foreign minister.

Four months after the visit, Mr Bekali was taken out of his cell and handed a release paper.

But he was not yet free.

‘We now know better’

Mr Bekali was driven from jail to a fenced compound in the northern suburbs of Karamay, where three buildings held more than 1,000 internees receiving political indoctrination, he said.

He walked in, past a central station that could see over the entire facility, and received a tracksuit. Heavily armed guards watched over the compound from a second level. He joined a cell with 40 internees, he said, including teachers, doctors and students. Men and women were separated.

Internees would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7.30am. They gathered back inside large classrooms to learn “red songs” like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China”, and study Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward and yoked by slavery before they were “liberated” by the Communist Party in the 1950s.

Before meals of vegetable soup and buns, the inmates would be ordered to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”

Discipline was strictly enforced and punishment could be harsh. Mr Bekali was kept in a locked room almost around the clock with eight other internees, who shared beds and a wretched toilet. Cameras were installed in toilets and even outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, which internees were allegedly told was equated with Islamic ablution.

Mr Bekali and other former internees said the worst parts of the indoctrination program were forced repetition and self-criticism. Although students did not understand much of what was taught and the material bordered on the nonsensical to them, they were made to internalise it by repetition in sessions lasting two hours or longer.

We will oppose extremism, we will oppose separatism, we will oppose terrorism,” they chanted again and again. Almost every day, the students received guest lecturers from the local police, judiciary and other branches of government warning about the dangers of separatism and extremism.

In four-hour sessions, instructors lectured about the dangers of Islam and drilled internees with quizzes that they had to answer correctly or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end.

“Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?” instructors asked. “Do you understand why religion is dangerous?

One by one, internees would stand up before 60 of their classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history, Mr Bekali said. The detainees would also have to criticise and be criticised by their peers. Those who parroted official lines particularly well or lashed into their fellow internees viciously were awarded points and could be transferred to more comfortable surroundings in other buildings, he said.

“I was taught the Holy Quran by my father and I learned it because I didn’t know better,” Mr Bekali heard one say.

“I travelled outside China without knowing that I could be exposed to extremist thoughts abroad,” Mr Bekali recalled another saying. “Now I know.”

A Uighur woman told AP she was held in a centre in the city of Hotan in 2016. She said she and fellow prisoners repeatedly were forced to apologise for wearing long clothes in Muslim style, praying, teaching the Quran to their children and asking imams to name their children.

Praying at a mosque on any day other than Friday was a sign of extremism; so was attending Friday prayers outside their village or having Quranic verses or graphics on their phones.

While instructors watched, those who confessed to such behaviour were told to repeat over and over: “We have done illegal things, but we now know better.

A debt to the country

Other detainees and a re-education camp instructor told similar stories.

In mid-2017, an Uighur former on-air reporter for Xinjiang TV known as Eldost was recruited to teach Chinese history and culture in an indoctrination camp because he spoke excellent Mandarin. He had no choice.

The re-education system, Eldost said, classified internees into three levels of security and duration of sentences.

The first group typically consisted of illiterate minority farmers who had committed no ostensible crimes other than not speaking Chinese. The second class was made up of people who were caught at home or on their smartphones with religious content or so-called separatist materials, such as lectures by the Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti.

The final group was made up of those who had studied religion abroad and come back, or were seen to be affiliated with foreign elements. In the latter cases, internees were often were sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 15 years, Eldost said.

While he was teaching, Eldost once saw through the window 20 students driven into the courtyard. Two rows of guards waited for them and beat them as soon as they got out of the police van. He later heard that the internees were recent arrivals who had studied religion in the Middle East.

Violence was not regularly dispensed, but every internee interviewed said they had seen at least one incident of rough treatment or beatings.

Eldost said the instruction was aimed at showing how backward traditional Uighur culture is and how repressive fundamentalist Islam is compared to a progressive Communist Party. The internees’ confessions of their backwardness helped drive the point home.

“Internees are told to repeat those confessions to the point where, when they are finally freed, they believe that they owe the country a lot, that they could never repay the party,” said Eldost, who escaped from China in August after paying a bribe.

Eldost said he tried in little ways to help his internees. Tasked with teaching the Three Character Classic, a Confucian standard taught widely in elementary schools, he would make up mnemonic devices to help his students – including elderly or illiterate Uighur farmers who barely knew their own language – recite a few lines. He also advised students to stop habitually saying “praise God” in Arabic and Uighur because other instructors punished them for it.

Every time he went to sleep in a room with 80 others, he said, the last thing he would hear was the sound of misery.

“I heard people crying every night,” he said. “That was the saddest experience in my life.”

Another former detainee, a Uighur from Hotan in southern Xinjiang, said his newly built centre had just 90 people in two classes in 2015. There, a government instructor claimed said that Uighur women historically did not wear underwear, braided their hair to signal their sexual availability, and had dozens of sexual partners.

“It made me so angry,” the detainee said. “These kinds of explanations of Uighur women humiliated me. I still remember this story every time I think about this, I feel like a knife cut a hole in my chest.”

Kayrat Samarkan, a Chinese Kazakh from Astana who was detained while running errands in a northern Xinjiang police station in December, was sent to an internment camp in Karamagay in northern Xinjiang with 5,700 students.

Those who did not obey, were late to class or got into fights were put for 12 hours in a loose body-suit that was made of iron and limited their movement, he said. Those who still disobeyed would be locked in a tiger chair for 24 hours. As one form of punishment, he said, instructors would press an internee’s head in a tub of ice and water.

After three months, Samarkan could not take the lessons anymore, so he bashed his head against a wall to try to kill himself. He merely fell unconscious.

“When I woke up, the staff threatened me, saying if I did that again they would extend my sentence to 7 years there,” he said.

After 20 days, Mr Bekali also contemplated suicide. Several days later, because of his intransigence and refusal to speak Mandarin, Mr Bekali was no longer permitted to go into the courtyard. Instead, he was sent to a higher level of management, where he spent 24 hours a day in a room with eight others.

A week later, he went to his first stint in solitary confinement. He saw a local judicial official walking into the building on an inspection tour and yelled at the top of his lungs. He thought even his former detention centre, with the abuse he suffered, would be better.

“Take me in the back and kill me, or send me back to prison,” he shouted. “I can’t be here anymore.”

He was again hauled off to solitary confinement. It lasted 24 hours, ending late afternoon on 24 November.

That is when Mr Bekali was released, as suddenly as he was detained eight months earlier.

A Baijiantan policemen who had always gone easy on Mr Bekali during interrogation appeared and checked him out of the facility.

“You were too headstrong, but what the department did was unjust,” he told Mr Bekali as he drove him to his sister’s home in Karamay.

Mr Bekali was free.

Freedom, but not for his family

The next morning, a Saturday, the police opened their immigration office for Mr Bekali to pick up a unique, 14-day Chinese visa. His original had long expired. Mr Bekali left China on 4 December.

Seeking compensation from the Chinese government is out of the question. But Mr Bekali keeps a plastic folder at home of evidence that might prove useful one day: his passport with stamps and visas, travel records and a handwritten Chinese police document dated and imprinted with red-ink seals.

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Omir Bekali displays a photo of his parents who he believes have now been interned in China (AP)

The document is the closest thing he has to an official acknowledgement that he suffered for eight months. It says he was held on suspicion of endangering national security; the last sentence declares him released without charge.

At first, Mr Bekali did not want his account published for fear that his sister and mother in China would be detained and sent to re-education.

But on March 10, back in China, the police took his sister, Adila Mr Bekali. A week later, on March 19, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

Mr Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story, no matter the consequences.

“Things have already come this far,” he said. “I have nothing left to lose.”

AP & Independent

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2018 in News

 

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