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Jihad Comes to China By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 11, 2008

Muslim terrorists and their apologists insist that violent jihad is a justifiable reaction to their targets’ support of Israel. Since China is most definitely not an ally of the “Zionist entity,” how will Islamist apologists spin the jihadist attacks that have marred the Beijing Olympics?

Uighur Islamic separatists killed eight people during a rash of suicide bombings on August 9, in the latest in a series of brazen terrorist attacks inside the communist police state. Terrorists targeted a dozen government offices with home-made explosives, just one day after the Turkistan Islamic Party released a video threatening to attack public transportation during the Games.

Earlier in the week, two Muslims drove a truck into a group of paramilitary police in Xinjiang province, then attacked the officers with knives, throwing explosives into their barracks. Sixteen officers died in the brazen attack. A local Communist Party official reported the two attackers had prepared written statements that declared, “they had to wage ‘holy war.’”

To most Western observers, the very existence of Chinese Muslims comes as a surprise. However, as previously reported in FrontPage, followers of Islam (mostly Sunnis) make up an estimated 1%-2% of China’s population – approximately 30 million people.

The Hui people, numbering around 20 million, practice Islamic dietary laws and other customs, but very rarely engage in jihadist violence. However, the nation’s 8.5 million Uighurs present a challenge to Chinese authorities. Located near the Pakistan and Afghanistan borders, the north-west province of Xinjiang is home to these Turkic Muslims, whose language is closer to Turkish than Chinese, and whose women often wear buhrkas. Many of the area’s tens of thousands of mosques have been financed by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Uighurs have never accepted Communist rule. The cycle of sporadic unrest and subsequent crackdowns by Chinese authorities has persisted for decades – long before the establishment of the state of Israel could have prompted the ire of Chinese Muslims.

For the most part, Western media – using the struggles of Tibet as their touchstone -- frame the attacks during the Beijing Olympics as part of “a local ethnic conflict” between the Uighurs and China’s culturally and ethnically distinct Han majority.

However, Dr Walid Phares, the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, charges both parties with denial: “As under the Russians in Chechnya it looks like the Communists in China are battling another form of totalitarianism to come: Jihadism.”

Phares wonders if  “China will continue to pursue a policy of support to other Jihadist forces, including the Islamist regime in Khartoum” and whether or not Xinjiang, a “resources rich” province, with become “a new Afghanistan, with Jihadists converging from central Asia and other parts of the world?”

A new Stratfor report echoes Phares’ warning, noting the recent emergence in China of  “a Turkistan Islamist movement with links in Central Asia, stretching back to Afghanistan and Pakistan, blending Taliban training” and “transnational jihadist experiential learning.”

Such a diffuse network of independent pan-Islamic terrorist cells focused on localized goals, the report warns, “is a very different entity than China has faced in the past”:

“Beijing would be unable to use information from raiding one cell to find another. This appears to be exactly what we are seeing now. The central TIP core uses the Internet and videos as psychological tools to trigger a reaction from Beijing and inspire militants without exposing itself to detection or capture.” (...)

“The alleged activities seem to fit a pattern within the international jihadist movement of paying more attention to China. Islamists have considered China something less imperialistic, and thus less threatening, than the United States and European powers, but this began changing with the launch of the SCO [Shanghai Cooperative Organization, designed to monitor terrorism in Russian and Asia], and the trend has been accelerating with China’s expanded involvement in Africa and Central Asia and its continued support for Pakistan’s government.”

The Chinese government’s attempts to stabilize Xinjiang throughout the 1990s, with the creation of roads and rail lines connecting the province with Central Asia backfired, as the new routes were used to smuggle contraband and helped establish Islamic terrorist alliances in border states. The province’s mosques have either been closed down or are now heavily monitored, and imams are forced to study “moderate” Islam in a state-controlled seminary. As well, the government’s plan to repopulate Xinjiang with ethnic Han Chinese, who now make up a majority in the province, has merely fueled the native Uighurs’ resentment.

Not surprisingly, Western human rights groups have wasted little time painting the Uighurs as the new Tibetans, all merely innocent dissenters deserving uncritical support. A 2005 report from Human Rights Watch accused China of "opportunistically using the post-11 September environment to make the outrageous claim that individuals disseminating peaceful religious and cultural messages in Xinjiang are terrorists who have simply changed tactics." Expect an increase in such reports, as well as an uptick in pro-Uighur activism among Western liberals, as this “separatist” movement becomes better known during the Olympics.

Robert Spencer of JihadWatch, an expert at reading between Islamist lines, cautions against benign interpretations of statements like those issued by groups like the jihadist Hizb ut-Tahrir group, such as claims that they “don’t espouse violence”:

“They don't espouse violence. They espouse Sharia. Does China want to live under Sharia? Do free people want to live under Sharia? Does it matter that Hizb ut-Tahrir won't be blowing anyone up on its way to instituting this oppressive system?”

The issues at stake are complex. Can a monolithic totalitarian regime like China suddenly become nimble enough to respond to 21st-century terrorism? Will freedom loving, anti-jihadist Westerners savor working with a nation of murderous Communists to defeat yet another form of totalitarianism?

Chinese Muslim terrorists, however, aren’t crippled by moral qualms or daunted by their enemy’s overwhelming size and might. The leader of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization has declared, "The Beijing Games are our one last golden opportunity to inflict such attacks on China. Even though we know we are weak like an egg on a stone, we will try to smear the stone."

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.

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