Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders
of central Asia, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the
government on Islamist militants and separatists.
Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is
China's heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the
culture and language of the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang
China's nervousness about Islamist extremism has grown since a car
burst into flames on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in
October, and 29 people were stabbed to death last month in the
southwestern city of Kunming.
Beijing blamed Xinjiang militants for both.
Writing in the official Xinjiang Daily, Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri
said that acts of terror had been made possible by extremists taking
advantage of people's faith, especially "young people who have seen
little of the world".
"In order to incite fanaticism and control believers, religious
extremists have blatantly distorted religious teachings, making up
heresy such as 'jihadist martyrs go to heaven,' 'killing a pagan is
worth over 10 years of piety,' and 'one gets whatever one wants in
heaven'," he wrote.
"They use this to bewilder believers into what they believe is
'jihad' in the form of suicide terrorist attacks or other violence,"
People who do not follow the strictures of the Islamists are
condemned by them as "traitors" and "scum", he said.
China's ruling atheist Communist Party has issued similar warnings
in the past about extremism, accompanied by a harsh crackdown on
Uighurs have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam, but
many have begun adopting practices more commonly seen in Saudi
Arabia or Pakistan, such as full-face veils for women, as China has
intensified a security crackdown in recent years.
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Bekri, an Uighur himself, accused the militants of ignoring the
region's own traditions and of wanting to enforce a strict
"They ... push the banning of watching television, listen to the
radio, reading newspapers, singing and dancing, not allowing
laughter at weddings nor crying at funerals," he added. "They force
men to grow beards and women to wear the burkha."
Extremists are also demanding that not only food, but also
cosmetics, medicine and clothing be halal, and push the idea that
government-subsidized housing is not halal and to be avoided, Bekri
"Resolutely eliminate the tumor of religious extremism," he added.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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