Uyghur graveyards demolished in China
- Recent investigations have uncovered more than 100 burial grounds that have been destroyed by the Chinese government.
- The Chinese government claimed that the graves had been “relocated” due to urban development demands, but other official justifications included “standardization” and the government’s desire to “promote cultural and ideological progress.”
- Cemeteries occupy a significant role in Uyghur cultural life, serving as both resting places and social spaces, and their demolition coupled with the destruction of Uyghur coffins, shrines, and mosques has further substantiated ongoing cultural genocide in Xinjiang.
“More than 100 Uyghur graveyards demolished by Chinese authorities, satellite images show” (CNN | January 2020)
“‘No space to mourn’: the destruction of Uygur graveyards in Xinjiang” (Agence France-Presse, via The South China Morning Post | October 2019)
“China ‘building cark parks and playgrounds’ over Uighur Muslim graveyards ‘to eradicate ethnic group’s identity’” (The Independent | October 2019)
“Then and now: China’s destruction of Uighur burial grounds” (The Guardian | October 2019)
“Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines” (B.K. Sintash and the Uyghur Human Rights Project | October 2019)
Malaysian PM announces asylum provisions for refugee Uyghurs
- Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamed indicated that the country would not honor extradition requests from China for Uyghurs fleeing persecution.
- The announcement follows a statement from the foreign minister indicating that an inquiry into human rights violations in the Xinjiang region of China.
- Hundreds took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to protest the ongoing incarceration of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in “political re-education” camps in northwest China.
“Malaysia not to extradite Uighurs seeking asylum” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)
“Malaysia to probe rights violations against Uighurs” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)
“In KL, hundreds of Muslims protest against China’s treatment of Uighurs” (Malay Mail | December 2019)
Facebook announces ban on white-nationalist content
- The world’s most widely used social media company announced a ban on “praise, support, and representation of white nationalism and separatism,” to be enforced beginning next week.
- Users who search for terms related to white supremacy, nationalism, and separatism will be redirected to Life After Hate, an organization that supports the de-radicalization of members of far-right hate groups.
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have come under fire for enabling the spread of hate content and the development of extremist networks.
Standing Against Hate (Facebook Newsroom | March 2019)
“Facebook bans white nationalism, white separatism on its platforms” (Reuters | March 2019)
“Facebook bans white nationalism from platform after pressure from civil rights groups” (NBC News | March 2019)
Life After Hate
New Zealanders rally in support of Muslim community as government takes action
- Some 15,000 people attended a rally in Christchurch to honor the memory of the 50 who died in the recent terror attacks.
- The country’s chief censor issued a ban on the attacker’s manifesto, classifying the document in the same way as other terroristic propaganda such as Islamic State materials.
- More than 1,000 voluntarily turned in their weapons as the government moved to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing she expects legislation to be in place by mid-April.
“Thousands attend New Zealand vigil, rally to fight racism, remember Christchurch victims” (Reuters | March 2019)
“Censor bans ‘manifesto’ of Christchurch mosque shooter” (The Guardian | March 2019)
“Christchurch shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons” (BBC News | March 2019)
Anti-Muslim incidents in the U.K. explode in the wake of New Zealand attacks
- Tell MAMA, a U.K.-based organization that monitors anti-Muslim incidents, revealed that it received reports of 95 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims in the week following the Christchurch attacks, an increase of 593% over the previous week.
- The incidents included verbal harassment, threats, online abuse, vandalism, and violent assaults across Great Britain.
- Counter-terrorism police launched an investigation after receiving reports of attacks on five mosques over the course of a single day.
“Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings” (The Guardian | March 2019)
“Birmingham mosque attacks probed by counter-terrorism officers” (CNN | March 2019)
“How do UK Muslims feel after series of Islamophobic attacks?” (Al Jazeera | March 2019)
Terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques leaves more than four dozen dead
- A gunman opened fire in the Masjid Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, killing at least 49 and injuring 48 in the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history.
- In addition to livestreaming one of the attacks on Facebook, the attacker posted a manifesto online in which he declared far-right, anti-immigrant, white-supremacist views.
- The gunman was arrested along with three other suspects, and officials advised community members to avoid visiting mosques in the aftermath of the attack.
“Christchurch mosque shootings: What you need to know” (The New Zealand Herald | March 2019)
“New Zealand PM: Dozens killed in ‘terrorist’ attack on mosques” (Al Jazeera | March 2019)
“49 shot dead in attack on two Christchurch mosques” (The Guardian | March 2019)
United for Christchurch Mosque Shootings (crowdfunding campaign)
The Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand (FIAZ)
Israeli parliament passes law formally establishing country as Jewish nation-state
- The new basic law codifies a number of ultranationalist principles, including Hebrew as the sole national language, the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national priority, Jewish symbols as national symbols, and a unified Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
- Previously, Israel existed formally as a multiethnic democratic state, with Arabic as the second national language and the concerns of Arab Israelis—who comprise a fifth of the population—at least nominally afforded equal weight in matters of national identity and self-determination.
- While some observers have dismissed the law as largely symbolic, Arab lawmakers and progressive advocates argue it provides the legal ground for segregation and discrimination and reduces ethnic and religious minorities to a second-class citizenship.
“Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate” (Haaretz | July 2018)
“Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)
The Transnational Oppression of Uyghur Chinese
Growing paranoia over terrorism by and radicalization of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority has led to the dramatic expansion of state surveillance activities in Xinjiang—where Uyghurs account for nearly half of the population—and abroad. Digital surveillance, travel restrictions, indefinite detention, “reeducation” camps, and the exploitation of intra-community and transnational relationships have dramatically expanded the crackdown on ethnic minorities perceived as threats to the integrity of the state. After fleeing China, Uyghur emigrants find themselves and their families (some of whom remain in China) subject to harassment by Chinese security forces in places as far flung as Istanbul and Washington, D.C. BuzzFeed News and The Globe and Mail have profiled a number of Uyghur Chinese in exile and the oppressive conditions they and their families face, including high levels of distrust and fear of advocacy.
“Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again” (BuzzFeed News | July 2018)
“How China is targeting its Uyghur ethnic minority abroad” (The Globe and Mail | October 2017)
“‘It is about Xi as the leader of the world’: Former detainees recount abuse in Chinese re-education centres” (The Globe and Mail | July 2018)
“One in 10 Uyghur Residents of Xinjiang Township Jailed or Detained in ‘Re-Education Camp’” (Radio Free Asia | June 2018)
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Denmark approves new classification and requirements for low-income immigrant neighborhoods
- The Danish government plans to classify low-income, predominantly Muslim immigrant neighborhoods as “ghettos,” triggering a set of household requirements for the receipt of welfare benefits.
- Starting at one year of age, children will be separated from their families for 25 hours a week for education in “Danish values” (including Christian religious traditions), while other Danish children typically do not begin school until age six.
- The policy comes as anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the country, with political figures (including the Prime Minister) denigrating immigrant enclaves and demanding assimilation.
“Denmark to school ‘ghetto’ kids in democracy and Christmas” (Reuters | May 2018)
“In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“‘No ghettos in 2030’: Denmark’s controversial plan to get rid of immigrant neighborhoods” (Vox | July 2018)
Suicide bombing targets Sikhs in Jalalabad, leaving more than a dozen dead and 20 wounded
- The attack targeted a vehicle traveling through the Mukhaberat district, with at least 10 of the dead members of the Sikh community.
- The vehicle’s occupants had been traveling to meet with President Ashraf Ghani, who was on tour in Jalalabad and had recently attended the inauguration a new hospital.
- Sikhs account for less than 1% of the Afghan population, their numbers having been drastically reduced in the last few decades as a result of death and displacement from war and institutionalized oppression and neglect.
“Suicide Attack Targets Sikhs in Jalalabad, 19 Killed” (TOLOnews | July 2018)
“Deadly blast hits eastern Afghan city, targeting Sikh minority” (Reuters | July 2018)
“The decline of Afghanistan’s Hindu and Sikh communities” (Al Jazeera | January 2017)
Denmark bans face veils as anti-Muslim sentiment increases
- The Danish Parliament passed legislation effectively banning burqas and niqabs, imposing up to a 10,000 kroner fine on anyone found in repeated violation.
- Just over three dozen people are thought to be currently affected by the legislation, prompting Muslims and advocates to argue the bill’s greater purpose is to stir Islamophobic attitudes.
- The ban comes amidst a wave of anti-Muslim remarks and proposals, including the Immigration Minister’s touting of falling Muslim citizenship approval numbers, a 50,000-signature petition to ban the circumcision of boys, and calls for the closing of Muslim schools.
“Danish parliament bans the wearing of face veils in public” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Denmark swings right on immigration – and Muslims feel besieged” (The Guardian | June 2018)
“Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister” (The Local | May 2018)
Austrian government announces Islam crackdown, shutters mosques
- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that it would be dissolving the Arab Religious Group, which runs six mosques, along with a Turkish mosque and would be shut down.
- The Interior Chancellor also announced that the residence permits of dozens of foreign-born imams associated with Turkish organization ATIB were under review, which could lead to their deportation if revoked.
- Implementing its pledge to restrict immigration and monitor assimilation, the government, a conservative coalition that includes the far-right Freedom Party, is using as justification a 2015 law prohibiting the foreign funding of religious groups and for Muslim organizations to support the Austrian state and society.
“Austria to shut 7 mosques and could expel dozens of imams” (Al Jazeera | June 2018)
“Austria shuts down seven mosques in what it says is ‘just the beginning’ of a crackdown” (The Washington Post | June 2018)
“Erdoğan warns of ‘crusader-crescent war’ after Austria’s shutting of mosques” (Hurriyet Daily News | June 2018)
More than 10 killed, dozens wounded in Indonesian church bombings
- A family of six—including young children—launched coordinated suicide bombings at three church sites in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.
- Targeting a Catholic church, a Pentecostal church, and the Indonesian Christian Church, the attacks left at least 13 dead and 40 wounded.
- The attack came as the Islamic State has stepped up recruitment in the Southeast Asia region, with police reporting that the family was among the 500 Islamic State sympathizers returning from Syria.
“IS-linked family responsible for Surabaya bombings, police say” (The Jakarta Post | May 2018)
“Family of IS-inspired suicide bombers attack Indonesian churches, at least 13 dead” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Indonesia attacks: How Islamic State is galvanising support” (BBC News | May 2018)
Evidence of Rohingya massacre by security forces deepens crisis in Myanmar
- The Associated Press uncovered evidence of a military-led mass killing of a Rohingya community in late August that left at least 75 and as many as 400 dead.
- The report detailed documentary evidence of at least five mass graves in and near the village of Gu Dar Pyin along with videos and survivor reports of acid use to attempt to cover up the massacre.
- While the Burmese government insists it is only targeting “terrorists” and denies mass killings, the international community is facing growing pressure to declare ongoing state violence against the Rohingya a genocide.
“AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar” (The Associated Press | February 2018)
“Evidence of Rohingya mass graves uncovered in Myanmar” (Al Jazeera | February 2018)
“Myanmar denies report of new mass graves in Rakhine” (Reuters | February 2018)
The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists
Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)
With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
“The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)
“Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)
Atheist Asylum Program