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Unrest in Xinjiang: Where's the Muslim outrage?

Muslims around the world have largely remained silent about last week's deadly riots between Han Chinese and Uighurs. What makes this case of 'oppression' of Muslims different than others?

By Matthew Clark / July 13, 2009

Paramilitary police officers patrol on the main street in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, Monday.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

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Shhhh! I think I just heard a pin drop.

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Nope. It's just more deafening silence from the Muslim Street in the wake of last week's ethnic riot that killed more than 184 in China's restive Xinjiang Province, home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group.

According to the Chinese government, the majority of the victims in the riot were Han Chinese, attacked by Uighurs who've complained for decades about being marginalized, abused, neglected, and oppressed ever since former Communist leader Mao Zedong launched a campaign to flood Xinjiang with Han Chinese in 1960s. But many of the victims were Uighurs, too, and thousands of Uighurs were arrested as a result of the melee. Many could face execution.

China also closed mosques last week – just one of many strict limits on freedom of expression in Xinjiang.

It’s the kind of stuff that would arouse passionate protests if a Western country were the one cracking down. (Remember the apoplectic protests over the Danish cartoon of Prophet Muhammad?)

But there were no Chinese flags burned in Karachi. No effigies of Hu Jintao smoldered in Cairo. No “Death to China” chants echoed through the streets of Tehran.

Not that the Monitor would ever be in favor of such protests against any country. But why does it seem as though there such a different reponse for China?

The Uighurs' "spiritual mother," Rebiya Kadeer (profiled here by the Monitor’s Beijing Bureau Chief Peter Ford), has some ideas.

“So far the Islamic world is silent about the Uighurs' suffering because the Chinese authorities have been very successful in [their] propaganda to the Muslim world … that the Uighurs are extremely pro-west Muslims - that they are modern Muslims, not genuine Muslims," she said at a press conference Monday in Washington.

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