Al Qaeda urges Uighur jihad in China. So what?
Al Qaeda preacher, Abu Yahya al-Libi, urges Uighurs to launch holy war against China. Is anyone listening?
Another day, another Al Qaeda video. This time it was from the prolific jihad video star Abu Yahya al-Libi, a militant preacher and seasoned guerrilla fighter who some Al Qaeda watchers think is the likely eventual replacement for Osama bin Laden.Skip to next paragraph
2011 Reflections: Suddenly, a new era in the Middle East
2011 Reflections: the end of a landmark year for Latin America
2011 Reflections: Africa rises, taking charge of its affairs
How the 'Year of the Protester' played out in Europe
In Prague, a tale of communism past
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
His pitch? For China's Muslim Uighur minority to "prepare for jihad in the name of God" and expel the Beijing "thugs" from Xinjiang, the Chinese province where most Uighurs live. It's a pitch he's made to a number of nations before (Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine come to mind). In each case the response has been, well, a resounding silence.
His appeal to the Uighurs has Al Qaeda on well-trod ground. Since the wealthy Saudi Bin Laden teamed up with Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to form the "Islamic front against crusaders and Jews" (Al Qaeda's formal name) in 1998, they have pitched their propaganda and outreach efforts to places where Muslims feel marginalized or oppressed.
Al Qaeda has dispatched operatives to encourage religious wars in Indonesia, to infiltrate Muslim separatist groups in the Southern Philippines, to fight in Yemen's civil wars, and to recruit operatives from the Muslim minorities in country's like Kenya. Bin Laden and his lieutenants bang their drum continuously about the Israeli occupation of Palestine for similar reasons. Al Qaeda has reasoned, not without justification, that it's easier to raise recruits from among Muslim populations who have grievances against their own governments.
The Uighurs have plenty of grievances. There are roughly eight million of them living under Chinese rule in a region many of them would like to see independent. Anger at the influx of Han Chinese - the country's dominant ethnic group - into Xinjiang led to bloody riots in June that claimed about 200 lives (mostly Han Chinese) and saw Chinese troops dispatched to the streets of Urumqi, the provincial capital.