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Parenting Young Women in the Age of Extremism

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By Umm Reem

Why Teen Girls maybe Joining ISIS

In retrospect I became a part of what I believe now was a cult because I had a strong personality, leadership qualities and I wanted to make a difference. But most importantly, I lacked a strong relationship with my parents. I was raised through typical “immigrant-parenting” where communication with my parents was limited. I shared the same cultural and generation gap with my parents as many do with their immigrant families.

Moreover, the Muslim community in my area didn’t offer any platform for girls my age. As I started becoming more spiritual, I wanted to be more active in our mosque. I was eager to organize and manage activities in the Muslim community but that yearning was often suppressed by the “aunties” politics in the masjids. Older aunties monopolized most of our local mosques’ boards and instead of offering us –youth- any key roles, they almost always took over any important roles and undermined youth’s ability to lead. Hence, when The Ameer Club* actually offered a role to girls of my age –even though it was under male leadership—it automatically attracted my attention, and increased my loyalty, attachment and dedication towards the organization because I didn’t have any other alternatives.

Again, the only comparison between TAC and ISIS is the manipulation of impressionable teenage minds. Minds that are looking for a purpose to live for, looking for involvement to feel valuable, and all it takes to imprison such minds is to hunt them at the right time when they are feeling “religious high” and offer them what they are looking for, making them blind to the evil involved in the guise of “greater good”.

Let me point out certain factors that made me easy bait to a cult so others may understand why young female minds can be easily persuaded, and also to help parents review their parenting style and their relationship with their daughters, and help our mosques provide a stronger platform to teens looking to serve their communities.

[Disclaimer: I will be referring to some of the girls who left for ISIS, particularly their relationship with their families. By no means do I mean to criticize those families or be callous towards their situation. My ONE and ONLY purpose is to learn and extract lessons for myself and other parents. Nevertheless, we can’t guarantee anything no matter how excellent parents we may become. We can take precautions but only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can protect our children.]

Lack of Relationship with Parents:

Young girls are looking for attention, and a way to communicate with people who understand them with love. Internet in my time was still in its early baby steps, but now it is far easier to form online connections and build bonds—bonds that must be offered at home by parents.

How can Parents Help:

Change Your Parenting Style: Typical parenting pushes our teens farther away. Parenting must be interactive, friendly, and more logical than typical.

One of the girls who left for ISIS described her parents as “very strict,” a fact that her father did not dispute. 

I will not deny that disciplining and setting rules/regulations are a part of parenting, however, how they are set and implemented can take a positive or negative turn. Every “NO” to a child should come with a reasonable discussion.

Communicate with your Daughter: Communication is the key to successful parenting. There shouldn’t be anything between you and your children that cannot be discussed freely. Share your life with your kids and facilitate for them to share theirs with you, without any intimidating/deterrent reaction from your side.

Double Standards of Raising a Girl vs. Boy: Parents need to get rid of double standard of raising a girl vs. a boy. Not only it is religiously wrong but also damages a daughter’s relationship with her parents and may implore her to rebel at some point in her life, most likely during her teen years. For instance, Hoda who left for ISIS, mentioned that her father kept a check on her phone and had restrictions that her brothers didn’t have to face.

“Although Hoda’s brothers and Mohammed himself have Facebook accounts — with pictures of themselves visible — the women of the family were not to have social media accounts or use messaging apps to communicate with anyone besides family members.” 

Parents must stop putting all the unfair pressure of upholding so-called “family honor” on girls. A strong bond must be created with daughters through justice, communication and understanding. The restrictions need to be same for a daughter and a son, as the advantages.

Compliment your Daughter: Of the reasons I believe girls slip for ISIS is because the ISIS recruiters are trained to cajole the young girls and give them the attention and compliments they feel deprived of—compliments that they crave and never received from their own families, especially fathers. A female always desires male attention, and one of the ways to control that emotion is by fathers and brothers complimenting their daughters/sisters.

Girls who are fulfilled and receive sufficient attention at home, including from the menfolk, may not fall for the first guy that shows them little or any attention.

As Sarah mentions, “most common tactics of ISIS recruiters is to praise the looks of the girl they are trying to entrap, and convince her to cover herself as her “beauty is precious”. Although the recruiters are inviting the girls to become more religious, it becomes okay for them to look at the girls’ pictures or webcam them and compliment their looks!”

Sarah mentioned that Aqsa Mahmood, who had been Sarah’s twitter friend for a couple years, had body image issues. She often talked to Sarah about her insecurities, but once Aqsa fell prey to an ISIS recruiter through WhatsApp, she started gaining confidence—confidence that should have been offered at home.

How can Community Help:

Losing our daughters to ISIS is not only a family problem, it is a community problem, it is OUR problem. We– Western Muslims– need to come together and offer a solution as a community. I urge all the mosques around the U.S., and Muslim communities to:

  •    Educate parents
  •    Offer Parent Child workshops

Finding Purpose of Life through Internet/Twitter

It is human nature to question the purpose of life, have someone explain it precisely and feel fulfilled by achieving that purpose. Our youth, too, look for a purpose in life and if they don’t find their answers at home or mosques, there are all sorts of answers available on the internet, including answers from fanatics that use religion to brainwash a young mind into religious extremism.

Whether it is a practicing household or a non-practicing family, sooner or later the young curious minds will question the very reason of their existence, what purpose they are serving in this world, so whatever their religious background maybe, these answers must not be sought out online.

[button color=”blue” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=”http://muslimmatters.org/2015/06/14/sunrise-euphrates-sarahs-story-asian-twitter-isis-guilt-targeting-young-women/”]Read Sarah’s entire Interview here[/button]

Sarah mentioned that a lot of girls who belonged to non-practicing Muslim families and were looking for spiritual change started getting their answers from those “Twitter Shayookh” who later became ISIS recruiters.

Hoda, who left for Syria, explained her religious awakening finding satisfaction online as well: “I started getting interested in my deen [religious life] around 2012,” Hoda said… “I felt like my life was so bland without it. Life has much more meaning when u know why you are here.”

The “internet/Twitter scholars” influenced her faith more than her local religious influences, according to Hoda.

How can Parents Help:

Engage Pre/Teens in Religious Discussions: The correct religious guidance–the middle path– is the key to counter violence and extremism amongst our youth. Teenagers must not be left on their own to find the purpose of life, but parents must help them understand. So parents who are religious but not involved in their children’s lives need to take a lot more friendly and congenial approach (as discussed above) towards their daughters. And those parents who have left religion in the backseat need to bring religion in their lives and their children’s lives to protect their children from discovering their faith on the hands of extremists.

Also, just because teens start showing signs of religiosity, doesn’t necessarily mean they are gaining the correct/positive message, and it also doesn’t mean that they are becoming radicalized.

In Hoda’s case, her family now mentions:

“Her family noticed her increased devotion to her religion, but assumed she was simply becoming a more ardent follower of the peaceful strain of the religion which they observe.”

Any positive/negative change in the children must be discussed rationally and respectfully. Engage your teens in discussion at dinner table, during school pickups, or randomly during the day. Know what is causing your child to change and in which direction are they steering their lives.

A positive religious change should involve the youth becoming more active in the community rather than withdrawing from the mosques. Hoda recalls, “As I grew closer to my deen, I lost all my friends, I found none in my community that desired to tread the path I was striving for…I didn’t like my Islamic community far too much.”

This attitude is alarming and parents must provide the help a child needs at such a crucial turn in their lives.

Discuss global/political issues: Political organizations use religion to gain support and use religious sentiments to control minds.

Discuss world’s situation with pre/teens. Don’t hesitate in pointing out the weaknesses of Muslim world, hypocrisy of Muslim politicians and make sure to clearly guide them through in separating religion from political/militant agendas.

Monitor Internet Activities: Parents also have to keep themselves fully integrated with THE internet world. Please know that the only “fitnah” online is not the opposite gender, but we have more serious theological issues to be concerned with.

“Mohammed would often check his daughter’s phone…”

Unfortunately though, Hoda’s father was only concerned with her being involved with boys online. Mohammad said, “What Hoda had on her phone, were Islamic apps. Nothing but hadiths, Qur’an, suras. Nothing suspicious that makes me worried about her actions. Nothing.”
Hoda’s parents were concerned that Hoda might be secretly talking to boys online, and as long as she wasn’t they didn’t feel alarmed with her isolation from mosques and learning more about her religion online. THe fact of the matter is that internet is not a very safe place to learn Islam. Parents must acknowledge that many political and militant organizations communicate and recruit online. I, as a parent, would be more concerned about my child’s religious activities online, especially if he/she starts isolating from main Muslim community.

How can Community Help:

  •       Keeping the girls engaged with appealing activities at mosque
  •       Educate them with exclusive lectures just for females
  •       Hold discussions with speakers who “click” with youth.
  •       Please avoid locking them in “penalty box” without giving them access to shayookh in an acceptable way.

I cannot appreciate enough how Clear Lake Islamic Center immediately addressed the ISIS issue openly in the mosque last summer. Quite frankly, that was my first source of information too on ISIS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjPk37AUQDA

Lack of Female Leadership

Females youth are looking for a place in their communities, and valuable roles. Muslim women’s position in our society is far more in spotlight than it was in my time, yet back then I felt left out and repressed by masjid-aunties. So imagine how much more teens of our time must feel deprived if they are not given a platform to lead and shine.

Also, in our times movies and literature with strong female protagonists are becoming exceptionally popular, and they have a direct impact on young minds. If we neglect the role of female youth in our communities, then even if they manage to stay protected from ISIS, the ultra “pheminists” would most likely hijack their minds, iyyadhobillah.

How can Parents Help:

Value your Daughters: It is a male dominant society and our girls have it tough. We cannot change the whole world, but we can change how females are viewed and valued within the four boundaries of our reign.

  • Let’s get rid of double standards between girls and boys.
  • Let our girls not feel any lesser than the boys at any point in their lives.
  • Let’s equip our daughters with confidence, stability, and fulfillment.
  • Let’s build bonds with our daughters so strong that our young girls help unwind the hijacked minds of the girls trapped with ISIS, rather than becoming a prey to ISIS.

How can Community Help:

The girls leaving for ISIS are responsible for their actions, but at such a tender age, how many teenagers make sensible decisions?

So let us help them make the right decision. Let that help be first and foremost available at home, and then within our Muslim communities. Our girls are the pioneers and the future of our ummah, they are the beacon of hope for our success, they are the backbones of our communities. Let our mosques and communities keep them involved within, so we don’t lose them, not even ONE girl, to the devils of ISIS.

  •    Aunties, please let go of your ego and let a younger one contribute.
  •    Allow girls to lead and let elders be there as a guide, not as a “takeover”.
  •    Give female speaker more platforms to speak. Muslim women cannot always relate to male shayookh and need a female to relate to.
  •    Offer female youth more leadership roles

After reading this article, some parents may worry about the changing status of their children/teenagers who may be becoming more religious. As I say, we live in a world where we have to constantly worry about our kids: If they are away from religion, we have to be concerned and if they are coming closer to religion then we must still worry that they don’t fall for extremism or political organizations that are using Islam to mobilize their political agenda.

The answer to this concern is “communication with your children.” Stay engaged with them, have free discussion about world and religion and keep up with their lives in a friendly way. These steps are the barricades we cause between them and ISIS, while holding tight to the weapon of du’a!

Make du’a for your children; make sincere du’a that comes from the bottom of your heart during the day and at night, during your salah and just randomly during the day.

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Asma

    August 13, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    sister asalamualikum
    May Allah bless you. Such a useful discussion in this article. Parents relationship with daughters really matters because girls not only fell for ISIS but there are many other socially ill minded people who tries to trap teenage girls for other wrong means. May Allah protect us. Aameen
    JazakAllah Khair

  2. Avatar

    Diaby

    August 15, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    ?? brilliant article, spot one very helpful jzk

  3. Avatar

    Claude

    August 19, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Excellent post, JAK!

  4. Avatar

    Zanika

    August 21, 2015 at 5:26 AM

    Zazakallahu khairan sister,

    Such a thought provoking article.

  5. Avatar

    nudrat

    August 21, 2015 at 9:05 PM

    Excellent, but parents as well as society is required to change their attitudes.

  6. Avatar

    Shamim

    August 22, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    can’t be offering female youth leadership options when you don’t offer them female leaders to follow and listen to. there are enough educated and pious muslim women out there to mentor these women. we need to empower the women to mentor younger women and give these younger women the love, as well as the positive role modelling, they need.

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#Current Affairs

Malaysians Ask China To Free Uyghurs, Close The Camps

Hena Zuberi

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Free Uyghur Malaysia

By Gulnaz Uighur

Muslims are standing up for Uyghurs, protests held in Malaysia.

5th of July could be just like another day for people but for Uyghurs, it brings back dark memories of a bloody past. This day, in 2009, thousands of Uyghur students were massacred by Chinese police in Urumqi. These young students were demanding an investigation into the rising number of homicides in a toy factory. These people only wanted justice. They were also upset by the ongoing discrimination in the employment sector. Graduates were denied jobs because of their Uyghur ethnicity. After the protests, China started abducting the Uyghur youth and no one knows where the missing went. Its been 10 years since that horrifying incident and the condition of Muslims have devolved in a genocidal nightmare.

Communist Government in China Has over 2 Million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps

Beijing has now locked over 2 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. People in these places are forced to denounce Islam, forget the teachings of Quran, prohibited from praying, asked to learn Xi Jinping’s speech and tortured for not obeying these orders. Sadly, Islam is being treated as a disease in China and most of the Islamic nations are turning a blind eye to it.

So Malaysia came as a breath of fresh air when Muslim NGOs organized an anti-China protest against Uyghur persecution.

On 5th July 2019, a coalition of 34 Malaysian NGOs gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the persecution of Uyghurs. The organizations prepared a memo of protest to be submitted to Chinese officials. In the memo, they demanded Beijing to ‘Respect the human rights of the Uyghur people, in particular, their right to life and freedom of religion and belief.’ , ‘immediately stop the persecution and extreme repression of the Uyghur people.’ and close the camps. They also called upon the International community to increase the voices of protest and disfavour upon the Chinese government and to work together to improve the situation for the Uyghur people through concrete actions.

The protesters shouted slogans like ‘Me Too Uyghur’ and ‘Save Uyghur’. In a media interview, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim asked immediate freedom for all those who have been detained in concentration camps.

Malaysians Stand With Uyghurs

Abim secretary Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz accused the Chinese government of concealing the plight of the Uyghurs by offering NGOs and government agencies free trips and painting a rosy picture of the camps. Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organizations (Mapim), said the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs could not be denied or disguised. The Group of NGOs also included Ikram Association and the Malaysian Youth Council among others.

Though no Chinese official came out to accept the memo, the message was clear that now people won’t keep quiet about the Uyghur persecution. There is a dire need for Muslim countries to break their silence on this issue. There is enough evidence to prove that something unholy and inhumane is happening with Uyghurs. If these countries consider China their friend then ask it to stop being a Shaitan. The leaders must realize that their first duty is towards the Ummah and not towards China.

Now is the time to stand for Uyghurs before nothing is left to be saved.

This protest in  Malaysia has proved that people in Muslim countries do support Uyghurs even if their governments are silent and are upset with Beijing’s policies. This event proved that governments may fail to fight but people won’t.

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#Current Affairs

The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran

Abu Ryan Dardir

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war with Iran

Report after report shows how planet Earth may reach a point of no return. An analysis written by Ian Dunlop claims the planet cannot be saved by the mid-century if we continue on this path. And yet here we are marching towards a war with Iran.

When we think of climate change, we rarely think of war. On June 12th, 2019, Brown University released a report declaring the Department of Defence to be “the world’s largest institution to use petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” Burning jet fuel for transportation of troops and weapons make up 70 percent of the Pentagon’s emissions.  Ironically, earlier this year the Pentagon released a 22-page report to Congress stating the ⅔ of their mission-essential installation in the US are vulnerable to flooding, and ½ are susceptible to wildfires. To no surprise, Trump rejected those findings at the time. The Pentagon is now concerned with the impact climate change has on their “foreign missions.”

war, iran, America, Climate change, pentagonWith tensions high with Iran, and several thousand troops are expected to be deployed, if war with Iran is to happen, it may lead us to a more damaged planet that may not recover. This makes the Pentagon guilty of killing people and the earth. The Department of Defense has consistently used between 77-80% of the entire US energy consumption. We see spikes during times of massive war (since America is in a constant state of war), like in 1991, 2001, and so on.

Here is a list of the seven significant sources of greenhouse emissions done by the Department of Defense:

  1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
  2. War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
  3. Emissions caused by US military industry   — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
  4. Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum,   namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
  5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
  6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
  7. Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including   Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.

This impact on the climate is just the portion from America, in the Iraq war, 37 countries fought alongside America, and 60 are allied against ISIS. There is a way to calculate those emissions as well.

The Rules of War

Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed his soldiers:

  1. Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  2. Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
  3. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
  4. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
  5. If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
  6. Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
  7. Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle. (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
  8. Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience. (Sahih Muslim)
  9. No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
  10. Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and not to do wrong even if they commit evil. (Al-Tirmidhi)

A verse in the Holy Qur’an

4:75 (Y. Ali) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”

How does this potential war against Iran play into all this?

Our first call to action is to organize an anti-war rally. This type of work is weak in America, and virtually non-existent within the Muslim community.

فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ أَمَّا هَذَا فَقَدْ قَضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَنْ رَأَى مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُنْكِرْهُ بِيَدِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.‏

Abu Sa’eed said: ‘As for this, he has fulfilled what is upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whoever is not able, then with his tongue, and whoever is not able, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.”‘

War with Iran will be a Greater Mistake than War with Iraq

Historically, anti-war sentiment in America has grown over the years. When the Iraq war first started only 23% thought it was a mistake, today it is close to 60% that believe the war is a mistake. Yes, this is in hindsight, but that it is also growth. The reason the anti-war movement is feeble in America is that there is no platform for the campaign to grow. Both parties are guilty of starting wars or taking over the wars from the past administration. Whether we do it alone as an individual or as a group, we should do everything we can as privileged members of this planet to save and protect those that can’t defend themselves.

There is a famous quote of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali when explaining why he wasn’t fighting in the war. He said, “…I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.”

Fighting Earth

With that said, there is a significant interest in the region for more than just fuel and resources. It is truly a problem, our operations in the Gulf is to address our dependency on Persian oil, and the fuel that is used to address our dependence is to protect those resources and access to them. One estimate is that America spends $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply. They do this because the DOD feels its dependency will make it vulnerable on a larger scale.

In 1975 America decided to take away the fear of losing the resources and developed the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and in 1978, they created the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Their only purpose was to defend US interest in the Middle East. This, in turn, leads to extractivism of resources and supplies. (Which will be explained in a future article).

This war can be the end of all wars as it can accelerate us to the point of no return in regards to climate change.

A war with Iran is a war with Earth and all who live on it.

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#Current Affairs

5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today

Abu Ryan Dardir

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“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.

Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.

In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”

Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1

The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.

In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.

Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”

They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2

On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.

I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.

As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).

How Can You Help Uyghurs

Here are a few things you can do to help:

1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).

2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.

3. Donate to Uyghur Human Rights Organizations to end concentration camps: UHRP, Uyghur American Association  Donate to Awareness Campaigns: Save Uigur Campaign 

4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products

5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims

This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.

1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/

2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang

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