A call to protect religious freedom in China

A call to protect religious freedom

by Zahed Amanullah

For Muslims (and Muslim-watchers), the reaction of the worldwide ummah to the plight of co-religionists around the world is an uneven one at times. For reasons too complex to cover here, some injustices (and there are plenty to choose from) seem to be worse than others, despite the numbers and the actions involved. The Uighur crisis, simmering over the past few decades, but reaching a boiling point only in the last five years, has been one of those under-the-radar issues that has not caught on with a public unfamiliar with the nuances involved (or with governments dependent upon or seeking favour with China). But, by any measure, the Uighur crisis is one that cries out for more proactive measures from all justice-minded people worldwide. With that in mind, a group of American Muslims have called for a day of action at Friday khutbahs on July 31, 2009 in order to publicize the issue. The following press release sums up the initiative and we are proud to be a part of it.

American Muslims Call on Chinese Govt’ to Protect Religious Freedom

In response to the outbreak of violence in Xinjiang, China, in early July, 2009, American Muslims across the country will speak out for religious freedom in China during their July 31, 2009 Friday sermon

SAN FRANCISCO - A collection of American Muslim professionals, journalists and community and religious leaders, are calling for American Muslim leaders and religious figures to speak up during their Friday, July 31, sermon for religious freedom in light of the brutal crackdown by the Chinese on Uyghur Muslims in July and a history of repression of religious groups including Christians and the Falun Gong.

In response to the collective concern of the American Muslim community, imams and religious leaders across America have been asked to speak out for religious freedom in China and promote awareness of the plight of Uyghur Muslims to their congregations. Members of this collection of the American Muslim community are currently contacting imams and religious leaders at major religious centers and mosques, and are encouraging sermons addressing the importance of bringing attention and support to this embattled community. They are encouraging sermons that bring attention and support to this embattled community while also addressing the importance of religious freedom for all people, including Uyghur Muslims, and the right of all Chinese religious communities to enjoy self-determination and the preservation of cultural identity.

Resources to promote awareness about the struggle for religious freedom in China, the repressive situation of Uyghur Muslims, and the difficult situation in Xinjiang are available at the facebook group “American Muslims Support the Uyghurs on July 31.” These resources include an Uyghur Primer, an Open Letter on the Uyghurs and a sample khutba for July 31.

This call is being broadcast through various channels, including blogs, Facebook groups, personal contacts, and traditional media. “Americans of all faiths have come together many times in the past to recognize the rights of religious minorities in China,” said Shahed Amanullah, editor-in-chief of the online newsmagazine altmuslim.com. “It is time that the plight of China’s Uyghur minority takes its rightful place alongside those just struggles.”

Specific calls to action for imams and religious leaders include:

1. Religious Freedom is a sacred right for all: American Muslims thrive because of the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. The ability to freely practice one’s faith and belief system is a fundamental human right that should not be addressed lightly.
2. As Muslims we are obligated to support the oppressed and uphold the right of all to stay true to their spiritual conscience.
3. We support the Uyghurs in their struggle to maintain their cultural and religious identity. As Muslims we fully support their community’s effort to preserve their heritage and traditions while maintaining their place in Chinese society.
4. More broadly, every person has the right to the preserve his or her cultural identity.

Individuals and organizations helping to organize this call (partial list, titles for identification purposes only):

Wajahat Ali, Playwright, Attorney and Journalist, DomesticCrusaders.com
Aziz Poonawalla, Blogger at City of Brass (Beliefnet.com)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief of altmuslim.com
Zeba Iqbal, Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals
Hussein Rashid, Visiting Professor, Hofstra University, HusseinRashid.com

Mosques, imams, and organizations confirmed to have joined this effort (please join the growing list):

Muslim Public Affairs Council (Los Angeles; Washington, DC; New York, NY)
The Islamic Center at New York University - Imam Khalid Latif and Haroon Moghul

Resources for the media regarding Muslim efforts to promote awareness of Uyghur Muslims and their situation in China:

Facebook call to action: http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=120876544032&h=J2dY2&u=L153I
Uyghur Primer, Aziz Poonawalla http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2009/07/an-uyghur-primer-the-roots-of.html
A Long History of Injustice Ignored: The Muslims of China, Sheila Musaji http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_long_history_of_injustice_ignored_the_muslims_of_china/003713


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