Posts tagged ‘Muslim’

31/10/2016

An uncertain community | The Economist

FOR a community of 172m, almost 15% of the population, Muslims at first glance appear oddly absent from the pages of India’s newspapers. In fact, they crop up a lot, but not by name.

Instead, reporters coyly refer to “a certain community”. The clumsy circumlocution is a way of avoiding any hint of stoking sectarian unrest. The aim is understandable in a country that was born amid ferocious communal clashes and which has suffered all too many reprises. But the dainty phrase also hints at something else. Since India’s independence in 1947, the estrangement of Muslims has slowly grown.

India’s Muslims have not, it is true, been officially persecuted, hounded into exile or systematically targeted by terrorists, as have minorities in other parts of the subcontinent, such as the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan. But although violence against them has been only sporadic, they have struggled in other ways. In 2006 a hefty report detailed Muslims’ growing disadvantages. It found that very few army officers were Muslim; their share in the higher ranks of the police was “minuscule”. Muslims were in general poorer, more prone to sex discrimination and less literate than the general population (see chart). At postgraduate level in elite universities, Muslims were a scant 2% of students.

A decade later, with most of the committee’s recommendations quietly shelved, those numbers are unlikely to have improved. Indeed, since the landslide election win by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, some gaps have widened. There are fewer Muslim ministers now in the national government—just two out of 75—than at any time since independence, even though the Muslim share of the population has grown.

India remains a secular country, yet some laws proposed by the BJP bear a disturbingly sectarian tint. One bill would allow immigrants from nearby countries who happen to be Hindu, Sikh, Christian or Buddhist to apply for citizenship, while specifically barring Muslims. Another would retroactively block any legal challenge to past seizures of property from people deemed Pakistani “enemies”, even if their descendants have nothing to do with Pakistan and are Indian citizens. Courts have repeatedly ruled in favour of such claimants—all of them Muslim—but their families could now be stripped of any rights in perpetuity.

Far more than such legislative slights, what frightens ordinary Muslims is the government’s silence in the face of starker assaults. A year ago many were shocked when a mob in a village near Delhi, the capital, beat to death a Muslim father of three on mere suspicion that he had eaten beef. Earlier this month, after one of his alleged killers died of disease while in police custody, a BJP minister attended the suspect’s funeral, at which the casket was draped, like a hero’s, with the Indian flag.

Earlier this month, too, newspapers reported a disturbing discrepancy between the fates of two men arrested for allegedly spreading religiously insulting material via social media. One of the men, a member of a right-wing Hindu group in the BJP-run state of Madhya Pradesh, was quickly released from custody after the customary beating. The arresting officers have been charged with assault; their superiors up to the district level transferred. In the other case, in the state of Jharkhand, a Muslim villager was arrested for posting pictures implying he had slaughtered a cow. Police claimed he died of encephalitis following his arrest. A court-ordered autopsy revealed he had been beaten to death. To date, no police officers have been charged.

The BJP’s handling of a popular uprising in India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, has also raised Muslim concern. Four months into the unrest, in which dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds injured, with continuous curfews and strikes keeping schools and shops closed, the government still refuses to talk to any but the most supine local politicians. “You don’t understand,” snaps a cabinet minister, “It’s a violent movement to build an Islamic theocracy. No democracy can tolerate that.”

Omair Ahmad, a writer on Muslim affairs, scoffs at this. The problem, he says, is that Indian governments insist on treating Kashmir as a “Muslim issue” when the real question is one of democratic representation. Yet most Indian Muslims tend to toe the official line, either from a desire to appear loyal or because they genuinely feel only a faint bond with Kashmir.

The fact is that India’s Muslims are divided, not only between dominant Sunnis and a large Shia minority but also between starkly different social classes and regions: a Muslim in Bengal is likely to share no language and few traditions with a co-religionist far to the south in steamy Kerala. The divisions may soon get deeper. Both India’s supreme court and the national law commission, a state body charged with legal reform, are deliberating whether laws governing such things as divorce and inheritance should remain different for different religious groups, or should be harmonised in a uniform national code, as the constitution urges. Spotting another “Muslim issue”, past governments have let conservative clerics control family law. As a result India, unlike most Muslim-majority countries, still allows men to divorce simply by pronouncing the word three times.

The BJP, however, is calling for sweeping reform, with Narendra Modi, the prime minister, painting the issue as a straightforward question of women’s rights. Much as many Muslims heartily agree that change is long overdue, suspicions linger that the BJP’s aim is less to generate reform than to spark inevitable protests by Muslim conservatives, so uniting Hindus in opposition to Muslim “backwardness”.

This question may play out in elections this winter in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, nearly 40m of whose 200m people are Muslim. The state has witnessed repeated communal clashes since the destruction by Hindu activists, in 1992, of a medieval mosque said to have been built over an ancient temple marking the birthplace of Rama, a Hindu deity. Many expect the BJP to play the “Muslim card” in an effort to rally Hindu votes.

There is hope: a similar ploy flopped last year in the neighbouring state of Bihar. Whatever the outcome, India’s Muslims feel increasingly like spectators in their own land. “They called it a secular state, which is why many who had a choice at partition wanted to stay here,” says Saeed Naqvi, a journalist whose recent book, “Being the Other”, chronicles the growing alienation of India’s Muslims. “But what really happened was that we seamlessly glided from British Raj to Hindu Raj.”

Source: An uncertain community | The Economist

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07/10/2016

China’s other Muslims | The Economist

THE faithful are returning from the haj. Waiting for prayers outside the Great Mosque in Tongxin, a remote town in the western province of Ningxia, Li Yuchuan calls his pilgrimage a liberation: “Our prayers are just homework for it.” His 84-year-old friend (pictured, right) leaps up and twists himself with lithe agility into the shape of a pretzel. “We Muslims pray five times a day,” he says. “We are flexible and tough.” China’s Muslims need to be.

China has a richly deserved reputation for religious intolerance. Buddhists in Tibet, Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang and Christians in Zhejiang province on the coast have all been harassed or arrested and their places of worship vandalised. In Xinjiang the government seems to equate Islam with terrorism. Women there have been ordered not to wear veils on their faces. Muslims in official positions have been forced to break the Ramadan fast. But there is a remarkable exception to this grim picture of repression: the Hui.

China has two big Muslim groups, the Uighur of Xinjiang and the more obscure Hui. Though drops in the ocean of China’s population, they each have about 10m people, the size of Tunisia. But while the Uighur suffer, the Hui are thriving.

The number of mosques in Ningxia (cradle of the Hui, as one of their number puts it) has more than doubled since 1958, from 1,900 to 4,000, says Ma Ping, a retired professor at Northern Nationalities University. New ones are being built across the province. The Hui are economically successful. They are rarely victims of Islamophobia. Few Muslim minorities anywhere in the world can say as much.

The Hui’s religious practices reflect the waves of Islam that have washed over China. According to Ma Tong, a Hui scholar, just over half of them follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, which was brought to China centuries ago. At the Najiahu mosque south of Yinchuan, Ningxia’s capital, banners adorn the entrance saying “ancient and authentic religion” and “cleave to the original path”. A fifth of the Hui follow the more austere code of Wahhabism brought to China in the 19th century (there are also a handful of more extreme Salafist converts resulting from recent contacts through the haj). And a fifth follow one of three Sufi schools of Islam, an esoteric and mystical branch derided as apostate by hardline Salafists. The Hui’s religious diversity makes it easier for the party to tolerate them. Divide and rule.

But the real secret of the Hui’s success lies in the ways they differ from the Uighur. The Uighur, of Turkic origin, are ethnically distinct. They speak their own language, related to Turkish and Uzbek. They have a homeland: the vast majority live in Xinjiang. A wall of discrimination separates them from the Han Chinese. If they have jobs in state-owned enterprises, they are usually menial.

In contrast, the Hui are counted as an ethnic minority only because it says so on their hukou (household-registration) documents and because centuries ago their ancestors came as missionaries and merchants from Persia, the Mongol courts or South-East Asia. Having intermarried with the Han for generations, they look and speak Chinese. They are scattered throughout China (see map); only one-fifth live in Ningxia.

Unlike the Uighur and Tibetans, they have taken the path of assimilation.

At the new Qiao Nan mosque in Tongxin, the congregation is celebrating the life of an important local figure in the mosque’s history. The ceremony begins with a sermon by the ahong (imam). Then come prayers chanted in Arabic. At the house of the local worthy’s grandson, the worshippers read from the Koran, then visit the tomb. But the afternoon ends very differently, with a reading from an 18-metre-long scroll written by the grandson, Ma Jinlong. This consists of excerpts from eighth-century classical Chinese poetry, illustrated with his own delicate water-colours. Mr Ma is both a stalwart of the mosque and a Chinese gentleman-scholar.

A close connection with Chinese society is characteristic of the Hui. Some of the most famous historical figures were Hui, though few Chinese are aware of it. They include Zheng He, China’s equivalent of Columbus, who commanded voyages of discovery around 1400. Recently, the party chief in Jiangsu province as well as the head of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, a government body, were Hui.

Relations with the Han have not always been good. The so-called Dungan revolt by the Hui in the 1860s and 1870s was a bloodbath. But since the death of Mao in 1976, the two sides have reached an accommodation. Dru Gladney, of Pomona College in California, says a hallmark of the Hui is their skill at negotiating around the grey areas of China’s political system.

Thanks to this, they have been successful economically. They dominate halal food production. They are emerging as the favoured middlemen between state enterprises and firms in Central Asia and the Gulf. China’s largest school of Arabic is a private college, set up and partly financed by Hui, on the outskirts of Yinchuan. Most students are training to be corporate interpreters.

One sign of how far the government tolerates the Hui is that they are even able to practice Islamic (sharia) law to a limited extent. Sharia is not recognised by the Chinese legal code. Yet at the Najiahu mosque, the ahong and the local county court share the same mediation office. Every week or so, the ahong adjudicates in family disputes usingsharia. Only if he fails do civil officials step in.

Surprisingly, the Hui have not lost their religion or identity despite centuries of assimilation. Mr Ma, the retired professor, says Hui people often form close-knit communities and pursue similar occupations; restaurants and taxis in many cities are run by Hui. But their religion is “still the most important binding factor”, he says. The Hui maintain a delicate balance. They can practise their religion undisturbed thanks to assimilation. But it is their religion that makes them distinct.

This is a fine line, and it means the Hui are vulnerable to China’s shifting religious attitudes. They have so far mostly escaped Islamophobia. But bigotry is becoming more common on social media. “The greens” (a significant colour in Islam) has become an online term of abuse. So far the government has tolerated the Hui’s culture. But in Ningxia in July, Xi Jinping, the president, told his audience to “resolutely guard against illegal infiltration”—even though there is little sign of any. His government has become more repressive towards many religious groups. The Hui could be next.

But the lessons offered by the Hui’s experience are largely positive. Islam, the Hui show, are not the threat that party leaders sometimes imply it is. They show that you can be both Chinese and Muslim. At Yinchuan airport, a returning pilgrim is waiting for his luggage. He wears a white robe with “Chinese pilgrimage to Mecca” stitched in green Arabic letters below a Chinese flag embroidered in red, the symbol of an atheist party-state. “It was the experience of a lifetime,” he says of the haj—and disappears into a sea of white hats worn by hundreds of cheering fellow Muslims who fill the arrivals hall to welcome him home.

Source: China’s other Muslims | The Economist

26/08/2016

The Economist explains: Why Kashmir is erupting again | The Economist

TODAY marks the 48th consecutive day of protests in Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. Young Kashmiri men have been on the streets calling for independence from India and throwing stones at security forces. Indian security forces have responded with tear gas and shotguns that fire small-bore pellets instead of buckshot.

A strict curfew has also been imposed across the Kashmir valley, which includes Srinagar, the region’s largest city. So far, 66 civilians and two police officers have been killed in the violence. Why are Kashmiris protesting?

The region has been disputed since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Both sides claim the territory and have fought three wars over it. Kashmir has been living under India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives special powers to the army, since the eruption in 1990 of an armed insurgency that was covertly supported by Pakistan. Some 40,000 people have been killed since. Even in the relatively peaceful past decade, unrest has flared up, most notably in the summers of 2008 and 2010. The current protests started on July 9th after Indian security forces killed Burhan Wani, a young and charismatic Islamist militant. Resentment had been building for months. Kashmiris worried when Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014 that his national government would make life difficult for Muslims. At state elections later that year, the local Peoples Democratic Party formed a coalition with the BJP, leaving them feeling betrayed. Wani’s killing has mobilised a generation that had grown up under what it sees as an illegitimate Indian occupation.

The result has been a seven-week cycle of violent protests and retaliatory action by the police and paramilitary forces. Their supposedly non-lethal pellets have blinded dozens and injured hundreds. Shops and businesses have remained closed since the protests started, either under curfew orders or because of calls for strikes from separatist leaders. Many Kashmiris have not left their homes for weeks. Few expect the situation to improve any time soon, despite soothing words this week from Mr Modi and a visit to the region by India’s home minister.An obstacle to any lasting solution is India’s insistence on seeing Kashmir through the prism of its rivalry with Pakistan. The Indian government’s immediate reaction to this summer’s unrest was to accuse its neighbour of meddling. In fact, Wani was a home-grown insurgent; the young men on the streets are locals. Unemployment is widespread and economic opportunities are few. The state was also promised special status, guaranteeing autonomy, in India’s constitution. And many Kashmiris now want more: a survey in 2010 by Chatham House, a think-tank, found overwhelming support for independence. Kashmiris are at best ambivalent about their attachment to India. Until the government recognises their demands, the anger is unlikely to dissipate.

Source: The Economist explains: Why Kashmir is erupting again | The Economist

19/08/2016

Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

CLOSE your eyes and you could be in a farmyard: a docile heifer slurps a grassy lunch off your hand, mooing appreciatively. Now open your eyes to the relentless bustle of a huge city: the cow is tied to a lamp-post, cars swerve to avoid it and its keeper demands a few rupees for providing it with the snack.

Across Mumbai, an estimated 4,000 such cow-handlers, most of them women, offer passing Hindus a convenient way to please the gods. In a country where three-quarters of citizens hold cows to be sacred, they form part of an unusual bovine economy mixing business, politics and religion.India is home to some 200m cows and more than 100m water buffaloes. The distinction is crucial. India now rivals Brazil and Australia as the world’s biggest exporter of beef, earning around $4 billion a year. But the “beef” is nearly all buffalo; most of India’s 29 states now ban or restrict the slaughter of cows. With such strictures multiplying under the government of Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, entrepreneurs have sought new ways to profit.

One promising line of business has been to become a gau rakshak, or cow protector. Some of these run charitably funded retirement homes for ageing cows, including rural, ranch-style facilities advertised on television. Other rakshaks have proven more concerned with punishing anyone suspected of harming cows or trading in their meat. Such vigilantes have gained notoriety in recent years as attacks on meat-eating Muslims or on lower-caste Hindus working in the leather trade have led to several deaths. A mob assaulted a group of Dalits (the castes formerly known as untouchables) last month in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, thinking they had killed a cow. In fact they were skinning a carcass they had bought legitimately; Dalits traditionally dispose of dead cows.

More commonly, India’s less scrupulous cowboys simply demand protection money from people who handle cattle. An investigation by the Indian Express, a newspaper, found that cattle breeders in the northern state of Punjab were forced to pay some 200 rupees ($3) a cow to ensure that trucks transporting livestock could proceed unmolested. Under pressure from the rakshaks, the state government had also made it harder to get permits to transport cattle.

Earlier this month Mr Modi broke a long silence on the issue. Risking the ire of his Hindu-nationalist base, the prime minister blasted “fake” gau rakshaks for giving a good cause a bad name. If they really cared about cows, he said, they should stop attacking other people and instead stop cows that munch on rubbish from ingesting plastic, a leading cause of death.

In any case, vigilantism and the beef trade generate minuscule incomes compared with India’s $60 billion dairy industry. The country’s cows and buffaloes produce a fifth of all the world’s milk. As Indian incomes rise and consumers opt for costlier packaged brands, sales of dairy products are rising by 15% a year. But although a milk cow can generate anywhere from 400 to 1,100 rupees a day, this still leaves the question of what to do with male animals, as well as old and unproductive females.

Not all can be taken in by organised shelters. This makes the urban cow-petting business a useful retirement strategy. A good patch (outside a temple, say) can generate around 500 rupees a day from passers-by. Feed costs just 20 rupees a day, says Raju Gaaywala, a third-generation cow attendant whose surname, not coincidentally, translates as cow-handler.

He inherited his patch in Mulund, a northern suburb of Mumbai, when his father passed away in 1998. His latest cow, Lakshmi, cost him 4,000 rupees around three years ago and generates around 40 times that every year, enough to send his three children to English-language schools and, he hopes, to set them up in a different form of entrepreneurship.

The handlers fear their days may be limited. A nationwide cleanliness drive has targeted urban cow-handlers, who are in theory liable for fines of 10,000 rupees. In practice the resurgent Hindu sentiment under Mr Modi should help leave the cattle on the streets. It may kick up other opportunities, too. Shankar Lal, an ideological ally of the prime minister’s, in an interview with the Indian Express extolled the many health merits of cow dung. Spreading a bit on the back of a smartphone, as he does every week, apparently protects against harmful radiation. Usefully for Indian farmers, only local cows can be used, not Western breeds such as Holsteins or Jerseys, he warns: “Their dung and milk are nothing but poison.”

Source: Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

25/06/2015

At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters

At least 18 people are dead after ethnic Uighurs attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in China’s western Xinjiang region, Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on Monday in a district of the southern city of Kashgar, where tensions between Muslim Uighurs that call the region home and the majority Han Chinese have led to bloodshed in recent years.

Suspects killed several police officers with knives and bombs after speeding through a traffic checkpoint in a car in Kashgar’s Tahtakoruk district, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia said, citing Turghun Memet, an officer at a nearby police station.

Armed police responded to the attack and killed 15 suspects “designated as terrorists,” Radio Free Asia cited Memet as saying.

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomo...

An SVG map of China with the Xinjiang autonomous region highlighted Legend: Image:China map legend.png The orange area is Aksai Chin, a part of Xinjiang which is claimed by India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The attack comes at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a sensitive time in Xinjiang after an uptick in attacks over the past three years in which hundreds have died, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.

Repeated calls to the Xinjiang government news office were not answered. Such incidents are frequently reported in overseas media but not confirmed by the Chinese government until days later, if ever.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say repressive government policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam and on Uighur culture, have provoked unrest, a claim that Beijing denies.

via At least 18 dead in attack in China’s Xinjiang: Radio Free Asia | Reuters.

03/04/2015

Hindus to be world’s 3rd largest population by 2050, says Pew Research Centre’s religious report – The Hindu

The world population of Hindus will grow rapidly between now and 2050, based on a relatively high expansion rate and the youth profile of this community. The largest global growth, however, will be among Muslims, outpacing the growth of every other religion’s population.

Hindus will become the world’s third largest population by 2050 while India will overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population, according to a new study.

This was a key result of an in-depth study on “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050,” by the Pew Research Center, which sought to explain “Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest” in terms of the community’s higher fertility – 3.1 children per woman – and the fact that 34 per cent of Muslims are below the age of 15 years.

The Pew growth projections report says that India would retain a Hindu majority but would also have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.

Worldwide, the Hindu population is projected to rise by 34 per cent over the period, from a little over 1 billion to nearly 1.4 billion, roughly keeping pace with overall population growth, the report noted.

By 2050, Hindus will be third, making up 14.9 per cent of the world’s total population, followed by people who do not affiliate with any religion, accounting for 13.2 per cent, the report said.

People with no religious affiliation currently have the third largest share of the world’s total population.

The Hindu population’s fertility rate, at 2.4 children per woman, is second to the Muslim figure, but ranks above Jewish and Buddhist fertility, respectively at 2.3 and 1.6 children per woman.

Further, 30 per cent of Hindus are below the age of 15, which is lower than the corresponding number for Muslims, while at the other end of the age spectrum seven per cent of Muslims were above 60 years old in 2010 and the figure for Hindus was eight per cent.

The Pew study found that Muslims would nearly double their numbers in Europe to more than ten per cent by 2050 and would outnumber Christians worldwide by 2070, according to the forecast of the growth of religions around the world.

In North America, the Hindu share of the population was expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, the report’s authors said, up from 0.7 per cent in 2010 to 1.3 per cent in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models.

However, without including migration effects the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain “about the same.”

via Hindus to be world’s 3rd largest population by 2050, says Pew Research Centre’s religious report – The Hindu.

31/01/2015

5 Things to Know About Turkey and the Chinese Uighurs – WSJ

1 TURKISH NATIONALISTS CONSIDER UIGHURS KIN.

Many Turkish nationalists regard the Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language, as part of a broad family of ethnic Turks spread across Eurasia. They have lobbied successive Turkish governments to offer refuge to those fleeing Chinese rule and to allow Uighurs to campaign against Beijing’s policies from Turkish soil.

2 TURKEY HAS SHELTERED UIGHUR LEADERS SINCE AT LEAST THE 1950S.

Turkey offered shelter in the 1950s to Isa Yusuf Alptekin, a Uighur nationalist who was a leader of the East Turkestan Republic established in southern Xinjiang from 1933 to 1934. A small park named after him can be found in Istanbul, near the Blue Mosque in the city’s historic center.

3 TURKISH AUTHORITIES HELPED ESTABLISH UIGHUR COMMUNITIES IN TURKEY IN 1965.

In 1965, Turkey offered sanctuary to a group of some 200 Chinese Uighurs who had escaped on foot to Afghanistan. Turkish authorities airlifted them out of Kabul and settled them mostly in the central Turkish city of Kayseri, where many still live today.

4 UIGHURS FLEEING CHINA OFTEN HEAD FOR ISTANBUL.

The Turkish government doesn’t provide official statistics for the number of Uighurs in Turkey. Uighur groups say there are about 20,000, many of whom have never been to China. About 1,500 are in Kayseri, while most others live in Istanbul, especially in the Zeytinburnu neighborhood near old town. There are also hundreds of thousands of Uighurs living in former Soviet Central Asia

5 THE UIGHUR ISSUE MAKES TURKEY-CHINA RELATIONS A DELICATE BALANCE.

After inter-ethnic rioting in 2009 left at least 156 dead in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, Turkey’s then Prime Minister — now President — Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the violence as “genocide,” prompting an angry response from Beijing. In 2012, with relations improving, Mr. Erdogan made his first stop in Xinjiang during an official visit to China.

via 5 Things to Know About Turkey and the Chinese Uighurs – WSJ.

16/01/2015

Ethnic minorities: Don’t make yourself at home | The Economist

CHINA is urbanising at a rapid pace. In 2000 nearly two-thirds of its residents lived in the countryside. Today fewer than half do. But two ethnic groups, whose members often chafe at Chinese rule, are bucking this trend. Uighurs and Tibetans are staying on the farm, often because discrimination against them makes it difficult to find work in cities. As ethnic discontent grows, so too does the discrimination, creating a vicious circle.

Breaking this circle is crucial to China’s efforts to defuse unrest in Xinjiang, Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas of other provinces, which collectively account for nearly one-third of China’s land area. In Xinjiang, Uighur grievances have triggered numerous outbreaks of violence. On January 12th, in what appeared to be the latest such example, six people were shot dead after allegedly attacking police in Shule, a town near China’s border with Central Asia. Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim, minority who number about 10m in Xinjiang. In 2000, 80% of them were farmers; ten years later 83% of them were.

There has been far less violence in Tibet, but separatism in the region is no less a headache for China’s leaders. There are more than 6m Tibetans in Tibet and four neighbouring provinces. The proportion of farmers fell only slightly between 2000 and 2010, from 87% to 83%. Some prefer to stay in the fields. But many others feel excluded from the benefits enjoyed by the ethnic Han Chinese, who make up more than 90% of China’s population. Neither Uighurs nor Tibetans enjoy ready access to the job market that has drawn tens of millions of Han to cities in recent years. They are unwelcome, and they know it.

In 2010 about 1% of Tibetans had settled outside the provinces that encompass their homeland, and less than 1% of Uighurs had migrated from Xinjiang, according to census data compiled by Ma Rong of Peking University. Many of the migrants are either officials or in government-sponsored education programmes. The rate of voluntary exodus from Xinjiang and Tibetan areas is slowing considerably.

Part of the problem is linguistic. Uighurs and Tibetans brought up in the countryside often have a very poor grasp of Mandarin, the official language. The government has tried to promote Mandarin in schools, but has encountered resistance in some places where it is seen as an attempt to suppress native culture. In southern Xinjiang, where most Uighurs live, many schools do not teach it.

But discrimination is a big factor, too. Even some of the best-educated Uighur and Tibetan migrants struggle to find work. Reza Hasmath of Oxford University found that minority candidates in Beijing, for example, were better educated on average than their Han counterparts, but got worse-paying jobs. A separate study found that CVs of Uighurs and Tibetans, whose ethnicities are clearly identifiable from their names (most Uighurs also look physically very different from Han Chinese), generated far fewer calls for interviews.

Government programmes help some Uighurs, Tibetans and other minorities get a better education; affirmative-action policies can boost their chances of going to university. One scheme, known as the Xinjiang Class, sends thousands of Uighurs as well as Han Chinese from Xinjiang every year to other parts of China to complete their schooling. But it also encourages them to return to Xinjiang to work among Uighurs. Official figures suggest that 50% end up going back to Xinjiang. Timothy Grose of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana found that most he interviewed would have preferred not to.

via Ethnic minorities: Don’t make yourself at home | The Economist.

31/12/2014

Religion in India bubbles over into politics – Businessweek

In small-town northern India, Muslims are offered food and money to convert to Hinduism. If that doesn’t suffice, they say they’re threatened. Across the country, the Christmas holiday is canceled for hundreds of government servants who spend the day publicly extolling the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Powerful Hindu nationalist leaders — some with close ties to Modi’s government — say they intend to ensure India becomes a completely Hindu nation.

But Modi himself? He has remained silent as nationalist demands have bubbled over into day-to-day politics, and amid growing fears among minority religious groups of creeping efforts to shunt them aside.

“We told him we feel insecure and fearful,” said the Rev. Dominic Emmanuel, a Roman Catholic priest who was in a delegation of religious leaders who met a few days ago with Modi. “We told him, ‘If there were just two words from your side, prime minister, we would feel so much better.'”

via Religion in India bubbles over into politics – Businessweek.

04/08/2014

With court ban on illegal mosque loudspeakers, some Mumbai Muslims oppose street prayers too

The performance of religious practices in public spaces has occasionally caused friction in Indian cities. On July 30, the Bombay High Court addressed one particularly vexing source of strain when it asked the city police to take down all illegal loudspeakers attached to mosques in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

The court’s directive came in response to a public interest litigation filed by a Navi Mumbai resident against the unauthorised loudspeakers during prayer time at mosques. The court specified that all illegal loudspeakers, whether installed at mosques or at Ganesh or Navratri pandals, should be removed “irrespective of religion, caste or community”.

Even though the loudspeaker issue has been repeatedly politicised in Maharashtra (in 2010, the Shiv Sena had demanded a blanket ban on all mosque loudspeakers after the party was booked for violating noise norms at its Dussehra rally), several Muslim activists came out in support of the court directive.

But the call to prayer being announced on loudspeakers is not the only Muslim practice that some members of other communities complain about. In densely-populated cities like Mumbai, when large numbers of devotees gather to pray their Friday namaz, the congregation often spills out of the mosques and into the streets outside, hindering traffic and pedestrian movements for up to 30 minutes.

For many Muslim activists, this phenomenon is as much of an inconvenience to the public as the loudspeakers. But they believe the government has a greater role to play in helping to solve the problem.

“Nobody really likes to pray namaz outside on the streets, because it inconveniences so many people,” said Ghulam Arif, president of the Qartaba Wisdom Club, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that works on social issues. The only reason the practice continues, he said, is because the community is too large to fit into the existing mosques.

“The government could give Muslims the permission to organise Friday prayers in open grounds and maidans near mosques,” said Arif.

The community has been recommending a specific solution to the problem for nearly two decades: allowing mosques to expand by granting them additional floor space index. Increasing FSI  – the ratio of plot size to the height of a building that can be erected on it  –  would mean a greater number of floors to accommodate more worshippers.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

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