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Emergency anniversary:

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The 43rd anniversary of the imposition of the Emergency has spawned two parallel narratives, both suffering from the drawback of exclusively linking the authoritarian tendency in India to the personality of the prime minister helming the nation at a point of time. These narratives say Indira Gandhi invoked the Constitution to impose the Emergency and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has crafted what is called an undeclared state of Emergency because of their irrepressible urge to establish absolute supremacy.
In reality, though, India periodically flirts with authoritarianism because of the silent support of the middle class, which dominates all aspects of the country’s governance structure – from judiciary to media, from bureaucracy to big business. The middle class pines for authoritarianism even as it tends to be servile. Perhaps one is not is possible without the other.
This insight into the middle class is provided by the French-Moroccan writer, Leila Slimani, in her brilliant novel, Lullaby, which fictionally tackles class relations. Seeing her grandchildren and their ways, the grandmother observes, “We would like to widen the horizon of these children doomed to become sensible, middle class people, at once servile and authoritarian. Doomed to be cowards.” This widening of the horizon presumably includes cultivating a sense of the world beyond one’s own.
Slimani’s observation of the French middle class is as true of its counterpart in India. The quest for material comfort and the markers of modernity turns the middle class authoritarian and regimented. These are considered vital for imposing order and discipline on the society. From office to home, the Indian middle class story revolves around its members resorting to overt and covert modes of domination, often in gross violation of rules and human decency.
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former prime minister Indira Gandhi. File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
That is why the middle class is partial to Indira and Modi, seeing in the two leaders a larger, dramatic version of their own little selves, a sublimation of their own desire to dominate. Such a worldview accepts the illegitimate exercise of power to maintain order over a world it believes is waiting to plunge into chaos. It is an evil considered necessary for the progress of the middle class, which shrewdly projects it as a national imperative.
Ironically, without the acquiescence of the middle class, the structure of authoritarianism cannot persist. This feature underlay the episode that noted lawyer Fali S Nariman narrated in his recent article on the Emergency in The Indian Express. In July 1975, a lawyer’s son, studying in a Visakhapatnam college, dissented against the lecturer’s decree that the class should take out a march in support of Indira’s 20-point programme. The dissenter was shouted down by his classmates. Subsequently, the boy was arrested for being a “danger to the security of the state.”
As in 1975 so in the 2014-2018 years, quite a few have been visited by police, even arrested, for social media posts criticising Modi. These dissenters have had the gumption of not being servile, which is what the patriarchal middle class dominating the administrative structure expects them to be. They could otherwise pose a threat to the state, or so they feel.
From 2014 onwards, the politics over the Tricolour and the National Anthem have been ridiculously shrill. These themes were present in the 1970s as well. Four years before the Emergency was imposed, then Information and Broadcasting Minister Nandini Satpathy spoke of punishing those who fail to stand up in cinema theatres when the national anthem played. A Mumbai police commissioner cited the legal provisions under which those disrespectful of the Tricolour could be booked.
Raja Dhale, who was one of the founders of the radical Dalit Panthers, wrote a piece in a Pune-based weekly, Saadhanaa, accusing the Indian state of being more sensitive to the disrespect shown to the tricolour than it was to the violence against Dalit women. Dhale noted, “A Brahmin woman is not disrobed…a Buddhist woman (Dalit convert) is. And what is the punishment for it? Imprisonment for one month or a fine of Rs 50! If a person does not stand up to show respect towards the national flag, the fine is Rs 300… What is the use of such a national flag?”
In November 1972, Dhale was arrested on the charge of showing disrespect to the national flag. It should be clear that the term anti-national, whether in the 1970s or today, is reserved for those who refuse to subscribe to the code of acceptable behaviour the middle class has laid out.
In the 1970s, Maharashtra saw a spate of violence against Dalits. In his eponymous book, Dalit Panthers, JV Pawar describes the shock the Elayaperumal Committee report delivered to Parliament. The source of the shock was the Committee counting 11,000 cases of atrocities nationwide against Dalits, including 1,177 murders, in a single year.
But it did not change the behaviour of the middle class-upper caste. For instance, Dalit farmer Ramdas Narnavre, of Erangaon, Maharashtra, had his nose and ears cut off before his throat was slit. The Gavai brothers, of Dhakli village, in Akola district in Maharashtra, had their eyes gouged out. Their fault – they had protested against the village headman’s son raping one brother’s daughter.
During a July 1973 march, police officers compelled Pawar and his comrades not to chant the slogan, “About-Turn, about-turn, Mahar Battalion about-turn.” The slogan was coined in protest against the wives and daughters of Dalit soldiers, who were away from home on duty, being subjected to atrocities. The police found the slogan seditious.
As in the 1970s so from 2014 onwards, the atrocities against the Dalits have become both severe and brazen, of which Una and Rohith Vemula have become bywords. It is only an authoritarian state that can keep Bhim Sena chief Chandrashekhar Azad in prison for more than a year under the National Security Act. Nobody has explained how Azad is a threat to national security unless we assume it to be synonymous with the middle class-upper caste’s fears of retaliation against the oppression it perpetrates.
Yet the same Indian state does not invoke the National Security Act against the vigilantes owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar. They lynch people on the suspicion of slaughtering cows; they torment inter-faith couples; they ride motorbikes and shout incendiary slogan to foment communal tension. In the 1970s too, communal violence started to rise alarmingly.
These are the tactics of those who believe in ruling by fear, an unmistakable symptom of the Emergency, whether or not officially declared. A large segment of the middle class is complicit because they are, to quote Slimani, “at once authoritarian and servile.”
This psychological makeup of the Indian middle class has considerably weakened our institutions. Take the judiciary, which is supposed to be a check on the arbitrary exercise of power. Indira Gandhi superseded three Supreme Court judges to elevate the fourth senior-most as Chief Justice of India, making it amply clear that she wanted a “committed judiciary.”
Today, there is much disquiet over the allocation of cases under Chief Justice Deepak Misra, openly expressed in the press conference that the four senior-most judges held in January. Then again, the Modi government appointed former P Sathasivam as Kerala’s governor in 14 August. Not only had Sathasivam quashed a second FIR filed against BJP chief Amit Shah in the fake encounter case of Tulsiram Prajapati, he had articulated Hindutva’s views on religious conversion in his judgement on the killing of the Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two children. His remarks were subsequently expunged by the Supreme Court.
Sathasivam’s appointment as governor was construed as a signal to judges that they will be awarded for delivering judgements reflecting the BJP’s ideology. Was this why Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini, who delivered the 2016 judgment declaring that Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor is not bound by the aid and advice of the chief minister, made the head of the committee on the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes on her retirement?
Conversely, an unmistakable signaling to the judiciary is designed into the Modi government’s adamant refusal to promote to the Supreme Court Justice KM Joseph, who squashed the BJP’s ambition to form a government in Uttarakhand in 2016.
Or take the media, which, to quote BJP leader LK Advani, crawled even though it was merely asked to bend during the Emergency. It is not any different now – either out of the fear of the government or to corner benefits from it, a large section of the media has kept away from publishing news which could tar the BJP’s image. The recent Cobrapost sting operation demonstrates the media’s readiness to promote Hindutva for money.
During the Emergency, the bureaucracy disregarded the rights of people and subjected them to forced sterilization. Today, it mostly looks away as Sangh Parivar hotheads go on a rampage, and files cases against victims of vigilantism. No wonder, they have become increasingly emboldened in taking the law in their own hands.
Few bureaucrats have chosen to voice their concerns against the politics of hate that Hindutva has spawned, understandably apprehensive of a blowback from their political masters. Yet they did not hesitate to hold a press conference to refute Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, only because they know he is anathema to Modi. They know their candour would be welcomed, not punished.
True, from the middle class too arise conscionable and brave voices against authoritarian tendencies. But only when the middle class unlearns to be both servile and authoritarian to build consensus over democratic norms and culture, the periodic threat of authoritarianism rearing its head in India will subside.


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Opinion

The Mosque of the Two Qiblahs

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Spahic Omer

This is an important historical mosque. It is one of the earliest mosques in Islam. It was established during the Prophet’s time for an outlying neighbourhood of Madinah. Its significance lies in the fact that after the Prophet (pbuh) received a commandment to change the qiblah or prayer direction from al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to al-Masjid al-Haram (Ka’bah) in Makkah, the entire congregation led by a companion in this mosque changed direction in prayer. Henceforth the mosque was known as masjid al-qiblatayn (the mosque of the two qiblahs) as both qiblahs were faced in a single prayer.

Al-Bukhari in his Sahih reports the incident as follows: “When the Prophet (pbuh) came to Madinah, he stayed first with his grandfathers or maternal uncles from Ansar. He offered his prayers facing Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem and its al-Masjid al-Aqsa) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka’bah (in Makkah). The first prayer which he offered facing the Ka’bah was the ‘Asr prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him came out and passed by some people in a mosque who were bowing during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He said addressing them: ‘By Allah, I testify that I have prayed with Allah’s Apostle facing Makkah (Ka’bah).’ Hearing that, those people changed their direction towards the Ka’bah immediately. Jews and the people of the scriptures used to be pleased to see the Prophet (pbuh) facing Jerusalem in prayers but when he changed his direction towards the Ka’bah, during the prayers, they disapproved of it” (Sahih al-Bukhari).

 

Architecturally, the mosque was meticulously attended to by many personalities throughout Muslim history. Many expansion, rebuilding and renovation programs took place. Among the first ones to do so was ‘Umar II. The Ottomans excelled in the same regard too. The present form of the mosque dates back to 1987. It was constructed as part of various development initiatives in Madinah by King Fahd. The plan and design of the mosque referred to the Islamic traditional architectural language and vocabulary as a source of inspiration. “Externally, the architectural vocabulary is inspired by traditional elements and motifs in a deliberate effort to offer an authentic image for an historic site” (archnet.org). The architect was Abdul-Wahid al-Wakil from Egypt.

The mosque is much smaller than the Quba’ mosque. That is perhaps the case because it is not on the list of the places which the Prophet (pbuh) recommended to be visited in Madinah. The comparatively small size is an indirect invitation to people not to regard it as important for visiting as the explicitly specified places, and so, not to throng to it needlessly. The interior of the mosque is much similar to those of the mosque of Ahmad b. Tulun and some Fatimid mosques in Cairo.

There are two minarets on the right and left sides of the main entrance. Though somewhat shorter, they resemble the four minarets of the Quba’ mosque. The bases of the minarets are square and the shafts octagonal. There are three balconies on each minaret, the second and third being supported by muqarnas. The first balcony marks the transition from the square base to the octagonal shaft. It itself is square, while the other two balconies are octagonal.

“The mosque can accommodate up to 2,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall adopts rigid orthogonal geometry and symmetry which is accentuated by the use of twin minarets and twin domes. Living accommodations for the imam, the muezzin and the caretaker are discreetly grouped in one block to the west of the main structure. The difference in level at the southeast corner of the site has been exploited to incorporate a sub-basement level which serves as the ablutions area for worshipers. To the north, where the ground level is lower, the prayer hall is raised one-story above ground level. Entry to the prayer hall is from the raised courtyard, also to the north, which can be reached by stairs and ramps from the main directions of approach” (archnet.org).

The prayer hall consists of a series of arches which support barrel-vaults running parallel to the qiblah wall. These vaults are interrupted in the middle by two domes which establish an axis in the direction of Makkah and its al-Masjid al-Haram. The main dome to the south is raised on a circular drum with clerestory windows which allow light to filter into the interior directly above the mihrab. There are 22 such windows filled with jaalis and colored glass. The second, false dome stands above the entrance. It is linked to the first dome by a small cross-vault to symbolize the transition from one qiblah to another. This slightly smaller dome does not have clerestory windows perforated in its drum. Both domes are supported by a combination of pendentives and simple forms of muqarnas, featuring only a few niches or alveoles. Domed are also some adjacent spaces of the mosque that provide extra facilities and services.

Before entering the mosque, one firstly steps inside a virtually enclosed arcade, whence he enters the mosque proper. This transitional arcade is covered by a series of miniature domes. The arcade reminds of entry sides in most Ottoman mosques, which are marked with porticos resting on wide columns and covered with small domes.

There are four rows of piers with which the arches are supported, each row having eight piers. In total, there are 32 piers, which is excessive for the size of the mosque. Moreover, the piers are huge, consuming much space inside the prayer area. They also accentuate the heavy mass of the building and its bulkiness.

The four corners of each pier have engaged columns, four columns for every pier. The columns are embedded in the piers’ mass and only partly project from their corner surfaces. They are cylindrical and plain, having no distinctive bases. Their capitals are decorated identically with stucco-work. They look like simple forms of the Byzantine capital. The same structural and decorative manoeuvre is found on the piers of the mosque of Ahmad b. Tulun.

There are five arcades parallel to the qiblah, corresponding to the number of barrel-vaults. In each arcade there could be three lines (sufuf) of worshipers, which means fifteen lines in total. Each line can accommodate about 120-130 worshipers. The women’s prayer section is on the second floor and occupies two arcades. The area is divided into two parts by the second or false dome. The area is protected by a wooden screen featuring latticework and ensuring peace and privacy.

The mihrab is rather deep and is gradually recessed. It has two depth levels, each level bordered by two columns that support the arched hood. Almost the entire mihrab frame, including the columns and the hood, are luxuriantly adorned with stucco-work featuring calligraphy, complex geometry and floral patterns. Of the two Qur’anic verses used as calligraphic embellishment, one is on the subject of qiblah (direction of prayer). The verse is partially used and its usage divided into two fragments, running across the extradoses of the two levels of the mihrab’s arched hood.

That the mihrab niche has two recessed levels could be symbolically interpreted as the two stages of establishing the qiblah: firstly towards Jerusalem and secondly towards Makkah. Thus, on the extrados of the outer mihrab’s level, the following Qur’anic words as the first part of the verse in question are inscribed, representing the first and preliminary stage of establishing the qiblah: “We have certainly seen the turning of your face, (O Muhammad), toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased” (al-Baqarah, 144). And on the extrados of the inner mihrab’s level, the following Qur’anic words as the second part of the verse are inscribed, representing the second and final stage of the qiblah establishment: “So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you (believers) are, turn your faces toward it (in prayer)” (al-Baqarah, 144).

Next to the mihrab stands a minbar or pulpit. It is made of wood and exhibits excellent workmanship. In terms of size and overall appearance, though, it bears a resemblance to the marble minbar in the Quba’ mosque.

Extending through the entire southern qiblah and left eastern sides of the mosque are two rows of small niches, one above the other, containing copies of the Holy Qur’an. Their openings are in the shape of pointed multi foil arches. On the qiblah side, there are 128 such niches, and on the left eastern side, 80. Each niche contains 14 copies of the Qur’an. Furthermore, all 32 piers on their right and left sides contain two more similar niches. The exception are eight piers that border the mosque’s axis towards Makkah under the two domes. Those piers have only one niche each, on the sides that do not face the axis.

Finally, on the opposite side of the qiblah, right above the entrance, there is in stucco-work a medium-size image of a mihrab niche. The image is two-dimensional and symbolizes the first qiblah towards Jerusalem. It is deliberately made fairly modest and raised high above the ground, so as not to draw much attention to itself and thus, perhaps, incite excessive symbolism and some untoward behavior. Across the image runs the axiom that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

The axiom intimates that the change of the qiblah was solely about affirming the Oneness of Allah and the prophet-hood of Muhammad (pbuh), and that the truth of Islam is universal, absolute, timeless and all-encompassing, including the earlier prophets, their own prophet-hood missions and their own peoples and legacies. The change of the qiblah must not be viewed through the prism of prejudice, narrow-mindedness and self-interests.

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Opinion

Never Belittle Your Firm Belief in Allah

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Shaimaa Elhomossany

One of the most shared human experiences is emotional suffering. Whether it comes from rejection, criticism, failure, disappointment, illness or loss, emotional suffering is always a heavy burden, commonly experienced, yet carried individually. Regardless of how much effort we put to neutralize or change our perception of it, we remain vulnerable to its consequences. Surprisingly though, emotional suffering is necessary for our journey in life. Allah designed this world, enclosed with suffering and pain, not only as a test but also as a means to get to know Him and draw closer to Him. This is why the Messengers and Prophets – peace be upon them all – may have had the greatest share of suffering, yet had the closest relationship with Allah.

Understanding the following will help us better approach, deal with and ultimately benefit from emotional suffering:

 

1) Suffering is an opportunity to advance in our spiritual relationship with Allah

It’s important to understand that the utmost goal of our lives is to worship Allah, as He says:

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”

(Quran – 51:56)

This helps us realise that the most important work of our lives is to become the best servants of Allah that we can be. This servitude, however, entails acknowledging our vulnerability, helplessness, and dependability, because otherwise, we would be self-sufficient, omnipotent and unapproachable; we would be divine!

The truth is, we humans are created helpless, weak, exposed and constantly in need, so that we may seek refuge from Allah’s power. He can compensate for our weakness with His might, and from His sustenance, He provides for us. Only when in our utter helplessness we seek refuge, can we taste a level of closeness to Allah that doesn’t come from anywhere else.

We need to foster a new level of trust in His abilities, firm belief in Him and His watchfulness over us, so that we may be empowered to go through any hardship in life with Him and by Him, instead of weak and alone. Only through this opportunity can we establish a genuine servant-master relationship based on a true understanding and experience of Allah’s divinity and Lordship. Only when we understand where we stand in that relationship can we perfect the mission of our existence.

2) Feeling Sad Doesn’t Contradict Being A Good Believer

When we hear stories of Prophets, it is obvious that sadness is an integral part of these stories. Often, we can relate to their suffering. Take Prophet Yaqub, for example, whose story is anchored with sadness and struggle, and who acknowledged his emotional pain and opened up to it, but never allowed it to belittle his firm belief in Allah.

Or Lady Mariam, when the pain of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree, and in her intense emotional and physical suffering she said,

“Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”

(Quran- 19:23)

Despite that, she still occupies the status as one of the best women in Islam.

The best among all, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, when burying his child Ibrahim said,

“The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim! Indeed, we are grieved by your separation.”
So, whatever ordeal you are dealing with in your life, don’t feel guilty about being open to it and interacting with it. The most important thing is not to go so far into sadness that you cross the line with Allah while grieving, by displeasing Him or turning away from Him in despair.

3) Don’t Reject It, Accept It

Knowing that this suffering chose you specifically over many others requires some contemplation. It was meant to be, and nothing that is meant to be is haphazard, on the contrary, there is always a good reason for it.

As we learn from the story of Prophet Musa’s encounter with Khidr in the Quran, nothing happens without a divine reason behind it. However, sometimes we, like Prophet Musa, are unable to truly understand what this reason is. This is especially true when things happen that seem bad or unjust. All we can do is learn to accept that there is a reason for it and have complete faith in Allah’s plan.

There is nothing we can do to stop the storm, until we realise that it’s not the storm that hurts, it’s resisting it that does. Learn to flow with your suffering and let it carry you to the other end, and trust me, there, you will meet a very different version of yourself. Just realise that the only way out is through.

4) Don’t Look At How It Is Affecting You, Rather Look At Who Brought It upon You

If we look at emotional suffering in and of itself, it will be very hard to deal with. However, if we look at it as something coming from the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Source of Peace, the Reliever, the All Aware, the Watchful, the Responder to Prayers, the Wise, the Doer of Good, the Guide, and the All Comprehending, you will find there is no need to worry and you will be confident that no matter how difficult it may seem, Allah will send down His subtle kindness and gentleness along with it, making it easy for you. So, fix your heart towards the sender, not the consequences.

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Opinion

China’s brutal crackdown on the Uighur Muslims

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Jen Kirbyjen

China was sharply criticized for its mass detention of members of the Muslim Uighur community at a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting on Tuesday — but the country pushed back, saying that the condemnation was politically motivated.

Western governments, including those in Europe, the United States, and Canada, had the harshest words for China. The United States chargé d’affaires Mark Cassayre demanded that China “abolish all forms of arbitrary detention” for Uighurs and other Muslims minorities, and that China release the “possibly millions” of individuals detained there.

 

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng dismissed these and other comments as “politically driven accusations from a few countries that are fraught with biases.”
China has detained as many as 1 million Uighurs in so-called “re-educationcenters” and forced them to undergo psychological indoctrination programs — like studying communist propaganda and giving thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese authorities have also reportedly used waterboarding and other forms of torture on the ethnic minority.

Xinjiang, where about 10 million Uighurs and a few other Muslim minorities live, is an autonomous region in China’s northwest that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia. It has been under Chinese control since 1949, when the communist People’s Republic of China was established.

Uighurs speak their own language — an Asian Turkic language similar to Uzbek — and most practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Some activists, including those who seek independence from China, refer to the region as East Turkestan.

Once situated along the ancient Silk Road trading route, Xinjiang is oil- and resource-rich. As it developed along with the rest of China, the region attracted more Han Chinese, a migration encouraged by the Chinese government.

But that demographic shift inflamed ethnic tensions, especially within some of the larger cities. In 2009, for example, riots broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after Uighurs protested their treatment by the government and the Han majority. About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.

The Chinese government, however, blamed the protests on violent separatist groups — a tactic it would continue to use against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities across China.

Xinjiang is also a major logistics hub of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar infrastructure project along the old Silk Road meant to boost China’s economic and political influence around the world. Xinjiang’s increasing importance to China’s global aspirations is likely a major reason Beijing is tightening its grip.

All of which means China has increasingly tried to draw Xinjiang into its orbit, starting with a crackdown in 2009 following riots in the region and leading up to the implementation of repressive policies in 2016 and 2017 that have curbed religious freedom and increased surveillance of the minority population, often under the guise of combating terrorism and extremism.

The Chinese government justifies its clampdown on the Uighurs and Muslim minorities by saying it’s trying to eradicate extremism and separatist groups. But while attacks, some violent, by Uighur separatists have occurred in recent years, there’s little evidence of any cohesive separatist movement — with jihadist roots or otherwise — that could challenge the Chinese government, experts tell me.

China’s crackdown on the Uighurs is part of a policy of “de-extremification.” It’s generated repressive policies, from the banning of certain Muslim names for babies to chilling reports of torture and political indoctrination in so-called “reeducation” camps where hundreds of thousands have been detained.

Communist China has a dark history with reeducation camps, combining hard labor with indoctrination to the party line. According to research by Adrian Zenz, a leading scholar on China’s policies toward the Uighurs, Chinese officials began using dedicated camps in Xinjiang around 2014 — around the same time that China blamed a series of terrorist attacks on radical Uighur separatists.

China escalated pressure on Muslim minorities through 2017, slowly chipping away at their rights with the passage of religious regulations and a counterterrorism law, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a pro-Uighur group based in Washington, DC.

In 2016, Xinjiang also got a new leader: a powerful Communist Party boss named Chen Quanguo, whose previous job was restoring order and control to the restive region of Tibet. Chen has a reputation as a strongman and is something of a specialist in ethnic crackdowns.

Increased surveillance and police presence accompanied his move to Xinjiang, including his “grid management” policing system. As the Economist reported, “authorities divide each city into squares, with about 500 people. Every square has a police station that keeps tabs on the inhabitants. So, in rural areas, does every village.”

Security checkpoints where residents must scan identification cards were set up at train stations and on roads into and out of towns. Authorities have reportedly used facial recognition technology to track residents’ movements. Police confiscate phones to download the information contained on them to scan through later. Police have also confiscated passports to prevent Uighurs from traveling abroad.

Some of the targeted “de-extremification” restrictions gained coverage in the West, including a ban on certain Muslim names for babies and another on long beards and veils. The government also made it illegal to not watch state television and to not send children to government schools. The government reportedly tried to promote drinking and smoking, because people who didn’t drink or smoke — like devout Muslims — were deemed suspicious.

Chinese officials have justified these policies as necessary to counter religious radicalization and extremism, but critics say they are meant to curtail Islamic traditions and practices.

The Chinese government is “trying to expunge ethnonational characteristics from the people,” James Millward, a professor at Georgetown University, told me. “They’re not trying to drive them out of the country; they’re trying to hold them in.”

“The ultimate goal, the ultimate issue that the Chinese state is targeting [is] the cultural practices and beliefs of Muslim groups,” he added.

“Re-education camps” — or training camps, as the Chinese have called them — are perhaps the most sinister pillar of this de-extremification policy. Experts estimate as many as 2 million people have disappeared into these camps at some point, with about 1 million currently being held.

The Chinese government first denied these camps even existed. When confronted about them at the United Nations in August, officials claimed they were for the “assistance and education” of minor criminals. China’s state-run media has dismissed the reports of detention camps as Western media “baselessly criticizing China’s human rights.”

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