Islam in Xinjiang in the eyes of a Ugandan Muslim
By Li Jingjing

Before embarking on a journey to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Mubarak Mugabo, a Muslim and a journalist from Uganda who is studying for a master's degree at Peking University, was actually feeling quite scared inside after reading many series in the international media that accuse China of persecuting Chinese Muslims.

He wanted to assess the situation for himself. So, earlier this month, Mugabo set out on a journey through four main cities in Xinjiang, including Urumqi, Kashgar, Hotan and Shihezi. And he was shocked by what he saw.

"Immediately I was overwhelmed by the number of mosques I saw on the street," Mubago said. "You'd walk like in a distance of five kilometers, you will find three or four mosques at least; that doesn't even happen in Uganda where I come from."

So Mugabo decided to pray in several mosques, including the renowned Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar which he thought was being demolished from reading international media reports, talked with the Imams and even recited the Quran with students at the China Islamic Institutes in Xinjiang. 

He said it was beyond his expectations to see random people coming in to pray at the mosques, which are equipped with nice facilities, and locals teaching young people the Quran.

"There are mosques, they've been teaching the Quran. The only Quran we've all been learning, some of the students can read it better than me, what other evidence do you want to be presented to prove there is actually freedom to worship, and Islam is not ended there?" Mugabo said.

Mubarak Mugabo shares how he did ablution at Masjid Yanghang Mosque in Urumqi on his personal Twitter account. /CGTN

Mubarak Mugabo shares how he did ablution at Masjid Yanghang Mosque in Urumqi on his personal Twitter account. /CGTN

The importance to stop radicalism

As extremism, separatism and radicalism were ravaging Xinjiang, the region had suffered from thousands of terrorist attacks which spread to other cities in China and even other countries and led to an uncountable number of innocent people's deaths. 

The casualties include people of different ethnicities, and even Uygur Muslims, such as the former Imam of Id Kah Mosque, Jume Tayir, who was strongly against the radicalized ideas, was brutally murdered by a group of terrorists at the age of 76.

As part of the fight against those radicalized elements who endanger people's lives, the region has adopted a series of deradicalization methods and a higher level of security controls as compared to other cities in China.

Yet rather than providing the context of the painful struggle people in this region went through, many media outlets in Western countries twist the fact and paint Xinjiang as a "police state."

However, Mugabo, coming from a country that has also seen terror attacks and prohibits the spread of radicalized ideas, says deradicalization is crucial as he believes his faith is being misrepresented globally by "bad elements" who are using Islam as a cover to achieve their political agendas and breeding terrorism.

"Our faith condones love, condones coexistence, does not condone inflicting the rights of others just because they are not Muslims, and whoever holds that thinking must be deradicalized, whether in China, whether in Uganda where I come from, and wherever they are," he said.

Mubarak Mugabo shares a photo of him and locals after praying at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar. /CGTN

Mubarak Mugabo shares a photo of him and locals after praying at the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar. /CGTN

'No one should hijack our faith in the name of defending human rights'

While concerns for Muslims have come from several Western governments that have records of murdering Muslims globally through wars and sanctions, Muslim countries who battle terrorism have, in fact, approved Xinjiang's deradicalization methods.

"I don't think non-Muslim countries have the moral reason to talk about defending the rights of Muslims," Mugabo said, pointing out that Western countries are crying out louder than the Muslims in the case of Xinjiang.

"And I call upon all Muslims in the whole world to become Muslims who believe that even non-Muslims' lives matter. We should not allow anyone to use our faith to drive any political agenda. Because our faith is not a faith for terrorists, our faith is the faith of love. And we are living with non-Muslims, we're living in a world where people are free to believe, and to belong to any group, any faith, any belief that they want," Mugabo said.

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