Tuesday, August 12, 2014

China Sees Islamic State Inching Closer to Home

Chinese media lights up after a Hong Kong weekly says IS aims to expand into Xinjiang.

BY Alexa Olesen

Foreign Policy - AUGUST 11, 2014

They've been grabbing headlines nearly everywhere else, but the jihadis of northern Iraq haven't been getting much play in China. But a threat by the Islamic State (IS) of revenge against countries, including China, for seizing what IS calls "Muslim rights" appears to have changed all that. The comments were made in early July, but the news didn't jump the language barrier from Arabic into Mandarin until August 8, when Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong-based newsmagazine widely distributed in China, made the IS revenge threats against China its cover story. Since then, the article has been widely syndicated on Chinese news websites and gained traction on social media as well. Ordinary Chinese who may have felt distant from the carnage now feel it creeping closer to home.    The glossy cover of the Phoenix issue features a picture of masked gun-toting jihadis advancing through a desert landscape. The piece inside sounds the alarm over a July 4 speech in Mosul, Iraq by IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi where he urged Muslims around the world to pledge their allegiance to him. It quotes Al-Baghdadi saying that "Muslim rights are forcibly seized in China, India, Palestine" and more than a dozen other countries and regions. "Your brothers all over the world are waiting for your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades," al-Baghdadi told his followers. Phoenix noted that China was mentioned first on al-Baghdadi's list. (The article also includes a map that some news reports have said shows the vast territory IS plans to occupy in the next five years, which appears to include a significant portion of Xinjiang. Although the authenticity of the map, which was widely shared on English-language social media sites in early July, has been questioned, the Phoenix piece reports it as fact.)