Thursday, February 12, 2015

De-radicalizing’ Xinjiang, One Bad Pop Song at a Time

Authorities hope the saccharine 'Little Apple' can calm tensions in the western region.    

By Rachel Lu

Foreign Policy - February 12, 2015

Beijing’s latest weapon against Islamic extremism? A viral Internet song. On Feb. 8, a reported 10,000 people danced in a plaza next to the Id Kah, China’s largest mosque, in Kashgar, the westernmost city in the Xinjiang region in western China. Organized by city government, they stepped to the tune of “Little Apple,” a viral Internet ditty that The Los Angeles Times has called the “Chinese Macarena.” The gathering appears to be part of Xinjiang’s effort to “de-radicalize” the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim Turkic people that comprise approximately 47 percent of the region’s population of 22 million, and, to quote state media, “save” them from extreme forms of Islamism that the government claims are driving adherents towards separatism and even terrorism. The people who most need saving, presumably, are the Uighurs, at least those turning to radical strains of Islam that the government accuses of destabilizing the region. On July 30, 2014, three young Uighurs stabbed and killed the government-friendly imam of Id Kah mosque. In July 2014, almost 100 people, both Uighur and members of the majority Han, were killed when a group of axe-wielding Uighurs attacked local government building and police station in Shache, a smaller town near Kashgar, according to the government, followed by another attack in Shache that led to at least 15 deaths in Nov. 2014. Beijing has linked each of these incidents to radical Islam.