Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu /KASHGAR, August 31, 2011.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
A quiet Ramadan in China’s far west!
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Tunsahan Umer and her husband break their fast on a recent evening in their home in Kashgar. Photo: Ananth Krishnan - The Hindu.
Tunsahan Umer sits quietly in her dark apartment, staring at the clock.
Her small home, from the outside, looks like any in small-town China — a non-descript square block of freshly-painted red apartment buildings. Its insides, however, are anything but ordinary.
Persian carpets stretch from wall to wall, while a dazzling spread of freshly cut water melons, dried nuts and stacks of naan bread lie neatly arranged, but untouched, on the floor. As the hands of the clock move to eight, Ms. Umer (76) beckons her husband to tuck in.
Across China’s west, more than 20 million Muslims this week marked the holy month of Ramadan. More than half of them are here in Xinjiang, a vast land of deserts and old Silk Road towns that stretches up to China's western borders.
Kashgar, an ancient town in southern Xinjiang’s heartland, came to a standstill this week as thousands of native Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group that is the region’s biggest, observed Ramadan along with Kirgiz, Kazakh and Hui Muslims, other minority groups among China’s 55.
“For every Uighur, Ramadan is the most important time of the year,” said Ms. Umer (76). “I have been fasting since I was very young, because my parents told me if we do this every day during the holy month, we will go to heaven.”
This year, however, festivities have been muted in Kashgar, a town reeling from violence that left at least 20 people killed in two separate attacks in recent weeks.
On the evening of July 30, two explosions were set off in minivans in a crowded street of food-stalls at the heart of the city. At the same time, two attackers hijacked a van and rammed it into a crowd of pedestrians, leaving at least eight people dead.
Then, the following afternoon, attackers targeted a restaurant in a commercial food street in downtown Kashgar that is popular with Han Chinese tourists, killing its owner and at least four others. Four attackers were reportedly shot dead by the police.
Heavy security presence
Authorities have responded to the attacks by deploying a heavy security presence across the city, which, residents said in interviews, had cast a shadow over this week’s festivities.
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