Al Qaeda: “Forget About China”

Sixteen policemen were killed early this morning in a terrorist attack in the heavily Muslim Xinjiang Province in western China. According to The Telegraph :

Security around the Beijing Olympics has been tightened further after China’s worst terror attack for more than a decade killed 16 policemen in the mainly Muslim north-west.


The attack, a stunning embarrassment to the authorities whose intelligence had been warned of possible attacks this week, took place in Kashgar, a remote outpost of Chinese rule in the west of Xinjiang province not far from the border with Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Xinjiang’s Muslim, ethnic Uighur, population have a history of clashes with the authorities, but there have been no major confirmed terrorist incidents since a wave of bombings in the 1990s.

The authorities have repeatedly warned of the risk of attacks on the Olympics by Islamic and “separatist” groups based in the region, though they also insisted that security in the region was under control.

Chinese state media said that two men drove a dump-truck at a group of policemen out for early morning exercise, crashed to a halt and threw grenades or home-made explosive devices. They then began slashing at survivors with knives before being overwhelmed and arrested.

Fourteen policemen died at the scene, two more died on the way to hospital, and 16 others were injured. Debris from five explosive devices was also recovered, the reports added.

To refer to the incident as an “embarrassment” seems a bit strange to Western ears, but saving collective face is important for dictatorial regimes, especially in Asia. Losing face means losing legitimacy where autocratic control is the only political coin, and Beijing has staked its prestige on keeping a tight lid on trouble during the Olympics.

There’s no official claim of responsibility so far for the attack, but according to The Star (Malaysia):
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Xinjiang’s largely Muslim Uighurs have been a focus of China’s strict nationwide security in the run-up to the Games. Officials have said militants seeking an independent “East Turkestan” homeland are among the biggest threats.

And what does Al Qaeda say about the whole business? “Forget China — it’s not important.” According to AKI:

Olympics: ‘China not a priority’, say al-Qaeda forums

Jihadist websites close to al-Qaeda have said that China is not the enemy at the moment.

“Let China be. We now have other priorities that are not China,” said a message posted by ‘Kasir al-Asnam’ meaning ‘destroyer of idols’ in Arabic.

These and other comments came in response to the attack on Monday in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, which killed 16 policemen.


“At this moment, China is not a country at war with us. If there are attacks against Muslims, these hit the dispossessed that must leave those lands and move to Islamic countries.”

The poster is calling for the Uighurs to make the hijra, or migration. When Muslims are in the minority in infidel territory, they are obligated to make the attempt to emulate Mohammed and migrate to a land ruled by Islamic law.

So why does the flow go in the opposite direction in Europe and other Western nations? Perhaps because the authorities in those countries mostly leave Muslims to their own devices, allowing them to create little pockets of Dar-al-Islam in the heart of Dar-al-Harb. But the Chinese are not so hospitable.

There are about ten million Uighurs in Xinjiang, or slightly less than half of the population after decades of official efforts to move Han residents into the province. According to my latest figures, China is about 3% Muslim, which means that about thirty million more Muslims are scattered through the rest of the country. The Chinese authorities exert control over them in the same way they do over Christians: Muslims are required to attend official state mosques run by imams registered with the government.

In this environment, the Islamist networks in China can’t operate with the ease and impunity they enjoy in much of the West. If they get caught by the authorities, they will receive no due process, no government-paid human rights lawyers, and can expect no press conference in front of sympathetic journalists with video cameras. A quick bullet in the head is the best they can hope for.

So it’s no wonder that Al Qaeda is in sour-grapes mode:

“Bothersome actions like these are not foreseen by (Islamic) Sharia law or good sense.”

“What interest do we have in turning China against Muslims at the moment?” al-Asnam asked.

None of the messages posted to jihadist websites contained any open support for the attacks in Xinjiang. However, some pointed out that al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have never mentioned China in their speeches.

“At this moment, holy warriors (mujahadeen) do not need to open a new front with China,” said al-Asif al-Harashi in a comment discussing Monday’s attack in Xinjiang.

“We must be very careful and have patience. We do not need to rush and shout ‘God is great!’ or justify this type of action. For all I know, I have never heard any of the al-Qaeda leaders threaten China.”

There’s no talk here of crushing the Chinese apes and pigs or conquering China for the Ummah. Muslims respect a strong horse when they see one.

Hat tip for the AKI story: C. Cantoni.

5 thoughts on “Al Qaeda: “Forget About China”

  1. “Muslims respect a strong horse when they see one.” You’d think that would send a message to France and the Scandinavian nations.

    “All parts of China are set to Beijing time, making mornings dark in the west.” Absolute power is such a convenient tool.

  2. There is more irony.
    The Uighur/Uyghur revolt is not an attempt to conquer territory. This is a nationalist revolt by a distinct community that has existed for over 1400 years. Twice they ruled large empires, and even under the Mongols were rather independent. (They were also under the Chagatai dynasty, not that of Kublai Khan in China.)

    If there ever was a true defensive Jihad, this would be it.
    But Al Qaeda understands that it cannot destroy the Chinese Communists. Moreover, it is dependent on China and Russia blocking America in the middle east.

    It seems to me that we just aren’t brutal enough.

  3. One of the downsides for AQ is decentralization. The calls to lay off China are likely to have little effect. Jihadis there (XianXing) want power and want therefore more jihad to seize power from a remote and distant and as they see it, weak government.

    There is likely to be more not less jihad against China. Decentralization of AQ and the desire for local actors to be important guarantees this IMHO.

    Just as likely, the policy of China aiding jihad abroad is bankrupt. It most certainly did not prevent a terror attack. Nor will it at the Olympics. I am quite certain a mass-terror attack will be attempted!

  4. This shows that holding a firm course (without stupid Western niceness) and cracking down on Muslims, makes them respect you. Makes them say they are not at war with you. Makes them even talk about leaving.

    Bravo China! Nice handle!

  5. So the solution is in front of us: it is enough to treat them in the Chinese style and they begin to think about leaving the land where they settled.

    Deportation is not such a difficult measure after all. It is necessary only to show them who holds the power, who is the real master of the land and to teach them a lesson of good manners using strong, ready to fight police and military forces. Imagine Guantanamo without lawyers and NGOs to defend the human rights of the poor terrorists or Abu Ghraib without media attention. This is the way to make them respect you!
    The only language the thugs understand is the language of violence.

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