Oct 10, 2019

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/10/2019

Anti-Vax, Religious Freedom, Extremism Researchers, Trauma, EthiopiaAboriginal culture, Australia, Uighur, China 
" ... State health officials told BuzzFeed News that 26,217 unvaccinated New York children in public schools, private schools, parochial schools, daycare centers, and prekindergarten programs claimed religious exemptions during the 2017–18 school year. New York ended religious exemptions for vaccines in June, following the worst measles outbreaks the state had seen in decades."

"Charlie Winter, a London-based terrorism researcher, was dining with friends one recent evening when the conversation turned to whether it is ethical to eat meat.

Someone brought up slaughterhouse conditions, Winter said, and he instantly grew uneasy. He stayed for a while longer, squirming, and then finally left the room. That word — "slaughterhouse" — had conjured images of one of the most gruesome ISIS videos he'd come across. The militants had filmed a mass execution in a slaughterhouse, casting their prisoners as the animals.

"There are moments, I find, where my everyday life is invaded by these scenes," said Winter, a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

Because of his work, Winter has dozens of such images lodged in his brain, and there's no telling what might activate a memory. ISIS atrocities interrupt dinner parties, casual conversations, peaceful moments with his family. Winter searched for information about how to process the graphic pictures swirling in his head, but he found almost nothing about potential trauma in his field.

"If you're asking someone to look closely at materials like that, then they need to be fully aware of what it is that they're about to do," he said.

In May, Winter wrote publicly about the mental toll of extremism study. Tucked into a broader essay about studying jihadist propaganda, Winter included a section called "Recognizing and Addressing Trauma." The piece swiftly made the rounds among burned-out researchers, including several who had switched from tracking jihadists to white supremacists without a break."
"Churches belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) are being burned to the ground throughout Ethiopia — one of the world's most religious countries, where about 98% of Ethiopians claim a religious affiliation. Church members have also reportedly been killed while trying to protect their churches. 

These incidents of arson and murder come at a time when tensions between the country's ethnic groups  —  including Oromo, Amhara and Tigrayan — are already high. Since the end of 2015, Oromo people have protested against land encroachment by the government, while the Amhara people have protested over regional integrity threats by their Tigrayan neighbors."
"Christian missionaries are causing a fresh wave of upset in outback Australia, promising to bring people back from the dead, and promoting the idea traditional Aboriginal culture is a type of devil worship.

An investigation by Background Briefing has uncovered dramatic scenes in the Kimberley region, where Aboriginal followers of a Tongan-born preacher have set fire to artefacts considered sacred by many local elders, and dismantled and burned a spiritual law ground.

The approach of some recently arrived evangelists has been slammed by some Aboriginal leaders, including Labor senator Pat Dodson.

"They are a type of virus that has really got no credibility," he said. "If they really understood the gospel then the gospel is about liberation.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

"It's about an accommodation of the diversity and differences that we have in our belief systems."

He believes the destruction of traditional culture is "an act of bastardry".

'It's about the lowest act you could perform in trying to indicate to a fellow human being that you have total disdain for anything for anything they represent.'"

"The Uighurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group of around 12 million in northwest China, are required by the police to carry their smartphones and IDs listing their ethnicity.

As they pass through one of the thousands of newly built digital media and face surveillance checkpoints located at jurisdictional boundaries, entrances to religious spaces and transportation hubs, the image on their ID is matched to their face.

If they try to pass without these items, a digital device scanner alerts the police.

But even complying with the rules won't necessarily keep them out of trouble. During random spot-checks the police at times demand that an individual hands over their unlocked phone which the police then examine manually or plug into a scanner.

I did ethnographic research with Han and Uighur migrants for more than 24 months between 2011 and 2018 in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in northwest China. During this period, I was affiliated with the Xinjiang Arts Institute. My position allowed me to interview hundreds of Han and Uighur people. I read and speak both Uighur and Chinese so I was able to communicate with people in their own language.

When I first began my research in the region, smartphone use was not that tightly controlled by the police. But by 2018 it had became common knowledge among my Uighur interviewees that if they did not carry their phone with them or failed to produce it they could be detained.

The Uighur majority areas on the border of Central Asia only became a fully integrated part of China in the 2000s. They were effectively colonized when millions of non-Muslim Han settlers moved into their community in the 1990s and 2000s to extract natural resources such as oil and natural gas.

Earlier they lived much more autonomously in desert oasis towns and villages much like the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan, a group that shares a similar history and language as the Uighurs.

In 2011, the Chinese government built 3-G networks in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Cheap smartphones soon became available in local markets of this region and Uighurs began to use the new social media app WeChat.

WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese company Tencent, was put into general use across the whole country in 2012 after Facebook and Twitter were banned in 2009.

Smartphones became a common feature of daily life for millions of Uighur villagers. At the time, the way Uighurs used them was unique. In other parts of China, the Chinese language was used in social media communication. Uighur uses Arabic script – radically different from the character based Chinese – and acted as a form of coded speech that state censors couldn't understand.

When I began my research project, I was interested in the way online culture produced forms of Islamic, Chinese and Western identity and the way it brought people of different ethnicities together.

I found that Uighurs used smartphones differently than other internet users. On traditional internet sites that required text-based communication, Uighur web users faced tighter forms of censorship since state authorities viewed them as potential terrorists. They were viewed this way since Uighurs had long protested the way their briefly independent nation had been subsumed by China and their religious practices were restricted, lashing out violently at times.

Using WeChat on smartphones gave Uighurs the ability to circulate short audio messages, videos and images. Beginning in 2012 this allowed Uighurs to develop semi-autonomous forums in Uighur spoken language.

Initially Chinese state authorities did not have the technical capabilities to monitor and control Uighur oral speech or Uighur text embedded in images as memes. They could turn the Uighur internet on and off, but they could not fully regulate what Uighurs said because they spoke in another language.

Based on hundreds of interviews and my own observations Uighurs used these forums to discuss cultural knowledge, political events and economic opportunities outside their local communities.

Over the course of only a few years, online Islamic teachers based in the region and elsewhere in the Islamic world, in places like Turkey and Uzbekistan, became influential throughout Uighur social media. Their messages focused primarily on Islamic piety. They described what types of practices were halal, and how people should dress and pray.

According to scholars Rachel Harris and Aziz Isa the vast majority of those who began to study Islam by smartphone were simply interested in instruction on what it might mean to be a contemporary Muslim, something they felt was lacking in government-censored state-run mosques.

But Chinese state authorities interpreted it differently.

They regarded the Islamic appearance and practice of Uighurs, such as young men growing beards and praying five times per day, as signs of what state authorities described as the "extremification" of the Uighur population.

They began to link violent incidents, such as a suicide attack in the city of Kunming in Eastern China, to what government officials told me was the "Talibanization" of the Uighurs.

In response to this Chinese authorities declared what they called a "People's War On Terror." They began to use techniques of counterinsurgency, a mode of military engagement that stresses mass intelligence gathering, to assess the Uighur population.

As part of this process, in 2016, they began to collect biometric data, such as DNA, high-fidelity voice recordings and face scans, from the entire population of the region in order to track the activities of people on WeChat and in their daily lives using their voice signature and faceprint.

They also began a process of interviewing millions of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities to determine who could be categorized as trustworthy or "normal" as stated on official population assessment forms. In order to determine this, state authorities mapped out the person's social network and history of Islamic practice, both in their local community and online.

Since the total Muslim population of the region, including other Muslim groups such as the Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and others, is around 15 million, these assessments and activity checkpoints required the deployment of more than 90,000 police officers and more than 1.1 million civil servants.

The majority of the security forces are of Han ethnicity. Han people are settlers in the Uighur region. They are not Muslim, they do not speak Uighur, and many of my Han interviewees described the Uighur culture as "backward," "primitive," or even "dangerous."

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