All posts tagged: Islam

Imagining Re-Engineered Muslims in Northwest China

While perusing the news from Northwest China in mid-April 2017, I came across a story about a Uyghur official who refused to smoke cigarettes in front of other devout Uyghurs. The Communist Party leader was publicly shamed and demoted for his failure to remain resolute in his “commitment to secularization.” Smoking, the state declared, was a personal choice that must be protected.By this logic, an individual’s right to smoke is thus a fundamental form of freedom: freedom to consume the secular. Smoking, like secularism, is a manifestation of the norms of Chinese citizenship. Any attempt at limiting it, in favor of respecting religious practices, is symptomatic of a social malady. The story, published by the Associated Press on April 11, 2017, reminded me of my own experiences of smoking with Uyghur friends. It made me think of a time when I was smoking cigarettes with a Uyghur friend as we wandered the back streets of Kashgar. We were on the prowl for late-night bowls of hand-pulled noodles or laghman. As we walked down an alleyway …

Möminjan, Turkish Pop, and Islamic Devotion

Beginning with the very first cassette tape he released in 1999, Möminjan has been popular with young people. One of the main ways people experience music in the city is in nightclubs where the music envelopes the tight confines of a room and the pageantry of moving to the beat with friends and strangers comes to life. Uyghurs can dance. And Möminjan’s songs were eminently danceable. Not only is his voice remarkable similar to his uncle Abdulla, but Möminjan is a suave performer. He’s likeable. Even in his early days when he was still studying archaeology at Xinjiang University, his fellow classmates elected him president of the student club of his institute. Möminjan’s path as a musician has diverged from other performers in interesting ways. Unlike other young singers who made it big, he has not tried to cross over to a popular Chinese audience. He doesn’t even sing Chinese translations of traditional or “red” folk songs. Instead, beginning in 2003 he began to sing in the Uzbek and Turkish style. Möminjan’s goal in doing …

Aspiration, Masculinity and the City

Hezriti Ali’s film short and music video “With Me” Within the marriage market of the urban Uyghur community it has become almost a cliché to discuss the moral aptitude of young men in terms of their frequency of prayer. When introducing a potential boyfriend, the line given is “he prays five times a day” (Uy: u besh namazni jayida üteydu). Although this description often overlooks other moral failures such as drinking, smoking and general carousing, the overall connotation conveyed is “this guy is a good, responsible guy.” In the short film “With Me,” Hezriti Ali, another self-made migrant actor-muscian from the Southwest edge of the Taklamakan Desert, tackles this problem in an unusually subtle and implicit way. In the ten minute narrative film which proceeds his performance of the song, Hezriti lays out the context which migrant young men face in the city. Since, as for all Chinese men, the first duty of sons (particularly, for Uyghurs, younger brothers) is to one’s parents, rather than to one’s wife and her family,  underemployed strivers in the …