The violence has ended in Urumqi but shadows remain in hearts and minds

Michael Sainsbury; 2/1/10

The bright winter sun bouncing off the green and gold decorated mosque in the remote northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi is deceptive. It’s minus 6C as thousands of the city’s male Uighur population slip off their shoes and lay down their prayer mats for Jumu’ah, the sacrosanct Friday service. Worshippers have been gathering for the past hour and at 2pm the Imam begins his sermon, preparing the faithful for their ritual. Men in a wide variety of hats spill beyond the front fence into the street. This is the biggest of Urumqi’s 265 or so mosques. The Uighurs are not the only Muslims in this fast-growing Chinese city – there are members of the Hui, Kahzak, Uzbek, Tajik, Kirgiz, Khalkhar and Sala ethnic groups here as well. But because of a long history of tension with the Chinese government, which erupted into deadly riots on July 5 when 197 people died, they are its best known.