Muslim Women Lead Protests In Restive West China

July 10, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: AP

The petite Muslim woman with the sky blue head scarf began by complaining that the public washrooms were closed at a crowded mosque on Friday - the most important day of the week for Islamic worship.

When a group gathered around her on the sidewalk, Madina Ahtam then railed against communist rule in China's far western region of Xinjiang, rocked by ethnic rioting that has killed at least 184 people this week.

The 26-year-old businesswoman eventually led the crowd of mostly men in a fist-pumping street march that was quickly blocked by riot police, some with automatic rifles pointed at the protesters.

The incident was one of many examples of how Muslim women have been taking bold leadership roles following the deadliest communal violence in decades in the Xinjiang region. As the communist government launches a sweeping security crackdown, the women have faced down troops, led protests and risked arrest by speaking out against police tactics they believe are excessive.