Assassination of Juma Tayir

On the early morning of Wednesday, 30 July 2014, Juma Tahir (Uighur: جۈمە تاھىر, romanizedJüme Tahir; Chinese: 居玛·塔伊尔), the imam of China's largest mosque, the Id Kah Mosque in northwestern Kashgar, was stabbed to death by three young male Uyghur extremists. Religious leaders across denominations condemned the attack.

Assassination of Juma Tahir
LocationId Kah Mosque, Kashgar, China
Date30 July 2014 (2014-07-30)
6:58 a.m. (China Standard Time)
TargetImam Juma Tahir
Attack type
Deaths1 killed (Juma Tahir)
PerpetratorTuergong Tuerxun, Maimaiti Jiangremutila, and Nuermaimaiti Abidilimiti
Juma Tayir
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese居玛·塔伊尔
Traditional Chinese居瑪·塔伊爾
Uyghur name
Uyghurجۈمە تاھىر

Tahir was appointed by the government and supportive of national policies in the region.[1] He had been a voice for peace in the insurgency involving the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese in the region.[citation needed] Since the mid-1990s, the traditional methods for appointing Imams have been replaced by appointments by the state, and assassination of religious leaders have escalated.


Since 1990, the Chinese government has disallowed Uighur Muslims from selecting the imams of their mosques.[2] All Imams are appointed and paid a salary by the government. This follows the practice in China, where clergy are considered "religious professionals" and are subject to various regulations from the government.[3] According to New York Times in 2008, government officials and students are not allowed to observe the Ramadan fast, and passports of all Uighurs have been impounded to encourage government-run Hajj pilgrimage trips.[4]

Southern XinjiangEdit

Much of the violence in Xinjiang takes part in southern Xinjiang, which has been the focus of anti-terrorism efforts by the Xinjiang Party Chief from 2010 Zhang Chunxian.[5] According to Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences anti-terrorism researcher Ma Pinyan, unemployed, undereducated young people from rural South Xinjiang are susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists.[6] Other Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including Hui and Kazakhs, are critical of and do not support Uyghur separatist efforts towards Xinjiang's independence.[7] Uyghur Muslims are themselves divided by adherence or nonadherence to Sufism, differing ancestral homes, and linguistic and political cleavages.[8]

Most Xinjiang separatist violence targets ethnic majority Han people, but increasing attacks against fellow Uyghurs attempt to sway moderate Muslims to separatists' extreme version of Islam.[5] Recent years have seen attacks from Uyghur separatists all over China, including in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan, which killed 33 and injured 143; while the Shache attack days earlier left 96 dead.[9][10] According to journalist Jonathan Fenby, about three dozen Uyghurs have been spotted fighting for the Levant-based Islamic State, which claims the allegiance of Muslims worldwide.[11]

Prior assassinationsEdit

The 1990s saw the rise of the modern meshrep around Yining enforcing a stricter Islamic morality than had been traditional in Xinjiang[12] Uyghur exiles in Almaty, Kazakhstan, issued press releases claiming responsibility for orchestrating bombings in Xinjiang via their underground terror cells.[12][13] Subsequently, antigovernmental and terrorist groups were organized into several groups including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the East Turkistan Liberation Organization (ETLO), the Uyghur Liberation Organization, etc.[14]

On 24 August 1993, two men from the East Turkestan movement stabbed and killed imam Abliz Damolla of the Great Mosque in Yecheng County.[15] In 1996, Uyghur separatists shot assistant imam Hakimsidiq Haji of Aksu Prefecture on 22 March and attacked senior imam Aronghan Haji of the Id Kah Mosque with cleavers, who survived with cuts on his head, hands, back and legs.[12] Mullah Aronghan Haji's attacker, Nurmamat, had absorbed Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turkic ideas from being sent to an illegal madrassah by his parents since the age of 5.[16] On 6 November 1997, a member of a Xinjiang separatist group, Muhammat Tursun, fatally shot imam Yunus Sidiq Damolla at his mosque in Baicheng County.[15] A Uyghur separatist exile shot imam Abliz Haji of Yecheng County dead on 27 January 1998.[15] In September 2002, Uyghur nationalists assassinated at least six Uyghur officials.[8] On 15 August 2013, the 74-year-old imam Abdurehim Damaolla of Kazihan Mosque in Turfan was stabbed to death in front of his home by parties sympathetic to the separatist Shanshan rioters.[17][18]

Imam Juma TahirEdit

Imam Juma Tahir, born October 1940 in Kashgar, was 62 at the time of his death. In 2003,[19] he had been appointed as head imam of the 600-year-old mosque by the Chinese Communist Party in 2003.[1]

A Uyghur speaker, Tahir served as a member of the National People's Congress from 2008 to 2013, during which he was often supported the Communist Party.[20][21] He served a term as vice-president of the Islamic Association of China.[22] As the leading Islamic Imam, he was frequently quoted by state media "praising the communist party and condemning Uighur separatists".[23] BBC News reported that he was "said to have been unpopular with some Uighurs due to a pro-Beijing stance".[24] Omer Kanat of the US-based World Uyghur Congress, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that the imam had a reputation as a "tool for the government."[25]

Tahir consistently condemned political violence in the name of Islam, despite receiving threatening letters for doing so.[26] Tahir had urged calm after the July 2009 Ürümqi riots which killed 200 people, telling followers not to fall "into traps set by exiled separatists".[22] He promoted moderate, traditionally Uyghur Islamic practices against a very recent trend of strict Islamic practices, like the donning of full-face veils.[27][28]

While The Telegraph reported that he had no shortage of enemies in the local Uighur community, he was often described him as a "popular imam" and a "patriotic religious person".[19][29][30][31]


During the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr in July 2014, it was rumored that a family of five were killed in a quarrel with the police. This led to widespread rioting in which dozens of Uyghurs were shot dead by the Chinese police.[32] The news was suppressed for about a week, but it emerged that nearly a hundred people had died.[33]

Two days later, Tahir was stabbed as he was returning home after morning Fajr prayer at 6.58 am on Wednesday, 30 July 2014.[30] Shopkeepers spotted Tahir's body in a pool of blood and alerted Radio Free Asia;[34] a French tourist also told Reuters that he saw a body lying in a pool of blood outside of the prayer hall of the mosque, and two people with knives running away.[5][35] Shortly after Tahir's death was discovered, police sealed off roads in and out of Kashgar.[36]

On 30 July, police apprehended suspects Tuergong Tuerxun (Turghun Tursun), Maimaiti Jiangremutila (Memetjan Remutillan), and Nuermaimaiti Abidilimiti (Nurmemet Abidilimit). The gang resisted arrest with knives and axes, and the first two were shot dead in the struggle,[37] while Abidilimiti (19), was arrested.[6] Two days after the imam's murder, on 1 August, police arrested an 18-year-old construction worker, Aini Aishan (Gheni Hasan), who had been in hiding in Hotan.[6][38] Aishan, who only had a middle school education, joined a religious extremist group in January 2013, consuming and distributing contraband videos and publications that advocated terrorism.[6] Aishan invited Abidilimiti to come to Hotan from Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, to become his disciple, teaching him that to kill Tahir in "holy war" would earn both men a place in heaven.[6] Abidilimiti confessed to orchestrating the assassinations with his two slain accomplices under the guidance of Aishan, despite the warnings of his older brother not to join illegal religious groups.[38]


Tahir left 15 children behind. One of his daughters, Yimgul Juma, spoke at his funeral. Party chief Zhang Chunxian observed a moment of silence for Tahir as well as for the victims of the Shache attack.[37] China offered a 300 million yuan bounty for tips on violent separatist activity.[9] The Xinjiang regional Islamic association called on Muslims to be aware of the perils of terrorism and religious extremism.[39] More than 107 religious leaders in Xinjiang gathered in Ürümqi to pray for Tahir,[40] including Ebeydulla Mohammed, imam of a mosque in Kashgar; Fan Chenguang, vice head of the Ürümqi Christian Council; and Yi Xuan, of the Buddhist Nanshan Faming Temple in Ürümqi County.[41][better source needed] They expressed concerns about the security of religious leaders in Xinjiang, and vowed to step up security checks and police patrols.[40] A Xinhua editorial announced that "the terrorists and the religious extremist forces behind them have once again trampled on basic human rights" and expressed confidence that the killers would be brought to justice for violating Chinese law.[42][better source needed]

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman of the World Uyghur Congress did not condemn the murder and attributed it to "Chinese policies in the area".[43][44][non-primary source needed]

Analyst Jacob Zenn from the Jamestown Foundation disputed the idea that religious restrictions cause terrorist attacks, although he warned that jihadists manipulate perceptions of Beijing's policy.[45] A collective editorial from the South China Morning Post advised the government to target economic development to poor Uyghurs to stem the "underlying causes of the unrest".[46]


  1. ^ a b "Xinjiang violence: China says 'gang' killed 37 last week". BBC News. 3 August 2014.
  2. ^ Clarke, Michael E. (2011). Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia – A History. Taylor & Francis (Routledge Contemporary China). ISBN 9781136827068.
  3. ^ Barnett, Robert (2012). "Restrictions and Their Anomalies: The Third Forum and the Regulation of Religion in Tibet". Journal of Current Chinese Affairs. 41 (4): 45–107. doi:10.1177/186810261204100403. S2CID 142987895. quote: What was new [about the application of such notions to Tibet/Xinjiang] was the degree of enforcement and the unusual level of political assertiveness and aggression involved in that enforcement.
  4. ^ Edward Wong (18 October 2008). "Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c Martina, Michael (1 August 2014). "Imam's killing in China may be aimed at making Muslim Uighurs choose sides". Reuters. Beijing. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Cui, Jia (25 August 2014). "Man, 18, accused of masterminding imam's murder". Urumqi: China Daily USA. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  7. ^ Overmyer, Daniel L (2003). Religion in China Today. Columbia University Press. p. 156.
  8. ^ a b Starr, S. Frederick (2004). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland. M.E. Sharpe. p. 110.
  9. ^ a b Coonan, Clifford (4 August 2014). "Beijing offers bounty for information on Uighur separatists". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  10. ^ Nealy, Kimakra (5 August 2014). "Xinjiang China: Government Appointed Imam Slaughtered by Terrorists". Guardian Liberty Voice. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  11. ^ Ferguson, Allie; Ross, Elizabeth (25 August 2014). "How China squeezes its Uighur minority – and how they're fighting back". Public Radio International. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Millward, James A (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 330–331.
  13. ^ Chang, Maria Hsia (1999). The Labors of Sisyphus: The Economic Development of Communist China. Transaction Publishers. pp. 179–180.
  14. ^ Van Wie Davis, Elizabeth (2012). Ruling, Resources and Religion in China: Managing the Multiethnic State in the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 102–103.
  15. ^ a b c Reed, J. Todd; Raschke, Diana (2010). The ETIM: China's Islamic Militants and the Global Terrorist Threat. ABC-CLIO. pp. 59–61.
  16. ^ Dillon, Michael (2003). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Far Northwest. Routledge. p. 23.
  17. ^ Jacobs, Andrew (31 July 2014). "Imam in China Who Defended Party's Policies in Xinjiang Is Stabbed to Death". The New York Times. Beijing. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  18. ^ Hoshur, Shohret Hoshur (21 August 2013). "Chinese Authorities Release Photo of Uyghur Stabbing Suspects". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  19. ^ a b "Popular imam murdered in restive East Turkestan". 1 August 2014.
  20. ^ Demick, Barbara (30 July 2014). "Uighur imam who supported Chinese Communist Party is stabbed to death". Los Angeles Times. Beijing.
  21. ^ "全国人大代表信息-居马·塔依尔". 全国人大网. Archived from the original on 27 May 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  22. ^ a b Wan, Adrian (1 August 2014). "Pro-government Kashgar imam assassinated by 'religious extremists'". South China Morning Post. Beijing. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  23. ^ Tania Branigan (31 July 2014). "Chief imam at Kashgar mosque stabbed to death as violence surges in Xinjiang". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  24. ^ "'Suspects shot' in Xinjiang imam killing". BBC News. 1 August 2014.
  25. ^ State appointed Muslim leader killed in China, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  26. ^ Cui, Jui (1 August 2014). "Extremists murder imam in Xinjiang". China Daily. Urumqi. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  27. ^ Bodeen, Christopher (31 July 2014). "China says pro-government imam murdered in NW". Beijing. Associated Press. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  28. ^ Page, Jeremy (31 July 2014). "In Xinjiang, Veils Signal Conservative Shfit Among Uighurs". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Imam of China's largest mosque killed", The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Suspects killed, captured after Xinjiang imam's murder". Shanghai Daily. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  31. ^ "Xinjiangers condemn murder of religious leader by extremists". Xinhua News Agency. 1 August 2014.
  32. ^ "Dozens of Uyghurs Shot Dead in Riots in Xinjiang's Yarkand County". Radio Free Asia. 29 July 2014.Quote: Chinese police in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang region have shot dead dozens of knife and axe-wielding ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims who went on a rampage, apparently angry over restrictions during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the cold-blooded killing of a family of five, officials said.
  33. ^ Kelly Olsen (30 July 2014). "Nearly 100 reported dead after Eid attack in Xinjiang China lifts media blackout on riots". Agence France-Presse.
  34. ^ "Imam of Grand Kashar Mosque Murdered in Xinjiang Violence". Radio Free Asia. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  35. ^ "Chinese authorities tighten security in Xinjiang region after surge in violence". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  36. ^ "Muslim priest killed in China, two arrested". Odisha Sun Times. Beijing. Indo-Asian News Service. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  37. ^ a b Cui, Jia (1 August 2014). "Extremists murder imam in Xinjiang". China Daily. Urumqi. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  38. ^ a b Chen, Andrea (25 August 2014). "Confessions by killers of pro-Beijing imam in Xinjiang are broadcast". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  39. ^ "Xinjiangers condemn murder of religious leader by extremists". China Daily. Urumqi. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  40. ^ a b Cui, Jia (4 August 2014). "Tighter security urged after imam's death". China Daily USA. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  41. ^ Zhang, Dan (3 August 2014). "Xinjiang religious leaders condemn imam's murder". Urumqi: CCTV. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  42. ^ Ren, Zhongxi, ed. (1 August 2014). "China Voice: Murder of Xinjiang religious leader intolerable". Beijing. Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  43. ^ "Imam of China's biggest mosque killed in Xinjiang". The Times of India. Beijing. Agence France-Presse. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  44. ^ Verified Tweet from AFP reporter Tom Hancock (@hancocktom) on 1:13 am – 31 July 2014, quote: "Depressing. Asked World Uighur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit if he would condemn the reported murder of a Kasghar Imam. He did not do so."
  45. ^ Demick, Barbara (5 August 2014). "China Imposes Intrusive Rules on Uighurs in Xinjiang". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  46. ^ "Economic model in Xinjiang must be modified". South China Morning Post. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.