At The Corner, Andy McCarthy writes:
The Uighurs endorse and espouse terrorist activity against — at the very least — China. (As I explained in yesterday’s post, an elementary understanding of jihadist ideology would alert one that militant Muslims do not confine their jihad against a single country.) They have also received military-type training at al Qaeda connected camps — that, indeed, is why they were detained in the first place. As I detailed in a prior NRO article, “These guys weren’t out of China on Hajj. They were getting combat training from Islamic militants in Afghanistan. Moreover, many … have been involved in serious incidents at Gitmo, including numerous assaults on U.S. military personnel and participation in riots incited by jihadists.”
From a magazine that (rightly) criticized the Chinese Government’s startling repression throughout the Olympics, this is incredibly callous. The Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China’s Northwest, have endured brutal oppression for over half a century without so much as a “Free East Turkestan” bumper sticker craze. Critics of the “root causes” theory of global terrorism argue that Al Qaeda is driven by ideology, not grievance. That may be true as a general statement, but in the case of the Uighurs, we can identity a discrete chain of causation: China oppresses the Uighurs -> the Uighurs adopt both violent and passive resistance -> some Uighurs seek training with Al Qaeda.
So why needlessly provoke a group that has no preexisting conflict with the United States? Detaining Uighurs when we lack any credible evidence of their involvement with terrorism is a surefire way to excite resentment. Adding a Uighur liberation group to the terrorist watchlist at the behest of an authoritarian Chinese government is another way to shoot ourselves in the foot. One might even argue that we’re playing into the hands of Al Qaeda, who would love to convince every Muslim ethnic group with a grievance that the United States is their ultimate enemy.