The Uyghurs, a Turkic nation of over 25 million people who live across Central Asia, have a long history and a rich cultural heritage that combines elements of nomadism and sedentarism, pre-Islamic, Sufi, and Muslim spiritual traditions. One component of this culture is the meshrep ( مەشرەپ in Uyghur), a community gathering, mostly male, in which music and judgement on moral conduct play a key role.
A group of men usually meet in a courtyard, play traditional music such as muqam, and hold a sort of moral court, where the behavior of male members of the community is reviewed, and criticized, usually in a humorous way through mockery, jokes, and non-violent imitation of physical punishment.
Meshreps vary in size and duration, but can last several hours and include anything from 30 to several hundred people. Women and children are welcome observers of the ritual.
In the 1980s, meshreps, particularly in the city of Ghulja in East Turkistan, gradually took a more political tone, openly discussing issues of youth disenfranchisement, unemployment, and the practice of religion. By 1995, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had banned them as a threat to its own discourse of “ethnic unity” and hotbeds of religious activism. In his book “Down a Narrow Road: Identity and Masculinity in a Uyghur Community in Xinjiang China ” Uyghur culture scholar Jay Dautcher explains:
The increased role of meshrep groups in community activism and social mobilization, in forms such as anti-alcohol campaigns and youth sports leagues, led to a realization on the part of the Chinese government official that unregulated grassroots organizations in Uyghur neighbourhoods were proving more effective than official campaigns and state institutions at mobilizing Uyghurs.
As unauthorized meshreps continued to take place, the Chinese authorities decided to differentiate between “unhealthy” (and thus banned) and “healthy” ones, co-opting the latter category, and even registering the meshrep in 2010 within the UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
We as East Turkistan Youth Union arranges our traditional meshrep one time in each month in different cities of Norway to remember and practice our traditions. Our purpose is uniting our youth and giving them chance to meet each other. There are following programs in our East Turkistan Youth Meshrep:
Our Meshrep starting by reciting one or two Ayah of Qur’an.
Introducing attendants and rules of Meshrep.
History of East Turkistan
Introducing our culture which are nearly being forgotten.
Report about Union’s work in past month.
Free discussion of any topic which is not against our religion, culture and Norwegian law.
Feel free to inform us if you want to have such meshrep in your city.