Muslim Outcry Missing in Uyghur Struggle

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Map of the Silk Road Trade routes through Asia connecting China to the Mediterranean Sea. Spanning over 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles), it played a central role in facilitating economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between the East and West.

With outrage often voiced against human rights violations, rampant Islamophobia and genocide against Muslims, where are the voices of such sentiments raised for the Muslim Uyghur struggle in China? What could be the cause of low media coverage from Muslim majority countries despite the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights recognizing the severe human rights violations in East Turkestan by China as crimes against humanity? This is the question raised in a recent article by The Diplomat. 

The atrocities committed against Muslims and Islamic culture in China should receive more attention. Those instances where Muslim majority countries could have a greater impact with a collective voice are flagrantly absent. Muslim majority countries are found to be tied up in political and financial deals, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that in fact could be interpreted as bought silence by China. 

The news outlet The Diplomat, speaks of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) calling for a meeting to condemn the burning of the Holy Qu’ran: “When an extremist burned a copy of the Quran outside a Stockholm mosque, it ignited strong reactions from the Islamic world. This act led to… condemnation from countries like Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.” 

“This reaction raises questions about the Islamic world’s response to different provocations, particularly when juxtaposed with the silence over China’s genocide in East Turkestan (officially known in China as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region),” the Diplomat continues, speaking on the Uyghurs formerly independent state of East Turkestan. 

The report from the Center for Uyghur Studies  (CUS) speaks on some of the grave atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in China: “Chinese officials liken Islam to an ‘infectious disease’ and Uyghur Muslims to ‘infected people’, stressing that the solution is to uproot the religion and extremists.”

“The anti-Islamic campaigns initiated by the Chinese authorities in East  Turkistan  included  a  complete  ban  on  religious  education,  severe  suppression  of  religious scholars, burning of the Quran, destruction of mosques and cemeteries, changing prayers and zikr, prohibition of the hijab, elimination of religious customs, prohibition of  learning Arabic, and erasing the Muslim identity of the Uyghur children.”

Muslim organizations built to give a voice to the oppressed have shown compromised judgment when given a chance to speak up for the minority Muslims of China. The Diplomat continues to illustrate the omission of outrage: “Despite these well-documented atrocities, the OIC has been notably indifferent to the Uyghur genocide.” 

“In a 2019 meeting in Abu Dhabi convened by the OIC, the foreign ministers of Muslim countries issued a joint statement disregarding the Uyghur genocide…That same year, 28 out of 51 countries supporting China’s human rights record at the U.N. The Commission on Human Rights were OIC members,” The Diplomat continues.

The Diplomat cites a famous hadith that illustrates the neglect the Muslim majority countries faced the Muslims in China with: “The situation reflects a deviation from the teachings of solidarity among Muslims, as highlighted by a renowned hadith of the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him], which stresses mutual support and empathy: ‘The believers, in their mutual love, compassion, and sympathy are like a single body; if one of its organs suffers, the whole body will respond to it with sleeplessness and fever.’” 

“However, this principle appears neglected, especially when economic and diplomatic interests are involved. This is evident in the response of Muslim-majority countries and organizations to China’s treatment of Uyghurs,” the Diplomat states.

The CUS report elaborates on the Islamophobia that exists in China and their propaganda used to counter publicity of atrocities against its Muslim population, as well as the effects this propaganda has on political ties with Muslim countries and organizations: “With 57 member states, the (OIC) is the largest international organization  gathering  Muslim  countries  under  its  roof. Its secretariat is in Saudi Arabia.”  

“The Organization  has  the  main  objectives  of  facilitating  solidarity  of  Muslim  countries and  finding solutions to their problems. Another of its founding objectives is to protect the rights of their co-religionists living in non-Muslim countries. This founding article of the OIC is being violated by the  member  states  siding  with  China.” the report states.

China’s BRI or “Maritime Silk Road” project extends China’s influence throughout the countries who take part in it. Muslim majority countries make the BRI possible as the route for China’s economic development project runs through them. China uses this to its advantage and influences Muslim majority countries actions through different strategies. The report from CUS elaborates:

“China’s  economic  and  political  influence  in  the  Islamic world  plays  an  important  role  in determining  the  attitudes  of  Muslim  countries  towards  the  anti-Islamic  policies  implemented  in China, especially the Uyghur genocide. With the implementation of the ‘BRI,’ the dependence of Muslim countries  on  China  has  become  more  serious.”

The CUS report illustrates how China has many tactics used throughout the world to gain economic power and prosperity for its country. Eliminating any objections and policies to hamper its success is on the forefront of its agenda: “In order to realize its projects for world domination, the Beijing regime needs energy resources such as oil and natural gas… and financing for its state-backed enterprises to undertake projects in other countries.”

“In both respects, the geography of Muslim states is of critical importance. For this reason, China  prefers  to  be  active  in  the Islamic  world rather  than  gaining  public  support  in  the  West,” the report explains further.

In an article from the International Socialism journal, the author describes various benefits China derives from its Belt and Road Initiative and “infrastructure projects” in East Turkistan:

“China has been a net importer of oil since 1993. However, imports from the Middle East come by tanker through the strategically vulnerable Strait of Malacca, a narrow shipping lane between Malaysia and Indonesia.” 

“So, to diversify supply, since the early 2000s oil has been imported from neighboring Kazakhstan via a pipeline that runs through Xinjiang, making the province a key component in China’s energy security,” the journal reports.

“US researcher Jonathan Hillman draws a comparison between China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in which Xinjiang is a key link, and the expansion of European powers in the 19th century.” 

“These states used infrastructure projects to ‘expand their influence at the expense of indigenous people, the environment and economic stability’. The extension of the rail network to Kashgar and beyond has drawn isolated Uyghur communities closer to China,” the journal relates.

This news article from East Turkistan Press and Media Association elaborates on China’s economic projects using Uyghur forced labor in East Turkistan: “It also transfers the electricity it produces to the inner part of China by building gigantic solar panel facilities in the deserts.

“…In the report previously based on HorizonAdvisory, …it was revealed that the people of East Turkistan were forced to work as slaves in the factories of large solar companies such as GCL -Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, XinteEnergy, and Jinko Solar.” 

Another article from the East Turkistan Press and Media Association describes the natural resources available in East Turkistan that China has procured to enrich their economy:  “Sinopec, China’s largest supplier of petrochemical products, has started drilling the deepest oil and natural gas well in Asia, located in East Turkistan.”

The vast expanse of the region is full of natural resources. East Turkistan Press reports on a few statistics: “East Turkistan coal reserves account for 37% of China’s total coal reserves. Oil and gas reserves also make up 25% of China’s total reserves.”

“China…plunders 136 natural resources such as gold, platinum, silver, uranium and coal, as well as oil and gas from East Turkistan… In addition, East Turkistan forcibly follows 40% of China’s energy demand.” It also meets 1/5 of the world’s needs and 80% of China’s needs with its high-quality cotton,” East Turkistan Press relates.

The CUS report describes how most of these aspirations of China come together under its Belt and Road Initiative: “In  2013.  Around  140  countries, including 17 from the Middle East, have joined the BRI. Named after the historic Silk Road, which ran from China to Europe, the BRI targets two major geographies – Africa and the Middle East.”

“These  two  regions  are  targeted by China  both  in  terms  of  natural  resources  and  investment opportunities… the BRI had so far invested approximately $400 billion in 600 projects across the Islamic world,” according to the report. 

The CUS report continues to shed light on the tremendous financial investment and benefit held by China with the BRI: “The share of BRI projects in Africa and the Middle East increased from 8 percent in 2020 to 38 percent  in  2021.  The Chinese  investment  in  Arab  countries  has  tripled,  while  the  proportion  of Chinese  construction  projects  has  doubled.”

“East  Turkistan  is  of  existential  importance  for  BRI,  one  of  the  biggest  initiatives  of  Xi  Jinping. The fact that the homeland of the Uyghurs is located in a position that connects China to Central Asia and the Middle East is one of the most important justifications for Beijing’s Sinicization of East Turkistan,” the report emphasizes.

China used the opportunity of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to portray itself as the victim of terrorism and justify the terror the country was already perpetrating against it Muslim population. This opportunity also gave countries a so-called valid reason to then stand behind China in their support of Uyghur oppression. The CUS report comments on the opportunistic ploy by the Chinese government:

“The Chinese government used the ‘Global War on Terrorism’ initiated by the US  government…to effectively suppress the resistance of the Uyghur Muslims in East Turkestan and announced that it was also a ‘victim of terrorism’, and that the Uyghurs have been engaged in ‘terrorist activities’ for a long time.”

“Since then, China’s state media has constantly linked Islam and Muslims to terrorism. This kind of propaganda has created a situation in Chinese society, where Islam is seen as equal to terrorism and extremism; Muslims are treated as terrorists,” the report continues

The CUS report illustrates how a greater opportunity for deception by China was realized and the country used the “threat of terrorism” to further develop propaganda as a tool of manipulation:

 “A disinformation monster that has spread across the entire geography from Asia to America is fed with false facts and data through Beijing-backed information channels. China utilizes a wide range of actors–state media, CCP officials, local governments and institutions – as resources to spread its global propaganda.

“…Media agencies in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have been transformed into China’s propaganda tools through advertising and other large incentives. The communist regime has been influencing search engines such  as Google, Youtube

and Bing to prevent the Uyghur Genocide from being heard, especially on online platforms,” the study reports.

Adeelah Ahmad