While the horrific stories of China’s re-education programme have uncovered the rampant assault on the identity and culture of the Uyghur Muslims, the reactions from the Muslim world are largely muted.
By Khalid Shah
The western press is abuzz with stories about the “cultural cleansing” orchestrated by the Communist Party in Xinjiang region of China. While the horrific stories of China’s re-education programme have uncovered the rampant assault on the identity and culture of the Uyghur Muslims, the reactions from the Muslim world are largely muted. The spiral of silence is not limited to the Muslim community, it spans across the world to democratic countries like India where the voices for human rights and freedom are also mute.
As per media reports, the Uyghurs are detained in re-education camps where they are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. They are coerced to criticise and denounce their own ethnic group and belief system, coupled with the indoctrination to accept the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) ideology. This process is rampant across the Xinjiang region where one million Uyghurs are detained in the camps, according to estimates of the United Nations. The Chinese government is spending an immense amount of money on building new camps and security infrastructure in the region. In the eyes of party propagandists, these camps are similar to hospitals for the treatments of an “ideological illness.” The torture in these re-education camps has, in many cases, led to the death of detainees but so far there is no estimate of a death toll.
One news report quotes a party official saying: “Ideological illnesses are the same as physical illnesses, in that they must be treated in time, and should never be ignored and allowed to become serious. Otherwise, later we will regret it, as it will be too late.. Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs.”
There is, in fact, a significant influence of religious extremism and radicalization in Xinjiang, but the Communist Party is holding the entire population of this ethnic minority with separatist tendencies hostage in the name of religious extremism. China’s reaction is out of proportion and has faced severe criticism from the UN and American officials. What started as a campaign to eradicate extremist elements in the region has now become a widespread campaign to culturally integrate the Uyghurs.
Xinjiang, the largest province of China, covers an area of 1,660,000 sq km, and has a population of around 22 million. Aksai Chin, a part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by China is part of the same region and shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Uyghurs are one of the 55 officially recognised minority groups in China and constitute 45 percent of the Xinjiang population.
While the ethnic minority is at the receiving end of the worst form of persecution, the world does not bat an eye.
China’s all-weather friend Pakistan has not deemed it right to raise a voice for the Uyghurs. Pakistanis have, in their self-proclamations, shown great zeal defending, supporting and protecting Muslims across the world. Be it the cause of Palestinians, the persecution of Rohingyas or any other issue of Muslims, Pakistanis are always on the forefront.
However, in the case Uyghur Muslims the trumpet has lost the sound. Not just the government of Pakistan but also the people of Pakistan, including the liberals and Mullahs are on the same page. Their silence has given a tacit approval to the persecution of Uyghurs and thus become a passive accomplice of China.
On the other hand, the Muslim world has also been conspicuously silent, a hypocrisy quite similar to that of Pakistan. The Arab world, owing to vested interests, has seemingly ignored the fact that one million Muslims are being forced into camps to cleanse their belief in Islam. In fact, the Chinese authorities have declared them a disease suffering with “ideological illness” to justify torture and forceful indoctrination.
This selective outrage is another indicator of how the champions of the Islamic cause can betray an ethnic Muslim community, for their own stakes. Islamists, who are known for decreeing against the persecution of Muslims, seem unfazed by the plight of Uyghurs.
Similarly, no one is outraged in India. China has in the past, needled India on the Kashmir issue, but India could respond in equal measure by raising the persecution of Uyghurs at the diplomatic level. After the Doklam crisis, New Delhi has avoided antagonizing Beijing. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the Indian government will voice concerns on the issue.
In the past, the champions of human rights and civil liberties in India have raised an empathetic cry in favour of the Rohingyas, and organised demonstrations in favour of the Palestinians, and most recently, on the issue of shifting the US Embassy in Jerusalem. The Left in India has advocated for many global causes and has always walked hand-in-hand with the Muslims of the country, to raise a voice against the wrongful persecution of Muslims. Yet, both the Left and Muslims in India are abnormally silent on the issue.
China is setting a dangerous precedent in Xinjiang. It is imperative for the global Muslim community and human rights defenders to treat the Palestinians, Rohingyas and Uyghurs on an equal pedestal, and impose pressure on Beijing to stop its evil campaign in Xinjiang.