The Plight of Uyghur Muslims

By Abid Rashid Baba

BEFORE embracing Islam around 10th century, Uyghur’s practiced Buddhism, Shamanism and Manichaeism. They had their own color, culture and cuisine. Xinjiang is the largest province of the Red Dragon. It borders eight countries, most of which are Muslim majority. In 1949, Mao Zedong forcibly annexed it to prevent Russia from taking over. 76% of Muslims used to live in Xinjiang back then. In last seven decades, they are reduced to just 40%. China has destroyed 80% (approx… 18K) mosques, according to latest ASPI study.

Few fortnights back, a drone footage unmasked a dirty side of China. Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang province are blindfolded and taken to unknown concentration camps. Satellite images prove that Chinese government has built hundreds of detention camps and they continue to expand. In the far north-west of ‘People’s Republic’ of China, a monstrous crime is taking place. What Beijing calls ‘political education centers’ are carbon copies of Guantanamo Bay. Forced indoctrination takes place in China’s most militarized zone. Xinjiang is a black hole for Muslims.

The official mouthpiece of the new totalitarian state believes that it controls Islamic extremism through these concentration camps but facts and figures tell complex telling tales. In 2019, the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) published a report detailing this campaign, titled “Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur’s Mosques and Shrines.” Radio Free Asia recently reported that a public toilet has been erected on the site of a demolished mosque in Artush city, northwest of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). “The Mosque Rectification drive, part of a series of hardline policies under top leader XI Jinping predates the mass incarceration of as many as 1.8 million Uyghur’s and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps.” The report read. A new god has been enacted in the city of Xinjiang. Thousands of High Resolution Closet circuit cameras have been enacted to build the army of obedient communist robots.

An investigation by Agence France-Presse revealed that 45 cemeteries have been destroyed from 2014 to Oct 2019 and turned into parking areas. China is planning to shrink Muslim population. Uyghur women are subjected to forced sterilization and abortion. Business Insider recently reported that while men stay in camps, china sends Han men to sleep with Muslim women. They are assigned to monitor their homes. They share bed, bread and body with them. Isn’t it a state sanctioned rape?

Uyghur’s have become victims of forced assimilation. They don’t live life; they just exist. One in every ten Uighur Muslims is behind bars. Out of 10 million Uyghur’s, two million are in jail and the remaining eight million are in constant surveillance. Checkpoints are at every turn.  Cameras scan everything under the sky. Muslims are subjected to political indoctrination. They are forced to recite Communist Party propaganda songs every day. Those who don’t, are tortured, publicly shamed and executed. They are released only when they succumb to beliefs and language of china. This is persecution.

Uyghur’s can’t celebrate Eid. They can’t wear traditional/religious outfit.  Women are not allowed to wear Burqas. Young men can’t keep beard. Ramzan fasting is curtailed. The atheist government has launched a massive CASO. Uyghur’s are fleeing repression. 1500 year old written Uyghur literature is banned. When language goes, culture fades.

The silence of international community against their plight especially those who claim to be the defenders of Muslims is appalling. Why is there no outrage from OIC? Why is Turkish president and Pakistani Prime Minister silent on the massacre of Muslims in Xinjiang?

In July 2019, 22 western nations raised concerns about china’s atrocities in Xinjiang. What happened next is unexpected. The state narrative has been that it is a backward feudal region. Since the ethnically driven unrest that flared up in 2009, Xinjiang has seen periodic violence and bloodshed attributed to Uighur Muslims. Chinese state media echo the government’s version of what they make them believe because the president wants the press to be loyal to the state. They can’t toe the line due to the oppressive policies and the Beijing’s political and economic interests.

37 countries wrote a joint letter and white washed china’s crimes as counter-terrorism operations. 14 of these were Muslim countries, all members of OIC — a body which claims to represent the aspirations of Muslims across the globe. China has become a key trade partner with Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.  The Belt and Road network, an international trade network has a strategic location. Xinjiang is home to 5th of china’s total oil reserves. It is the biggest producer of coal. 1/3rd of china’s natural gas reserves are located here. Xinjiang contributes 60% of china’s cotton output. This resource rich region is an open jail for the domiciles.

The self-styled custodian of faith like Saudi Arabia issues a statement that “China has the right to take de-extremism measures to safeguard national security.”  Beijing is one of Tehran’s biggest trade partner. Erdogan- ‘the modern day sultan’ is busy changing the secular nature of Turkey and converting Museums into Masjids, wants to be in the good books of Xi Jinping. Hence, tight-lipped. Imran Khan, the captain of ‘modern Day Medina’ feigns ignorance about what is actually happening in Xinjiang.

The systematic de-Islamisation of 16 lac Sq.Km Xinjiang happens under the very nose of ‘Saviors of Islam.’ America is complaining at UNGA. Muslim world is not. Not even a single customary condemnation. Money matters. They prefer business over faith. Will they ever wake-up to restore the lost glory of historical Kashgar and Yarkand?

Uyghur children wake up in empty houses and realize later that their parents have been taken for few years. Kids of the stolen parents are left alone so that the government takes care of them. They are stripped of their tradition and faith. People are being tracked by high-tech surveillance web. Buzzfeed News Correspondent Megha Rajagopalan revealed that their mobile phone devices and laptops are checked. “Controlling access is center to their strategy.”

We scream and cry hoarse at the slightest insult to our religion but are blind to Uyghur genocide. Someone in France is making caricature of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and somebody is writing satire about the sacred verses. We need to come out of this tunneled vision. Aren’t Uyghur’s part of what Quran calls “Ummah”? No solidarity with them. Why? We continue to overlook how cruel and barbaric china is vis-à-vis Muslims.

Farooq Abdullah (in his latest interview with Karan Thapar) wants Kashmiris to be “liberated” by China. China links it’s targeting of Uyghur’s to Georg Bush’s global War-on-Terror. When Mao Zedong stressed that “Ethnicity and Religion are two terrible things”, the message was writing on the wall. The idea was clear: to suppress Islam. And Xi, the modern day Czar, is just following the footsteps of his master. Newyork Times accessed Xi Jinping’s secret speech delivered at a leadership conclave in Beijing where he warned of “toxicity of religious extremism”. “We need to use tools of dictatorship to eradicate radical Islam in Xinjiang.” Wonder what Farooq Abdullah would say to that?

Think rationally and empathetically.

  • The author, media fellow with The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), New-Delhi, can be reached at: [email protected]

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