By Syed Atiq ul Hassan;
There are about 12 million Muslim Uyghurs living in Xinjiang, also known as the Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China. Uyghurs are Turkish descendants, unlike Chinese, they have a physical appearance and a face like Turks, they speak language similar to (old) Turkish, and they share their history and culture with Turks.
There are many other ethnic Muslim communities in China. Chinese Muslims can trace their ancestry back to
Usman Ibn Affan, the 3rd Caliph in Islamic history, who sent companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to China, including Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas. During the Ottoman Empire, Muslims settled in China from the lands of Arabs and Turks.
After the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) took control in 1949 and began centralizing power, they invaded Tibet and seized control over the state of Xinjiang, a Muslim majority region. China today has a Muslim population of over 20 million with over 40,000 mosques & Islamic centers and over 45,000 Islamic leaders (Scholars, Imams and Sheikhs).
Despite China’s 1400-year-old heritage, culture, and languages of Chinese Muslims, things aren’t the same as they used to be for Chinese Muslims.
Religious freedom is guaranteed in the Chinese constitution regarding religion and ethnic minorities, but the Chinese government ignores it and overrules its laws. Currently, Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang have either very little religious freedom or at all NONE.
Since 2014, China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority. The Chinese government conducted a massive and brutal campaign against Uyghurs under the guise of ‘political re-education camps,’ in which they were forced to give up Islam and adopt Chinese practices.
The Chinese government’s campaign against Muslims under the pretext of fighting religious extremism is the worst genocide since the Holocaust during World War II, according to international human rights reports. Over 1.5 million Muslims are imprisoned in internment camps like war prisoners where Uyghur Muslims are systematically abused and tortured. According to a former internment camp inmate, Muslims are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol under the pretence of re-educating them to follow Chinese culture. Their Islamic practices are being tortured to death when they refuse to leave them.
Chinese officials claim that they are fighting terrorism and religious extremism. However, the reality is that the Chinese government has an agenda to eliminate the faith and culture of Chinese Muslims. In August 2018, a human rights panel revealed that one million Uighur Muslims have been forced into camps in the province of Xinjiang for political indoctrination.
In their editorials and columns, many international newspapers and overseas relatives of Chinese Muslims describe the Xi Jinping government’s definition of Islam as a “mental illness”. Therefore, Chinese authorities want to treat this disease. It wouldn’t be wrong if 12 million Uyghur Muslims were called a new kind of ethnic cleansing or holocaust in this modern world.
In spite of this brutal genocide of Chinese Muslims, the Islamic Umma (Muslim World) has not demonstrated any practical measures to curb it – no boycott of Chinese trade but enhancing relations with China instead.
Pakistan, China’s closest neighbour and best friend, chose to remain silent against this systematic ethnic cleansing of their fellow Muslim brethren.
In addition to the great China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan continues to expand its traditional ties with China in many areas. Imran Khan has recently been invited as a VIP guest to attend the Winter Olympics as a Pakistani government official. There are many issues that Pakistani delegates wish to discuss with China, but not the appalling conditions of Muslims in China.
Khan’s government should address the safety and religious freedom of millions of Chinese Muslims, especially Uyghurs, and compel China to close all internment and concentration camps of Muslims.
Imran Khan’s government should ask Xi Jinping’s government about protections for Chinese Muslims’ religious freedom.
Another heavyweight Muslim country in the region, Turkey, is similarly silent on this issue. Uighurs are an ethnic Turkish group. The Turkish government has yet to acknowledge Uighur suffering. Turkey’s silence on the Uighurs’ safety is shameful.
Several Western countries, including Australia, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada, have already announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
International law supports freedom of religion, and the Chinese government should respect that just like other civilized nations. Thus, human activists and human rights organizations should raise their voices loudly against the extreme religious repression of 20 million Chinese Muslims.
(The writer, Syed Atiq ul Hassan, is a Sydney-based journalist, political analyst and editor Tribune International, Australia. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and mobile is +61 479 143 628).