World is blind to the plight of Muslims in China
2019-01-01 12:54:05 -


By Mohammed Samaana


It took the construction of massive concentration camps in China for the world to finally notice the long decades of persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority by the communist government. The UN human rights panel highlighted in August 2018 that around a million people, or 10 per cent of the Uighur population, are imprisoned in these camps.

The Turkic-speaking Uighurs have lived in that region for many centuries and made contributions to the Asian culture, arts, science and music. They were invaded by China during the Qing dynasty in 1884, followed by their land’s annexation to China in 1949.

Though China’s communists claim that they treat all ethnic groups equally, they implemented a ‘go west’ policy to encourage mass movement of the Chinese Han majority to the region. This was accompanied by discrimination which resulted in tipping the demographic balance against the native Uighurs.

As a result of the so-called ‘war on terror’ that followed the September 11 terror attacks, it seems China’s communist dictatorship found George W Bush as a source of inspiration for chauvinistic ideas and started to create its own model of Islamophobia which proved to be much more brutal than the American one. Harsh measures have been implemented against Uighur Muslims that affect almost all aspects of their lives.

The government banned the expression of Islam. This meant that teachers, students and civil servants are not allowed to observe the fast during the month of Ramadan. Those who disobey will be sent to the concentration camps, which are considered by the state as ‘re-educations centres’ in order to ‘cure’ them from what officials see as the ‘ideological illness’ of Islam. This allegedly includes forcing them to drink alcohol and eat pork, as well as memorise communist party songs and learn Mandarin, all in order to extract their faith out of them.

With the men sent to the camps, it’s been claimed, Uighur Muslim women are forced to marry non-Muslim men from the Han privileged majority. By doing so, the architects of this ethnic cleansing dilute the identity of the Uighur ethnic group.

Children, meanwhile, are encouraged to spy on their parents and report their activities to the state teachers. Children of imprisoned parents are taken into state orphanages where they are further brainwashed and indoctrinated to forget their unique culture and faith.

The Uighur language is under attack by the government, using the pretext that it is not suitable for the scientific development of the country. Further restrictions on wearing the headscarf for women are also implemented, as are restrictions on movement.

This is only a glimpse of what Uighur Muslims are facing under Chinese rule. Other faith groups are also suffering, including Christians. For different reasons, however, the rest of the world has decided to look the other way, as if desensitised to the suffering of other human beings.


Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

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