Uighurs must wish they were Palestinians instead


“Foreign Policy” points to an interesting instance of large scale persecution and suppression of Muslims, which is generating zero response from the rest of the Islamic ummah. Where is the “Arab street” where you need it?

Internment camps with up to a million prisonersEmpty neighborhoodsStudentsmusiciansathletes, and peaceful academics jailed. A massive high-tech surveillance state that monitors and judges every movement. The future of more than 10 million Uighurs, the members of China’s Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, is looking increasingly grim.


As the Chinese authorities continue a brutal crackdown in Xinjiang, the northwest region of China that’s home to the Uighur, Islam has been one of the main targets. Major mosques in the major cities of Kashgar and Urumqi now stand empty. Prisoners in the camps are told to renounce God and embrace the Chinese Communist Party. Prayers, religious education, and the Ramadan fast are increasingly restricted or banned. Even in the rest of China, Arabic text is being stripped from public buildings, and Islamophobia is being tacitly encouraged by party authorities.


But amid this state-backed campaign against their religious brethren, Muslim leaders and communities around the world stand silent. While the fate of the Palestinians stirs rage and resistance throughout the Islamic world, and millions stood up to condemn the persecution of the Rohingya, there’s been hardly a sound on behalf of the Uighur. No Muslim nation’s head of state has made a public statement in support of the Uighurs this decade.  Politicians and many religious leaders who claim to speak for the faith are silent in the face of China’s political and economic power.


“One of our primary barriers has been a definite lack of attention from Muslim-majority states,” said Peter Irwin, a project manager at the World Uyghur Congress. This isn’t out of ignorance. “It is very well documented,” said Omer Kanat, the director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “The Muslim-majority countries governments know what’s happening in East Turkestan,” he said, using the Uighur term for the region.


Many Muslim governments have strengthened their relationship with China or even gone out of their way to support China’s persecution. Last summer, Egypt deported several ethnic Uighurs back to China, where they faced near-certain jail time and, potentially, death, to little protest. This followed similar moves by Malaysia and Pakistan in 2011.

Apparently you can do just about anything to a Muslim population if you’re not the United States or Israel. Which sucks if you are the Muslim population in question. As the article points out, China is now a major trade and development partner for many of the majority-Muslim states around the world, and one doesn’t bite the hand that feeds you. At least when that hand is attached to an authoritarian regime, which doesn’t care much for criticism and we’ll slap you around with the bitten hand. China’s One Belt One Road initiative – or the new Silk Road – weaves through and along a large number of Central Asian and Middle Eastern states before it gets to Africa and Europe, and so most of the Muslim countries in the region have been the beneficiaries of significant Chinese transport and energy infrastructure spending, with plenty more to come. What are a few Uyghurs between billion-dollar friends?