Why are major Islamic Nations silent on China’s treatment of Uighur Muslim while lamenting Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis? China has reportedly detained 15 Australian permanent residents in the infamous ‘re-education camps’ in the northwest state of Xinjiang. This is another onslaught by China on the minority Uighur Muslim population.
Surprisingly, having witnessed the prosecution of Rohingya Muslims, the Muslim world has been keeping ‘silent’ on the plight of the Uighurs. Dr Michael Clarke, a China policy expert, says China’s economic power and the fear of retaliation is a big factor in Muslim politics.
Clarke said Muslim-majority nations including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have avoided raising the matter. And they have countered their silence by saying that they don’t want to interfere in the domestic affairs of another country.
In comparison to the Rohingya crisis, Clarke said China’s economy is 180 times bigger than that of a country like Myanmar, making the latter a far safer target for criticism. “In Myanmar, you are dealing with a much weaker regional state which is much more open to pressure and international criticism.”
Beijing has justified the crackdown as a ‘counter-terrorism measure’ and calls the re-education or internment camps a ‘free vocational training’. Reports say there are over a million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps. They are being forced to renounce Islam and their native language. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party is fueling Islamophobia.
An advocate for Uighurs in Australia, Nurgul Sawut said the community members feel let down. “The language, the department is using is very dire. The Australian government is basically saying we can’t do anything right now.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at China saying the systematic assimilation of Uighur Turks represents‘a great shame for humanity’. The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing.”
The Ministry also highlighted the death of renowned Uighur folk poet Abdurehim Heyit who was in Chinese custody. The Chinese embassy in Ankara maintained that the internment program was designed to curb extremism and terrorism. With mounting criticism, Beijing said, “it protects the religion and culture of minorities, and that its security measures are needed to combat the influence of ‘extremist’ groups that incite violence.”
In August 2018, the United Nations said it had credible information and reports that highlighted the ‘massive internment camp’. An activist group said, “this situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion.”
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