Uighur Muslims deserve better than re-education camps

Islam and China can co-exist based on truth, human equality, not lies and all things pernicious that a dysfunctional state may do.

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Published by Malay Mail, Malaysiakini, Sin Chew & New Straits Times, image from The Straits Times.

Xinjiang, contrary to what many people believe, is not the word which Uighur Muslims themselves chose, or accept. In Mandarin, it means “new land.” But here is the puzzle. Islam has a history in China, especially Xi-An, even much further east to Xinjiang, since the 7th century AD.

And, if the local lores can be accepted, Muslims in China do believe that the first merchant to propagate Islam to Han Chinese and Uigur Muslims was none other than Saad Ibn Waqqas, a close disciple of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) himself.

The Han Chinese, who constitutes almost 95 per cent of entire population of China did not accept or understand Islam immediately. Nor should they, as Islam is based on non compulsion.

But some of the Han Chinese did accept Islam, to identify themselves as Hui Muslims. Hui is the first letter of Hui-Ziao, which means Islam in Mandarin. Hui-Ziao means the teachings that encourage people of all creeds to return to their basic essence: to believe in God, or alternatively, Heaven, as God, as Professor Tu Wei Ming at Beijing University would have it.

Given the symmetry and harmony between Islam and China that go back to the 7th century AD, which has continued to this very day, why has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) impose more and more punitive discipline and pressures on the Uyghur Muslim minorities?

After all, they number no more than 12 million people amidst a Han (non-Muslim) population of 1.4 billion.

Yet, the State Council of China, equivalent to the cabinet, has finally admitted that there are “education camps” or “vocational centres.” This was reported in South China Morning Post on the online edition of September 18, 2020.

It was further highlighted by Ink Stone publication, a sister online news portal of South China Morning Post. It is too bad that South China Morning Post has introduced a pay wall. Otherwise, readers from all over the world can read it.

Did China just acknowledge the scale of its Xinjiang camps? If readers are curious about what China’s government officials are saying in the State Council, they can read the publication in Ink Stone before they cast any aspersions on this article.

The fact is there are more than a million Uighur Muslims that are “trapped” — to put it politely — in these camps. And these numbers correspond with the estimates of many reliable news and non-governnental organisations in Asia and the West, concerned with the fate of Uighurs.

And, they should be concerned, because all forms of brain washing and tortures are being tested on the hapless Uigurs, which even the the United Nations is concerned. One of the worse treatments, applied on men and women, is to strap then to “Dragon Chair” where all their hands and limbs are rendered immovable, while they are humiliated, interrogated, and potentially challenge to disavow their Islamic beliefs.

But beyond the tens of thousands of detention camps across Xinjiang, what Uighurs themselves prefer to identify their homeland as “East Turkestan,” Chinese Communist Party officials are actually allowed to visit there as yet undetained family members of the Uyghurs.

This is one of the most humiliating experiences, verging on the descriptions of the victims of the #Metoo Movement, where Uighur Muslim women, even men, are subjected to perverted sexual abuse, including rape and molestation.

And should the Uighur Muslims resist these unwanted sexual advances, they would be further reported; where anything ranging from arbitrary arrest and further prolonged detention of their family members and relatives are extended.

China is a civilisation. It can rise to the standards of the highest civilisation too. For example, over the last 40 years, China has redeemed 800 million people from hard core poverty. A feat that has never been achieved, although there are another 600 million more that await further assistance.

Beijing has a campaign to save their 55 minorites. But Beijing should not do so by transgressing on the human dignity of Uighur Muslims. This is a very dangerous exercise, as the Belt and Road does traverse across at least 30 Muslim countries out of a total of 67 countries that have agreed to support BRI.

That is close to half of China’s exposures to serious rebellion against innocent Chinese construction workers, who are often identified by the yellow hard hat helmets. No one wants China to collapse in its own humiliation after overcoming its own Century of Humiliation.

China needs to be wise and pragmatic to U-turn on their draconian policy on Uighur Muslims, even Hui or Kazakh Muslims, or perhaps Han non Muslims who are sympathetic to the plight of Uighurs and the Muslims.

Islam and China can co-exist based on truth, human equality, not lies and all things pernicious that a dysfunctional state may do. And, China is not a dysfunctional state given the speed by which it can contain Covid-19.

Be wise. Don’t bully minorities or even try to colonise anyone especially in the South-east Asia or even Africa as many assertions rose on the possibility of the use of “debt-trap” as a new weapon of neo-colonisation done through the offer of huge debts with impossible path of repayment resulting in “possession” of such ventures as we saw in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota sea port.

The huge 2.2 billion Muslims in 57 countries too should rise and demand answers from China. Forget about the Saudi dominated impotent Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) who are more interested in baklawas and lamb mandi meetings.

Perhaps a case for the establishment of a new Alliance of Muslim Nations let by more progressive, pragmatic and principled Muslim nations.

Dr. Rais Hussin is President & CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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