What is happening to Muslims across the world? What is this persecution, violence and racism to which they are being subjected everywhere we look?
Rohingya Muslims are still suffering in Myanmar. The men are being burned, the children killed and the women raped. They are being displaced from their towns and villages in the biggest ethnic cleansing campaign ever recorded by the UN. The international organisation has warned that we can expect a major disaster if the Myanmar government continues in its racist approach.
The UN may warn and keep records, but its warnings have no value or meaning as long as they do not result in effective and decisive resolutions and retribution as stipulated by the UN Charter, specifically Clause Seven, which make all Security Council resolutions binding upon member states.
When, though, has the UN ever been fair to Muslims and Arabs in general? It was established specifically for the benefit of the global superpowers, not for the benefit of the vulnerable and helpless people around the world. If that was not the case, it would have ensured that justice was seen to be done for the Palestinians by confronting Israel’s brutality and criminality.
The page has not yet been turned on the Rohingya Muslim issue; their problems with the racist Myanmar government have not been resolved. However, the world forgot about the tragedy, only for us to be shocked by a new one afflicting another group of Muslims, the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, China, although I prefer to call it East Turkistan, which was its name before it was changed by the Chinese occupiers. These occupiers are torturing the population; the Uyghur Muslims are subjected to the most heinous forms of humiliation, oppression and racism by the Chinese state.
“East Turkistan”, this forgotten country, is located in the far north-west of China, which is predominantly Muslim, with a population of more than nine million. The area is specifically for the Uyghurs, who speak a Turkic language. It was occupied by China in 1881 and gained independence after the Chinese civil war in 1944. However, it was occupied once again in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was established and declared communism to be the political system. This area is rich in natural resources, including oil, natural gas and uranium. China rules with an iron fist, looting the Uyghurs’ resources and wealth, killing and torturing Muslim men and raping their women. They are also banned from practicing their religion and have been forced to denounce Islam in order to survive.
Indeed, China has apparently built special camps where it holds at least one million Muslim Uyghurs, according to a report by the BBC, which showed satellite images of a camp surrounded by an enormous fence and 18 watchtowers. When this was exposed to the world, news agencies and international media outlets released pictures showing the torture of Uyghur Muslims; Western governments condemned Beijing’s policies and actions. Furthermore, 22 ambassadors sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council in which they also criticised Chinese policies in the region and demanded that the council should condemn China’s tyranny and flagrant human rights violations against the Muslims in Xinjiang.
The greatest scandal that makes our heart ache, though, is the fact that instead of rushing to rescue the Muslims, save them from torture, and support them against the criminal Chinese government, some Arab and Muslim states — namely Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan — signed another letter issued by a total of 33 countries in opposition to the sentiments of the ambassadors’ letter. Perversely, they expressed their support for China’s policy in Xinjiang and described it as one of Beijing’s human rights achievements. “Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism,” said these countries, “China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centres.” They added that security had returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there had been safeguarded, with the people enjoying a stronger sense of happiness, fulfilment and security.
In their words, the cruel detention camps in which Muslims are forced to denounce Islam are “vocational education and training centres”. The Arab and Muslim signatories have shifted from a strange silence in the face of China’s brutal acts against Uyghur Muslims to actually defending Chinese oppression. They are complicit in China’s crimes against the Uyghurs. What a disgrace this is; how low can these Arab and Muslim governments get? I am at a loss for words and do not know what to say; my mind can no longer process or comprehend what is happening. All masks of decency and justice have fallen off in capitals around the region.
I find no better words to describe the state of the Muslim Ummah than those of the late poet Mahmoud Darwish:
Fallen, the mask over the mask
That covers the mask.
Fallen is the mask!
You’ve no brothers, my brother,
No friends, nor forts, my friend.
Arabs who obeyed their Franks
Arabs who sold their souls
Arabs who are lost
Fallen is the mask
The mask has fallen.
I will continue this discussion next week by addressing the other tragedies afflicting the Muslims due to their collective weakness, of which the latest example is India’s move to revoke Muslim Kashmir’s autonomous status.
Read part 2 here
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.