By: Abdul Rasool Syed
The so-called re-education camps for Uighur Muslims
What’s happening in China under the guise of re-education of the Uighur Muslims is quite shameful. It seems that China, like the West, is suffering from paranoia against the Muslims. Islamophobia is mounting unprecedentedly with each passing day in Chinese society. It is quite evident in policy of the Communist Party of China (CPC) towards the Muslim population, particularly the Muslim inhabitants of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
In fact, re-education is an attempt to proselytize Muslims to Chinese socialism as a socio-politico-religious ideology. Further, it is also in pursuance of President Xi Jinping’s policy of Sinicization, introduced in 2015, whereby religions should be subjected to socialist ideology.
China, under the pretext of re-education and de-radicalization, has detained more than a million Uighur Muslims in so–called “re-education camps” where Muslims are subjected to inhumane treatment and are forced to renounce their religious practices. Gay McDougall, who sits on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, claims that the imprisoned population could be as high as 2 million. Whatever the estimates may be, the number of Uighur Muslims being arrested, uprooted from their families and lives, and imprisoned in concentration camps – for no other reason than being a Uighur and a Muslim – is continually on the rise.
Ironically, China has not even an iota of remorse for what it is doing with Uighurs; rather Chinese officials are always found justifying the unjustifiable persecution of these Muslims. Chinese foreign minister while defending his country’s actions, said: “The efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism … if we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”
Other Chinese officials defend their country’s actions, claiming that Islam is an “ideological illness” positioning the concentration camps as “hospitals” needed to cure people from this sickness. China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, remarked that the country is trying to turn the Uighurs into “normal people” and a pro-government newspaper tweeted: “The west should be consistent over its own value system. How can it be fine to kill terrorists with missiles, but a humanitarian crisis when Xinxiang attempts to turn them into normal people?” Such statements insinuate that faith of over 1.7 billion people throughout the world as an illness from which they need to be cured.
Literally, China is following in the footsteps of the West that considers Islam an antiquated and anti-democratic dispensation, promoting extremism and terrorism and, therefore, calls for its absolute obliteration by criminalizing any expression of Muslim identity, including removing copies of the Holy Quran from people’s homes, restricting fasting during the month of Ramdan, and forbidding Muslim parents from giving their children Muslim names.
Apart from this, the Chinese government has established nearly 28 detention camps, described by Amnesty International as comparable to “wartime concentration camps,” aimed at large-scale ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims. To add, US senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith have termed Xinjiang campaign as “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.
What happens in these re-education camps is extremely gruesome. Internees are supposed to learn Mandarin and the lyrics to the Chinese national anthem as they follow a syllabus extolling the virtues of Chinese socialism. They are forced to disavow Islamic beliefs, to endlessly criticize themselves and their loved ones, and to loudly praise CPC. They are also required to chant, for hours, slogans such as, “We will oppose extremism, we will oppose separatism, and we will oppose terrorism”. The pre-meal chanting includes: “Thank the party! Thank the motherland! Thank the President Xi!” Furthermore, male inmates are compelled to shave their beards and are forcefully administered pork and alcohol, which Muslims are forbidden to consume.
Penalty for noncompliance is so harsh that it can result in standing for hours at a time, solitary confinement and the withdrawal of food. Torture devices include tiger chairs (to which prisoners are restrained) and bodysuits made of iron to restrict movement, whilst having their heads thrust into icy water.
This programme of brainwashing and indoctrination is not limited to adults only; the state also operates orphanages for Uighur Muslim children taken away from their parents, where the process of detaching them from Islamic doctrines and ethnic heritage is deeply ingrained into their education. At these orphanages, disguised as schools, China is converting Uighur children into future generations of loyal subjects who embrace atheism and Han customs.
Indeed, Chinese government is deliberately trying to stifle Islamic practices. ChinaAid reported that Muslims are forced to violate their Halal diet. The government orders store owners to mix Halal foods with non-Halal foods, and if anyone inquires about the ingredients of such food, he is subject to apprehension.
Although the atrocities against the Uighur Muslims by the Chinese authorities are so severe, yet the global outrage and the political pressure don’t match the velocity and ferocity of such reprehensible actions.
Why? The answer is dead simple. Since China is an economic superpower, and the nations across the world rely on it heavily for imports, trade and more, that’s why they fear that if they challenged or sanctioned China for its ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims, they would in retaliation be hit back economically.
What is most flabbergasting is the near silence from the Muslim countries about the abuse being perpetrated against Uighurs, their fellow Muslims. Our own country Pakistan, which claims to be China’s sworn friend, has also kept a deafening silence on this issue. Pakistan fears that if it raised voice against Uighur Muslims being subjected to inexpressible cruelty by the Xi’s government, it would strain its relations with China and thereby jeopardize its national interests.
To conclude, given the abuses that Beijing is perpetrating against its own people, what right does China have to be currently represented on the United Nations Human Rights Council? The UN must take action against the gross human rights violations by China. It must ask China to give up this worst type of social engineering and forceful indoctrination. The Muslim world, too, by putting their national interests aside, should come forward to rescue their Muslim brothers of Xinjiang. After all, nothing but humanity should reign supreme, and love, not hate, should prevail in the world. Let me end by quoting here Nelson Mandela who once remarked: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”