The American media, and Muslim groups, remain vigilant in championing the safety and religious liberty of Islamic believers around the world.
But what about the large population of Muslims in China, where atheistic Communists are currently inflicting what’s probably the biggest program of religious persecution anywhere? Reports on the relentless campaign to suppress or “Sinicize” Islam say that a million or more Muslims of Uighur ethnicity have been shipped to re-education camps, amid reports of e.g. forcible pork-eating or renunciation of the faith.
Mainstream journalists have performed quite well on this, despite shrinking resources for foreign coverage and China’s efforts to bar reporters from Muslim regions. But what are Muslims and Muslim nations doing? GetReligion’s Ira Rifkin wrote a Feb. 12 post noting that China’s Muslims have “been largely abandoned by their powerful global co-religionists” due to “blatantly self-serving political considerations.”
Wall Street Journal Asia columnist Sadanand Dhume aims that same complaint (behind paywall) specifically at Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan is quick to denounce “Islamopobia” in the West, he wrote October 4, but “China’s wholesale assault on Islam itself elicits only silence.” He explained, “Hardly any Muslim country wants to risk angering China’s touchy rulers by criticizing their policies.”
Journalists should be quizzing Muslim spokesmen, organizations, scholars and diplomats about this noteworthy anomaly. Such calculated silence, so much in contrast with Christian and Jewish activism on religious freedom, stands out because most Muslim nations fuse religion with state interests.
Islam has its own version of the United Nations, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, established in 1969. Its charter dedicates the alliance to strengthening solidarity among the world’s Muslim believers and the defense of Islam, specifically including assistance to Muslim minority populations (.pdf here).
The OIC has addressed the recent attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, Israel’s proposed West Bank annexations or India’s moves in Kashmir, but its website posts no recent declarations lamenting the plight of China’s Muslims. Instead, we find a May message to the OIC from China’s dictatorial president and party boss Xi Jinping proclaiming that his regime “attaches great importance to the friendly relations with the Islamic countries.”
China contends that its crackdown is stamping out Muslim radicalism and terror, citing past violent incidents in far western Xinjiang where the 11.3 million Uighurs dominate. But now police-state tactics are spreading into sectors inhabited by the 10.5 million Hui Muslims, who have heretofore prided themselves on moderation, assimilation, and cooperation with the nation’s majority Han Chinese.
National Public Radio’s Emily Feng posted an extensive field report on growing Hui repression Sept. 26. We learn that in the Ningxia region authorities have stripped virtually all mosques of domes and minarets, shut down some completely, demolished religious schools and sent Muslim leaders to prison or the re-education camps in Xinjiang.
The world’s intense focus on protests and crackdown dangers in Hong Kong should not overshadow this important religion story.
Just this week, the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted export trade with 28 Chinese entities on grounds they are implicated in “repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance” against Uighurs and other Muslims. Simultaneously, the State Department slapped visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved with Muslim abuse.
The media should also be watching next week’s (Oct. 14-20) annual meeting of the World Bank at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed timed with the 70th anniversary date of Communist rule, former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz urged bank delegates to cut off loans until China lays off the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities.
For other background, see The Guy’s April 24 look at China and anti-Muslim maestro Chen Quanguo.