scenario in which a Western country locks up hundreds of thousands of Muslims
in internment camps. Here, they are ‘re-educated’ to adopt liberal values that
include a change of language and lifestyle.
Had such a
deliberate effort to brainwash an entire Muslim community been attempted, there
would be riots and protests across the Islamic world. Embassies of the country
responsible for this outrage would be attacked, and its businesses boycotted.
We know from experience that this sequence of events is pretty much standard
operating procedure whenever real or perceived acts of state-organised violence
against Muslims take place.
So why the
deafening silence across the Islamic world when around 1.5 million Muslims in
China’s Xinjiang province have been forced into vast ‘re-education centres’?
Even before this policy was launched, Uighur culture was under attack, with
beards and headscarves strongly discouraged by an increasingly harsh Chinese
administration. It is now virtually impossible to find books in the Uighur
language in bookshops.
the province’s population of 24m is Sunni, and largely follows the Sufi
tradition. Apart from Uighurs, there are Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui and other
minorities in Xinjiang. Ever since the government in Beijing began its policy
of moving Han Chinese to the province to dilute the Muslim presence, Uighur
separatist groups have resisted and staged sporadic attacks. As often happens,
the state has countered with tough action and policies.
response to the Uighurs’ plight is puzzling.
The aim of
the Chinese government is to ‘transform through education’. For thousands of
years, the Chinese ruling class has sought to build a stable society free of
tension between various ethnic groups. So when a handful of Uighur resisted the
attempt to integrate them into mainstream Han culture, they were accused of
separatism and subversion. One such group is the Uighur mother-tongue movement:
the authorities have dubbed it the ‘fourth evil’ after separatism, religious
extremism and terrorism.
of China’s historic policy of standardising rules across the country is that
despite spanning five time zones, it only has a single standard Beijing time.
This leads to anomalies such as Kashgar in the west having to follow the same
time as the capital. So the sun can be shining while the clock shows 9 pm.
policy of brainwashing the Uighur has been widely criticised in the west as
‘cultural genocide’, Muslims have been largely silent. One reason for this
hypocritical approach is the clout China wields. For Pakistan, China has been
the bedrock of our foreign policy, as well as our economic saviour. It is also
an important importer of Saudi and Iranian oil. And other developing Muslim countries
have benefited from Chinese aid and loans. All these factors have served to
mute criticism of Beijing’s assault on Uighur religion and culture.
But just as
important is the pivotal role Xinjiang is expected to play in China’s Belt and
Road Initiative. Roads and railway lines from various points around the world
will carry thousands of containers, and China is nervous about any disruption
caused by separatist groups. It has already seen how such terrorism can affect
infrastructure projects in Balochistan.
denies that it is trying to brainwash the Muslim population of Xinjiang, but
government spokesmen have admitted to a policy of training and educating the
young. In many cases, children have been separated from parents to be placed in
these centres where they are indoctrinated and forced to learn Mandarin
Chinese. More and more, a single, monolithic Han culture is being forced on
minorities. Muslims, in particular, are at the sharp end of this policy.
means ‘new frontier’, and was given this name when the vast region was
conquered by the Qing dynasty in the 18th century after a series of bloody
battles. However, this conquest was resisted by warlords who regained control
of various areas from time to time. In fact, for a short time, they set up the
Republic of East Turkestan.
there has been friction between Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and Beijing.
And as the stakes have risen, so has the level of repression. Electronic
surveillance has been a key element in this crackdown. Locals have been forced
to hand over mobile phones so that their sim cards can be read by the police.
Security forces at innumerable check posts stop and search locals and
foreigners alike, and CCTV cameras check their photographs against a central
of these human rights violations have no right of appeal. China is a one-party
dictatorship. In its long history, there hasn’t been a single period when
democracy was practised. To a large extent, people accept a strong central
government that has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in a single
attitude of the Ummah is surprising: both on the left and right, Muslims have
been like the proverbial ostriches.
Headline: A deafening silence
Source: The Dawn, Pakistan