• Maryam Fatima

We Need to Talk About the Oppression of Muslims in China

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

I am enraged at the Chinese government for a number of reasons.

First, it was their mishandling of COVID-19 and their utter failure to maintain the virus. They had the audacity to lie about its danger and contagious nature to the world, attempted to silence whistleblowers, and failed to take the cautionary steps to maintain it within its borders. Now COVID-19 is a virus that has swept the entire world, devastated economies, infected over 17 million people, and killed nearly 700 thousand.

But my frustration towards China doesn't end there, of course. Their crimes against the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that resides in the province of Xinjiang, is probably what angers me the most at the moment.

Back in November, a girl named Feroza Aziz posted a video to her TikTok account of what appeared to be a guide on how to curl your eyelashes. While the first few seconds of the video started off with her demonstrating how to use an eyelash curler, she then abruptly puts the curler down and tells her followers to look up what's been happening to Muslims in China, urging them to spread awareness. Her account was suspended only a few days later, but not before receiving widespread attention.

Since 2017, as many as two million Muslims have been detained by Xinjiang officials and kept in what the government refers to as "reeducation camps." However, the vast majority of these Muslims are detained for no real crimes, but for doing things like attending services at mosques, sending texts with Quranic verses, having more than three children, or contacting people from Muslim-majority countries like Turkey and Afghanistan, just to name a few.

Not much government information has been revealed about what goes on in these camps, so journalists have had to rely mostly on interviews from former detainees and other Uighurs living in the region. According to these interviews, Muslims are being rounded up and placed in large detention centers, where they are tortured for months, endure forced labor and coerced into eating pork, drinking alcohol, and ultimately giving up their language and religious identity. They are susceptible to brainwashing and often endure beatings, unhygienic conditions, inadequate access to food and water, and according to some, are subjected to harassment and sexual assault. Additionally, women are forbidden from wearing religious head coverings and men from growing long beards. Dozens of mosques have also been demolished or vandalized.

If the aforementioned list wasn’t horrifying enough, China has also been accused of slashing birth rates among Uighurs by forcing women to take contraceptives and to have abortions, even as members of the Han majority are encouraged to have more children. It is absolutely despicable. Some people are even referring to it as a genocide.

Yet despite so many victims coming forward and an increasing number of reports revealing evidence of China’s abusive practices, the Chinese government has denied many of these claims and insists that these are merely fabrications being pushed by the media. Instead, they try to justify the use of these camps by referring to them as part of a series of “counterterrorism measures.”

While it is true that terrorist attacks have been carried out by Uighurs in the past, it was done by an extremely small minority and in no way reflects the views of the majority of Muslims. Plus, counterterrorism does not justify the repression of an entire group of people. It does not excuse forced sterilizations, separating parents from their children, or making people give up their entire cultural and religious identity.

Fortunately, the widespread attention this issue has received has prompted countries to take action. For example, President Donald Trump recently signed legislation that imposes sanctions on those responsible for the crimes against the Uighurs, and at least 22 other countries have condemned China's actions in a joint statement by the United Nations.

Although I am grateful to hear that our world leaders have been speaking out against China, we still have a long way to go to ensure that things actually change for Uighur Muslims. Millions are still locked up in internment camps and are subjected to unknown levels of torture, so I implore anyone who’s reading this to not take this issue lightly.

Please continue to spread awareness on what’s happening in China. We cannot let the Uighurs be forgotten about.

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