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Why Islamic Countries Are Not Opposing Chinese Persecution of Muslims?



China has been at the helm of repressing the Muslim minorities by spying on their phones, outlawing Islamic practices and detaining at least one million people in so-called re-education centres. EurAsian Times brings you a report from Business Insider.

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China is waging a global campaign against the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in its western frontier of Xinjiang. In the last two years, the country has ordered tech companies to spy on their phones, outlawed Muslim practices like wearing a beard or going to prayers, and detained at least one million of them in prison-like detention centers.

Activists and politicians in places like the US and the UN regularly slam China over the crackdown. Beijing continually tells its Western critics to back off, but goes above and beyond to prevent Muslim countries from standing up for Uighurs.

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The strategy is working. Some Muslim-majority nations appear to be increasingly silent over China’s Xinjiang policy, suggesting a fear of incurring Beijing’s wrath.

In December, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – a 57-country consortium that calls itself “the collective voice of the Muslim world” – acknowledged “disturbing reports” of China’s Muslim crackdown in a series of tweets.

Though the phrase was coined by the group’s independent human rights commission, rather than the OIC itself, activists welcomed the declaration as an important Muslim voice against China’s Xinjiang policy.

Many Muslim-majority countries, which are in the OIC, are located near infrastructure projects subsumed under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive trade project that aims to connect China with dozens of countries around the world.

The fact that the OIC acknowledged the Uighurs’ plight “certainly seemed to indicate a level of shared institutional concern,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider.

xinjiang belt and road map

A map showing some Belt and Road Initiative land routes that run through China’s Xinjiang.BI Graphics

That all seemed to change last month, when the OIC issued a report saying that it “commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China.”

People who celebrated the OIC independent commission’s comments on Xinjiang were shocked by the new statement, and question whether the consortium’s allegiance lies to Muslims around the world or to China.

“It is a shocking betrayal of many of the values that the OIC claims to uphold,” Richardson said.

Noting that the OIC regularly slams Myanmar for its persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority, she added: “[The fact that] it seems not just unconcerned by, but enthusiastic about the arbitrary detention of a million Muslims by a highly abusive regime, really raises questions about what their standards are.”

Pakistan is another example of a Chinese ally taking back its criticism of the Xinjiang policy. After the country’s religious affairs minister censured Beijing over its so-called counter-extremism measures against Uighurs last September, the foreign minister rowed back the comments by accusing the media of “trying to sensationalize” the Xinjiang issue.

Imran Khan, the country’s prime minister, even claimed not to know anything about China’s Muslims in at least two interviews, with the latest being last week.

Adrian Zenz, a researcher on China’s ethnic policies, told Business Insider: “It is more than likely that both the OIC and Pakistan were under significant amounts of pressure [from China]. It is unlikely that they simply changed their mind over a situation that has been worsening, and where more and more information is becoming available.”

“We are not certain what China threatened and promised, but it apparently was significant enough to get the OIC to issue a favourable statement from the Chinese perspective,” he said.

“The fact that they even congratulated China on caring for its Muslims citizens means that they went out of their way to praise the country despite the situation in Xinjiang, which is truly remarkable.”

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