By: Matthew Mckenzie
XINJIANG, CHINA- When most think about Islam they do not generally think of China, but the country is home to a large population of Muslims, that ethnically identifies as uyghur. The Chinese province of Xinjiang is very close to middle east and was taken over by the Chinese communist party in 1944. Comparatively the region is home to over 11 million uyghur muslims, while the population of United States is approximately 3.4 million.
On Tuesday, April 16 the Muslim Student Alliance presented a panel on “China Contemporary Concentration Camp,” who’s featured keynote speaker was Mr. Omer Kanet, the director of the “Uyghur Human Rights Project,” and the “World Uyghur Congress.” This presentation focused on what is estimated to be the 1.5 million uyghur muslims being held in modern day concentration camps as well as the mass surveillance programs and repressive policies by the Chinese government. The government has a history of forced assimilation and repression of ethnic minorities but since the notable election of Xi jinping in 2014 there has been a severely more aggressive escalation of suppression of the Uyghurs.
This suppression takes the form of the eradication of their culture through the detaining of Uyghur intellectuals, students, and artists, assimilation such as forcing muslims to eat pork and to drink alcohol, women being made to marry ethnically Han men, outlawing giving children traditional Muslim names as well as the forced removal of Uyghurs to concentration camps, all to deny the social and political representation to these people. These atrocities have been practically ignored by the worlds media, with Muslim majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and world superpowers like the U.S. not condemning China, even though they likely have knowledge of these events. This likely due to fears of losing China as a partner in trade.
Advancements in technology have allowed the government to surveil Uyghurs in ways that wasn’t thought possible, with the implementation of tracking apps that report to their locations or even when they leave their homes. Islamophobia and the repression of minority culture is nothing new for any place on the earth, policies of forced removal or not being allowed to practice cultural activities are ones that have been seen in such places as the U.S. and Canada, with the treatment of Indigenous peoples. The only way to combat these atrocities is for the world to stay vigilant and call out any entity that engages in these activities. For the Uyghurs, the least they deserve is for politicians and officials to be called on so they are forced them to condemn China for their actions.