The Uyghurs: A Metaphor for Worldwide Islamophobia
Mass genocide is happening as we speak. But is the root of these atrocities bigger than it seems?
An innocent 15 year-old boy is walking down the street on a normal day. Without notice, for no other reason than the way he looks, the police detains him, throws him in a detention camp away from his family, and tortures him until he is forced to strip of all his ethnic and religious identity.
Unfortunately, this is a very recent, very real story, and he isn’t the only one. In the Xinjiang region of China, up to 3 million Uyghur Muslims were forced into detention camps by the Chinese government in the past few years, which is a level of ethno-religious cleansing that has not been seen since the Holocaust. A deep rooted history of Han Chinese xenophobia has snowballed into Islamophobic specific propaganda and misinformation from the PRC since the 2000s.
China claims that the recent addition of the detention camps are all a part of a “de-extremification policy” for the Uyghur Muslims, which is already a bigoted misconception on its own. Satellite photos, leaked documents, and personal accounts strongly prove otherwise: harmless Uyghurs are being forced into labor, tortured, and being forced to give up important aspects of their faith like abstinence from alcohol and wearing the hijab.
Satellite photos, leaked documents, and personal accounts strongly prove otherwise: harmless Uyghurs are being forced into labor, tortured, and being forced to give up important aspects of their faith like abstinence from alcohol and wearing the hijab.
Essentially, the PRC not only sees the Uyghur Muslims as terrorists, but also as lessers to themselves due to both their culture and their religion. This is ethno-religious cleansing at its most horrific degree.
However, although China is where these inhumane crimes against the Uyghur Muslims are located, the ignorant belief of Islamophobia is a disease that has plagued the entire world. Even though the situation has gained more attention in the public media recently, the actual governments around the world, and even the United Nations, has done little or nothing about it, instead opting to idly stand by. Over 50 countries worldwide even went so far as to praise the PRC for “combating extremism”.
We mustn't treat a singular country as the enemy in this fight to save the Uyghurs, but instead, we need to hold all the corrupt bigots with power accountable for their lack of action and their abundance of hate. What is happening to the Uyghurs is a disturbing accumulation of the sick Islamophobic attitude much of the world has garnered in the past couple decades. President Trump’s former National Security Advisor described Islam as a sick ideology that must be healed in 2016, and a 2011 U.S Government document described the hijab as “passive terrorism”. Australian politician Pauline Hanson stated that Islam was a disease that people needed to vaccinate themselves from in 2017. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly slandered Islam and its followers for years. Several countries like France and Belgium have bans on Muslim religious headwear. These global viewpoints are all also staples of China’s reasoning behind the Ugyhur detention camps.
We mustn't treat a singular country as the enemy in this fight to save the Uyghurs, but instead, we need to hold all the corrupt bigots with power accountable for their lack of action and their abundance of hate.
The people in power’s reaction-- or rather lack of-- to the atrocities happening in Xinjiang is further testament to beliefs like the ones they have expressed in the past. Ignoring or praising the PRC is just further proof that Islamophobia does not come from a place of real concern about “extremism” hurting others-- it comes from a place of hatred for Muslims who are different from themselves, even when they are helpless, innocent victims of genocide.
As the US is arguably the most influential country on the planet, it is especially our responsibility to condemn blatant Islamophobia: the root of the massacre against the Uyghurs. Fortunately, this summer, the US passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which is a policy that begins to punish the Chinese officials responsible for the Uyghur hate crimes. However, this is only the beginning. The United Nations, the UK, and several other influential entities and governments need to follow in our footsteps and beyond. The US needs to call the world to action immediately, because there is no time to waste. By voting for the right people, writing to our government officials, writing to US ambassadors to China, and spreading awareness with urgency, you can do your part in helping the US take further measures.
Even beyond that, it is not enough to be just anti-genocide and anti-ethnic-cleansing, because that should be an obvious given. The US-- and the entire planet-- needs to have a firm stance actively against any form of Islamophobia or Islam0phobic rhetoric, within or outside our country, big or small. We also have the power to influence the world beyond just policies; we can influence the world in character if we are passionate enough. The Uyghur detention camps are evidence that any slight spark of hate can flame into a full-blown hell on Earth. Instead, let us spread anti-Islamophobia and anti-hate, spread education, spread love, and spread help for the Uyghur Muslims.
Mariam Khamaj is a high school junior from Boston, Massachusetts. She is a Ravenclaw who loves crocheting and Netflix.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of Converge Interfaith.