By Arnaud Mafille, Education and Training Director for CAGE

Increasingly, the Muslim community worldwide is demonstrating its unwavering support for Uyghurs who are being repressed by China in East Turkestan. Yet, some are perplexed by Washington’s eagerness to highlight the plight of a Muslim population after being itself involved in mass killing and torture of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere.

Some, often on the left of the political spectrum, even fall into denial, silence, acquiescence, or outright endorsement of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs. 

So, why is America so interested in Uyghur Muslims? Are Muslims worldwide falling for American propaganda by opposing the Chinese Communist Party?

America does not support Uyghurs, it opposes China

American history is testament to the fact that it is not benevolence which guides US foreign policy. Rather, American decision makers are often inspired by a mixture of interests and ideology. 

The US cares little about the well-being of Uyghur Muslims, only in as much as furthering its foreign policy interests. After 2001, America cooperated closely with the communist regime and placed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement on terror lists. They hunted down Uyghurs and threw them in Guantanamo at Beijing’s request.

What has changed?

Announcing the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, President Biden invoked the need to focus on shoring up “American competitiveness to meet the stiff competition” they are “facing from an increasingly assertive China.” 

In other words, Biden is refocusing his country’s energies towards new challenges posed by China.

In this context, it benefits the US to shed light on China’s grotesque abuse of Uyghur Muslims. It is simply a pressure point.

Once we have understood this, the question is then – should the American position determine the position Muslims must adopt vis-à-vis China?

Being witnesses to justice – Supporting the oppressed everywhere

Many “anti-imperialists” among the left, who once campaigned against western wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and against the profiling of Muslims at home. They, however, became ardent apologists for genocide in Syria and East Turkestan, so long as the abuse was committed by China, Russia or Iran. They previously adopted a similar denial/support for the Serbian genocide of Muslims in Bosnia.

Their stance would appear to be dictated by the identity of the oppressor, not the actual crimes or injustices.

As for Muslims, we have a yardstick of our own. Their principled stance is not determined by the position of unprincipled actors, but by sacred values.

“O you who believe, be upholders of justice – witnesses for Allah, even though against (the interest of) yourselves or the parents, and the kinsmen.” [Quran 5:8]

Therefore, Muslims shall not let either western foreign policy or the left dictate to whom they should show their support.

Righteousness dictates that we oppose US wars in the Muslim world, Zionist occupation of Palestine, Russian and Iranian crimes in Syria and Chinese genocide in East Turkestan.

In the words of the Palestinian scholar and leader Shaykh Raed Salah:

“To those who say the choice is between the camp of the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia or the camp of the US and Zionists. We say to them : you are misguiding liars. 

We’re free from the Assad regime, Iran and Russia. And we are free from the camp of America and the Zionists. If you ask, who are we with? We are with the Syrian people! We are with the Syrian Revolution! We are with the free Syria.”

Let it be clear: we stand with the oppressed everywhere, whether they are Uyghurs, Afghans, Syrians, Palestinians or others. We do that regardless of the identity of the oppressor, be it western forces, the Chinese Communist Party, the Zionists, or whoever else.

CC image courtesy of NATO on Flikr

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)