Beijing’s persecution of the Uyghur minority was a topic of discussion among intellectuals and leaders of Muslim nations who recently gathered in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur for a summit. Mohd Asri bin Zainul Abidin, one of the top Islamic jurists and a Moslem preacher in Malaysia, appealed to the community to boycott China’s products as a protest against the persecution of Uyghurs.
“We need to go to the extent of boycotting China’s products. They know the strength of our purchasing power… The decision should be taken at the highest level of Muslim countries and the ulama [religious scholars and guardians]… We should do something because they [Uyghurs] are our brothers and sisters,” Mohd Asri said to Al Jazeera.
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Interestingly, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has spoken little about the issue. Muhamed Ljevakovic, a speaker at the summit from Bosnia Herzegovina, admitted that most leaders who were gathered at the event were silent as they were afraid of blowback from China. This is why despite calls for a consensus on the Uyghur issue, the summit failed to generate a resolution on the subject. In October, when media quoted a Malaysian diplomat criticizing China’s policies on Uyghurs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly expressed “serious displeasure” at the reporting and slammed the article.
Many experts believe the summit to be a sign of a split occurring in the international Muslim community as countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan refused to participate in it. Back in July, 20 countries had voted on a UN resolution calling on China to end its brutal treatment of Uyghurs. However, 14 nations from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) surprisingly sided with China due to their business interests, even praising Beijing for its “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.”
The silence of Islamic nations on the Uyghur issue has been criticized by many prominent personalities. Recently, Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil raised the issue on social media. “Korans are being burnt… Mosques are being shut down… Muslim schools are being banned… Religious scholars are being killed one by one… Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps,” he said through his Twitter account (VOA News).
Blocking US debate
When the sixth U.S. Democratic presidential debate was being broadcast live across the world, the Chinese government cut off the feed midway after the candidates started speaking about the human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang. China has repeatedly crushed any mention of the topic on the mainland, due to which an average Chinese citizen is largely unaware of the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur community.
“The screen went black just before 9 pm ET after PBS moderator Judy Woodruff asked Mayor Pete Buttigieg if the U.S. should boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics over China’s alleged mass detention of its Uyghur citizens. The feed from the PBS/Politico debate in Los Angeles remained cut for about nine minutes while candidates were asked about a range of China issues, including the Hong Kong protests and military tensions in the South China Sea,” according to CNN.
The 2020 presidential debates between the Democratic nominee and the incumbent president Donald Trump is due to be held sometime soon. If topics like Uyghurs, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Taiwan, etc., are raised during the debate, it is certain that Beijing will also block its broadcast in the country.