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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchThe Muslim World isn’t Coming to Save the Uyghurs

The Muslim World isn’t Coming to Save the Uyghurs

Author: Yasmeen Serhan

Affiliation: The Atlantic

Organization/Publisher: The Atlantic

Date/Place: February 3, 2022/London, the UK

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1515


Keywords: China, Islam, Muslims, Uyghurs, Pan-Islamism, and Muslim World


The author uses the Olympic Winter Games as an opportunity to highlight the Muslim-majority countries’ explicit silence on the issue of China’s persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. In contrast to some Western countries that boycotted the Winter Games in protest of Beijing’s Uyghurs policies, Muslim-majority countries have largely ignored the Uyghurs’ plight, to the point that some Muslim-majority countries have even aided Beijing by deporting Uyghurs back to China. The author considers this apologetic and abetting behavior as a tacit blessing from countries that consider themselves as protectors of Muslims, such as KSA, Turkey, and Iran. Despite some tepid criticisms from Turkey and Malaysia, the majority of Muslim-majority countries have endorsed China’s policies, including KSA, Pakistan, UAE, and Egypt which also attended the Winter Games. The article highlights the reason for such behavior—China is a valuable trading partner for many Muslim-majority countries, and notably the primary oil trading partner for Gulf countries. Moreover, Beijing’s OBOR initiative has seen China investing billions in infrastructure projects across the Muslim world, securing both leverage and influence in those countries, including Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. The author sheds light on the practices of deporting Uyghurs to China. According to human rights groups, around 700 Uyghurs have been detained since 2017 in countries such as UAE, KSA, and Egypt. Many of those were deported to China. In 2009, Erdoğan was among the first to use the term ‘genocide’ to describe China’s policies. However, Ankara has taken a more conciliatory approach towards China since then. More importantly, a yet-to-be-ratified extradition treaty could put nearly 50,000 Uyghurs in Turkey at risk of being repatriated to China. Some have already been deported. The article cites two other reasons, beside China’s influence, for the apathy of Muslim-majority countries. Those include the lack of bonds between Muslims and Uyghurs, besides the shared faith. Additionally, many of the Muslim-majority countries have other ongoing human rights issues. The article sheds light on some efforts made by activists in Turkey and Indonesia on the matter including protests and encouraging athletes to protest during the Winter Games. Still, the organization committee has warned that athletes who partake in those protests might face certain punishments. Finally, the article stresses that without the involvement of Muslim-majority countries, any Western efforts to aid the Uyghurs will likely fail to bring about change. 


Critical Commentary:

This article is a smart attempt to shine a light to a largely overlooked issue, both in the Muslim world and the international stage. China’s persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities is one of the most tragic issues that commands much more attention and action, particularly from the Muslim world. To that, the article does a good job of exposing many of the Muslim governments’ stances on the matter, which have even involved abetting China’s policies in the form of detaining and deporting helpless Uyghurs to China, where they will most likely suffer the brutal persecution their brothers and sisters are being subjected to if not immediately executed. The article is also bolstered by statements from activists and experts that have studied and documented the matter. Additionally, the article presents compelling arguments explaining the positions of such countries. The author, however, could have expanded more about China’s relationships with Muslim-majority countries, particularly Turkey and KSA. Much more could be said about the geopolitical reality that has left the Uyghurs with no aid or help. While this issue should be first and foremost a Muslim issue, the article could have also mentioned why the West has not made any meaningful efforts .

By: Hamza Emir, CIGA Research Assistant



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