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CCP’s Sinicization of Islam intensifies against Uyghur Muslims during Ramadan

By Abdulhakim Idris

The holy month of Ramadan, the most important time of the year for the Islamic world, is coming to an end. Approximately a week from the time of this writing, Ramadan will end, and Muslim communities will celebrate Eid al-Fitr. While millions around the globe practice their faith and enjoy religious freedom, Uyghur Muslims cannot observe Ramadan as the Chinese communist authorities banned fasting and other activities during Ramadan.

Also, Ramadan is a time China’s war on Islam in East Turkistan should be remembered once again. Like in other parts of the world, Muslims’ sensitivity to fasting serves as an indication of their commitment to the value of faith and their solidarity with people who are suffering and living under brutal oppression.

Every year since 2017, during the month of Ramadan, which keeps Uyghurs together and helps them protect their religion and cultural identity, new dimensions of China’s war on Islam in East Turkistan emerge. The Chinese Communist Party, determined to destroy the Islamic faith under the name of Sinicization of Islam, applies draconian measures to suppress the religious identity of the Uyghurs. The statements of the CCP officials, which does not take into account any international values in order to realize this inhumane goal, are also remarkable. According to Reuters, Ma Xingrui, Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party in East Turkistan said, “Everyone knows that Islam in Xinjiang must be Sinicized. This is an inevitable trend.” The repercussions of this statement, which was made a few days before Ramadan, emerged shortly afterwards.

According to recent news reports obtained from local sources of Uyghurs, the Chinese authorities have taken new steps to prevent Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Muslim communities from fasting in East Turkistan.  For instance, Chinese communist officials have organized meetings and provided meals during the daytime in Uyghur neighborhoods. The purpose of these meetings that deliberately offer food and drinks is to make sure that Muslims do not fast. Of course, the Uyghurs have no choice but to eat and drink alcohol as those who disobey the officials’ instructions and continue to fast are sent to a concentration camp “to be purged of extremism”.

Such practices have been increasing in recent years. The CCP deliberately organizes concerts and other entertainment activities close to iftar time during Ramadan and Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic Muslims are forced to attend them. During those events, the participants are forced to eat, drink and even engage in dancing. This way, the CCP prevents Uyghurs from spending the month of Ramadan as Muslims and insults the sacred values of Islam. The main purpose of these actions, which are supposedly carried out in the name of “fighting extremism” and realizing the “Sinicization” of Islam, is to detach Uyghurs from their faith and make sure no one is practicing Islam. Those who oppose such initiatives of the Chinese government are met with punishment.

Last year, the Chinese authorities banned Eid prayers in mosques during Eid al-Fitr in many regions of East Turkistan. Only elderly citizens were allowed to pray in mosques under heavy police supervision. In 2022, authorities in Kashgar city organized Muslim Uyghur men to dance outside the most famous mosque in East Turkistan to celebrate the end of the holy month. The performance was filmed and broadcasted by state media ahead of an expected visit by the UN human rights chief. Since 2017, international reports have also documented the destruction of historic mosques and shrines in East Turkistan to eradicate any trace of Islam. Around 16,000 mosques had been destroyed or damaged, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report based on satellite imagery documenting hundreds of sacred sites and statistical modeling. The fact that religious scholars are the first to be sent to concentration camps in order to break the Uyghurs’ contact with religion is another evidence of China’s war on Islam. The sole purpose of this large-scale religious persecution is the “Sinicization” of Islam. This goal, which violates human rights and religious freedom of the Uyghur Muslims, is the most important agenda of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese Communist Party announces its war on Islam to the world under the title of “Sinicization of Islam”. However, violating the fundamental principles of a religion and replacing them with Communist doctrinal discourses is not the Sinicization of that religion, but an attempt to eradicate it. That is why the CCP and its representatives in East Turkistan desperately try to cover up the crime they have committed with everything possible.

There are important details in the news reports published by Radio Free Asia in recent days. According to RFA, the concept of Sinicization of Islam was first introduced by Xi Jinping during the National Religious Work Conference in April 2016, when he emphasized that religions should adapt to a socialist society and advocated the integration of religious beliefs into Chinese culture. A year after this statement, the concentration camps in East Turkistan were on the international agenda. The purpose of the concentration camps, which the world started to hear about in 2017, coincides with Xi Jinping’s statements. As a matter of fact, China claimed the concentration camps as “training centers” established to eliminate the so-called religious extremism in Uyghurs. On January 5, 2019, the CCP’s mouthpiece Global Times announced the first official step towards the Sinicization of Islam. According to the Chinese state newspaper, Beijing officials held a meeting with members of eight Islamic associations in China and announced that, based on mutual consent, “Beijing had decided to carry out a five-year work plan to Sinicize Islam.” Speaking at the National Religious Work Conference three years ago, Xi Jinping also considered the Sinicization of religions as one of his main policies. Xi emphasized the need to train more personnel with Marxist views on religion and to rally believers around the Chinese Communist Party. The real meaning of these statements is the complete elimination of belief in Islam. This is evident in the complete ban of religious practices for the Uyghur Muslims.

The question to be asked at this point is, what has the Islamic world and Muslim communities done while Uyghur Muslims are being subjected to genocide and are not even allowed to fast during Ramadan? Sadly, for the Islamic world, apart from the protests of non-governmental organizations in various countries, there has been no strong reaction from Muslim states. On the contrary, the Muslim scholars, journalists, and diplomats who participated in CCP organized tours to East Turkistan became the trumpet of China’s rhetoric. It is again the Muslim states that mostly support the “fight against extremism” rhetoric used by Beijing to destroy the cultural and religious identities of the Uyghurs.

Despite the fact that Chinese officials openly stated that they are waging a war on Islam and that they will attempt to “change” Islam, there has not been a single statement from Muslim-majority countries, NGOs or influential leaders denouncing it. This is also a silence  against crimes against humanity and the Uyghur genocide. It should also be emphasized that if Muslim countries do not speak out against the Uyghur Genocide in East Turkistan and act as if they “did not know anything” by burying their heads in the sand like an ostrich, it will be a black stain on their history.

On the one hand, the Islamic world, which prays every Friday prayers for the end of the persecution of Muslims around the world, ignores the plight of the Uyghurs. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the most prominent organization of the Islamic world, does not make a single statement against China. On the contrary, OIC is the biggest supporter of China. As an indication of this support, the Chinese Foreign Minister was invited as the guest of honor to the OIC annual meetings. The so-called non-governmental organizations based in the United Arab Emirates took so-called Muslim scholars to China and made them listen to the lies of the Chinese communist officials.

Many Other Islamic organizations were also taken to East Turkistan during Ramadan. During these visits, the so-called Islamic religious representatives, who were instrumental in the propaganda of the Chinese government, repeated the CCP rhetoric. However, it is the duty of the representatives of the Islamic world and Muslim communities to object to the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uyghurs. If they do not speak out due to their economic and diplomatic interests, they are at least expected not to be a tool of the CCP propaganda and to refrain from being complicit in the crime of genocide. Unfortunately, no such reaction has been put forward to date.

This unfortunate reality creates deplorable contradictions within the Islamic world. On the one hand, the Qur’an clearly states “when a heretic brings you news, investigate it” (Quran 49: 6). On the other hand, there is an Islamic Ummah that has fallen victim to the CCP’s disinformation mechanism and believes every news from China, which is ruled by a mentality that sees belief in religion as opium. In fact, this attitude of Muslim states and Muslim communities is a hypocritical approach to the concept of Ummah. Because Ummah means Muslim communities coming together and supporting each other. However, due to their economic and diplomatic interests, Muslim-majority countries are in cooperation with the irreligious mentality that wants to destroy the oppressed people of the Uyghurs, not protect them. One of the verses about hypocrites in the Holy Qur’an begins, “They are deaf, dumb and blind” (Quran 2:18). The state of the Islamic world, which does not see the Uyghur genocide, does not speak out against this persecution and does not hear the voice of the oppressed Uyghurs, is similar to this. 

In conclusion,  Ramadan is quickly coming to an end and it is time to welcome another Eid. During these important occasions, the most important responsibility of Muslim-majority countries and Muslim Communities is to make the voices of their Uyghur brothers and sisters heard. Otherwise it is inevitable that they will be included in the pages of history as “collaborators in the crime of genocide”.

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