Muslims Lash Out at Islamic Bloc Over Uyghur Silence, ‘Complicity’

Patrick Goodenough | December 18, 2020 | 5:01am EST
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Uyghurs hold a rally near the White House in October. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
Uyghurs hold a rally near the White House in October. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

(Update: Adds Chinese foreign ministry response, and clarifies the role of Free Uyghur Now in spearheading the challenge to the OIC)

( – Muslim activists in the U.S. and elsewhere on Thursday accused the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) of complicity in China’s oppression of minority Uyghur Muslims, noting that OIC member-states have gone so far as to commend the Chinese Communist Party’s policies in Xinjiang province.

According to the United States and others, more than a million minority Muslims have been incarcerated in re-education camps in the far-western region.

Some of the participants in the online event hosted by Free Uyghur Now and the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations accused the OIC and member-states of shamelessly prioritizing economic partnership with Beijing over Muslim lives, referring particularly to the massive infrastructure program known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

“It’s very clear that China has an economic chokehold on the Muslim world and has been able to isolate every Muslim country in fear of even paying lip service to the Uyghur cause,” said Irving, Texas-based Imam Omar Suleiman.

“If the largest Muslim intergovernmental cooperation [organization] in the world cannot stand up against the largest genocide of Muslims in the world, then what is the point of this body? And if you cannot aid the oppressed against their oppressor, then at least do not stand with the oppressor by reaffirming their propaganda to the world and actively taking part in the oppression of your brothers and sisters.”

Beijing calls the camps vocational training facilities, and says they are a key element in its campaign to combat Islamic extremism.

The Trump administration, although often accused by critics of “Islamophobia,” has led the global condemnation of what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as “the stain of the century,” with the issue featuring prominently at its ministerials to advance religious freedom.

Campaign for Uyghurs executive director Rushan Abbas said China – “an atheist regime that doesn’t believe in any religion” – was “the most Islamophobic nation in the world” but was trying to hide this by financing the building of mosques “in African nations they wish to colonize.”

“I urge the OIC to wake up before its too late,” she said. “Do not be stained by further complicity in the genocide and the colonial brutality of China’s bloodthirsty actions and ambitions.”

‘Dereliction of duty’

“The OIC is the collective voice of Muslim governments around the world,” said Farida Deif, Canada director for Human Rights Watch. “How they choose to respond to the persecution of Uyghurs gets to the heart of the organization’s legitimacy and institutional integrity.”

“To maintain and enhance its trading relationship with China the OIC abandoned its founding principles and undermined its mandate,” she said. “To date the OIC has not only failed to condemn Beijing’s assault on Islam, but it has shamefully praised China for its treatment of Muslims.”

Deif called its stance “nothing short of a dereliction of duty.”

The OIC, with 57 mostly Muslim-majority members, is one of the world’s largest intergovernmental organizations. Its Saudi Arabia-based secretariat almost on a daily basis issues statements on situations affecting Muslims around the world. Yet the most recent statement to be found on its website expressing concern about the Muslims in Xinjiang was issued in 2015, two years before reports began filtering out about the mass incarcerations.

Two months ago, 45 countries put their names to a joint statement praising the CCP’s policies in Xinjiang, delivered at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Twenty of them were OIC members, among them Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Bahrain, and the Assad regime.

Last July, 46 countries signed a similar letter, this time at the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Twenty-two of them were OIC members, including some of those same leading Islamic states.

One year earlier, three dozen countries at the HRC signed another statement in support of China’s actions in Xinjiang. On that occasion, more than half of them were OIC members.

And in March last year, when a meeting of OIC foreign ministers issued a 26-page statement dealing with conditions faced by Muslim minorities around the world, they devoted a single paragraph to China. It stated that the OIC “commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China.”

Asked about the Muslim organizations’ claims, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a briefing on Friday repeated Beijing’s talking points about “false information” being spread about China’s policies in Xinjiang, adding that “the biases and smears of certain organizations have no factual basis.”

As China has done before, Wang pointed to the declared support countries have given to China at U.N. forums.

“China’s position on issues concerning Xinjiang has received the understanding and backing of many people and countries in the world. For example, about 50 countries spoke out in support of China’s positions on Xinjiang during the general debate of the third committee of the U.N. General Assembly [last month]. This, I believe, serves as strong refutation to those who have biases against and China on issues related to Xinjiang.”

Queries sent to the OIC secretariat brought no response by press time.

See also:
Islamic, Communist, and Other Autocratic Regimes Back China's Treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang (Oct. 7, 2020)
US Religious Freedom Envoy Dismayed Islamic Countries Won’t Condemn China’s Abuse of Uighur Muslims (Sept. 24, 2019)
China Thanks 36 Countries, Half of Them Islamic States, for Praising Its Uighur Policies (Jul. 15, 2019)

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