“Where are my children?”
This is the question that many Chinese Muslims are asking. Some have been asking it for the last two years. Yet because of the secretive nature of the Chinese government and the tight censorship controls it has on its media, investigations by outlets such as the BBC and The Guardian have been made all the more complicated.
The Chinese state is separating parents from their children. Children as young as two are being taken into special ‘kindergartens.’ Although Muslims in China account for such a tiny minority of the population, within the last two years in certain regions, Muslim children make up for 90% of enrolments at so called educational institutions.
Inside these facilities, they are forbidden from speaking their mother-tongues and if they fail to communicate in anything other than Chinese, they are severely punished. They are being raised to love the Chinese state, its leaders, and the atheist Communist way of life. They are forced to wear traditional Chinese attire. Since the children are so young, many will grow up not remembering their parents, culture, or Islam. Indeed, many of them call the staff at these facilities ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy.’ The children are not allowed any contact with the outside world. The goal is simple – eradicate Islam in an entire generation of Muslims.
Meanwhile, in many cases, the parents are being taken into ‘re-education’ or ‘thought’ camps where they are expected to renounce their religion and pledge allegiance to the Chinese state. There have been reports that some Muslims have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.
Chinese officials deny any wrongdoing and insist that people are free to practise their religion. They insist that only people who are at risk of ‘extremist’ ideologies have been taken. One official also said that he had never heard of a case where entire families were being taken away and that there must be “serious problems” in order for this to happen. A BBC reporter was given an official tour of a mosque by a state-approved imam, however, once he left, he saw signs in the village infringing upon some freedoms. For example, there was a sign saying that longer beards are not allowed. Furthermore, many properties belonging to Muslims have been left deserted and locked.
When I first started writing this article, I thought that it would be irrelevant within a few short weeks. I have been following developments in the Chinese Muslim community since late spring and we have now reached the end of September – it’s sad that this article is relevant as ever. In fact, The Independent has, on the 22nd September, reported on ‘escalating persecution’ and continued mosque demolitions within China. On the same day, The New York Times reported on an ‘increased crackdown on Islam across China.’
Unfortunately, so far, no government has explicitly denounced the actions of China. Indeed it seems that for some, like the UK, it is possible that they are afraid of damaging their chances of a post-Brexit trade deal.
This is a travesty. This is a breach of fundamental human rights. What happened to all the many articles and declarations of rights that the West has written? What of the values of freedom and liberty? Do these not apply to all human beings? Why is there no freedom to practise religion in China? Why is nobody being held accountable or taken to trial? We have a duty, not only as Muslims but simply as human beings, to take action against social injustice. Consider this your call to action… So, what can YOU do about this?
Below are a few twitter accounts that may be useful for keeping up to date with ongoing events:
- @cjwerleman – A columnist for Middle East Eye and someone who has been following this issue. He is also an activist against Islamophobia in general.
- @doamuslims – Documenting Oppression Against Muslims is an account which does exactly what it sounds like. As of 07/08/19 they have just reported on a pregnant Uyghur woman living in Bosnia, who was being threatened with deportation to China where she would have been persecuted. She was being detained in Turkey. Thankfully, the Turkish authorities have relented and allowed her to stay for the time being.
- @arslan_hidayat – An Australian Uyghur human rights activist who reports regularly on this issue.
Look at how Sudan was brought into the consciousness of the media and the average layman. Share this article on all of your social media pages. Share any relevant news articles. Word of mouth is also a very powerful tool; we need to start a conversation about these atrocities within our own social circles. Make sure your local mosque knows about it. Do they run any local classes at your mosque? If yes, great – tell them to make some sort of announcement at the start. If not, maybe they could mention it before the Friday sermon.
The more people that know about this, the better. Write about the suffering of a part of our Ummah on your blog, if you have one. Could you write a piece in the local paper? Follow and share stories about Chinese Muslims on social media. Continuously educate yourself on the politics, history and culture of the region. Above all, do NOT be ignorant on the matter.
Remember, being a Muslim is about more than just fulfilling rites and rituals; you have a social responsibility too – stand up against injustice wherever you see it. Think – would our beloved prophet (PBUH) sit back and do nothing?
You need to take this issue further. If you are in the UK, write to your local MP or councillor. Tell them that you are appalled by this massive breach of human rights and that you demand the UK government take action immediately.
In the UK you can also “Green card” your MP where you demand a meeting or a written response. You can learn more about how to do this here.
If you live in another country, also make sure your voice is heard by writing to your local government. If you live in a Muslim country then you should be even more angry – ask your government, why aren’t they helping their fellow Muslims? Why are they turning a blind eye to oppression? To remain silent is to be complicit. Write to charities who deal with human rights such as Amnesty International, Human Rights watch, United Nations Association, The Aegis Trust, and Equal Rights Trust.
Okay, so this probably sounds crazy seeing as just about everything seems to be made in China. You will, inevitably, have items in your home that are from China. Don’t worry, just try to be conscious of anything you buy in the future and try to look for alternative places of origin where possible. Many Muslims are poor and live in dire poverty. I’m going to make the assumption that if you are using the internet and are literate enough to read this article, you are not one of those Muslims. So, use your power as a consumer. Use your spending power, grab your wallet, and run elsewhere. We’ve got to hit them where it will hurt the hardest – their bank accounts!
It may be overwhelming at first so let’s break it down into categories. For example, if you are a parent to young children, you could make a start by avoiding toys that are ‘made in China.’ If you like to travel – don’t go to China, for now; the Great Wall of China won’t be disappearing any time soon. Do you like to cook? A lot of kitchen gadgets are from China – think of the little plastic nick-knacks you may have such as vegetable cutters. Are you a fashionista? Make sure your next printed tee isn’t from China. Tech Nerd? China makes a lot of electronics! The list goes on, and on – tackle one category at a time, starting with the one that you think could make the biggest impact.
Last but most certainly not the least, have faith in your creator. Pray for your fellow brothers and sisters in China. Inshallah Allah will end their trial soon. May he ease their suffering.
Final note: It’s now been months since I started researching this article. Initially, there was an uproar in British mainstream media from outlets such as the BBC, but in the last few weeks, despite continued oppression by the Chinese state, the coverage on this issue seems to have stopped. The question is – why?
Please do not stay silent. Your fellow Muslims need you.
- BBC China’s Hidden Camps
- Chinese Muslims Forced to Drink Alcohol and Eat Pork
- China: Where Are My Children?
- Vanishing Beards and Mosques
- Islamic Symbols Ordered to be Taken Down in Beijing
- Uyghur Man’s Desperate Pleas to Stop Deportation
- Mosque Demolition in China
- Crackdown on Islam Across China
All sources were accessed 23rd September 2019 and the information given in this article is accurate at the time of writing.