Friday, 03 January 2020 12:36

Have dialogues over Uighur issue

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There have been conflicting views of how the Uighurs are being treated in their home province of Xinjiang.

Western media believes over a million Uighurs are locked up in “thought transformation” detention centres. The Chinese government, however, denies this, describing the centres as vocational schools.

While the Communist Party of China wants the Uighurs to be assimilated into a “happy, prosperous and united country”, the West condemns the move as an outright abuse of human rights.

There are 11 million Uighurs. It seems they are not ready to accept any form of assimilation. It’s good for them to assimilate to an extent but to disallow the Uighurs from speaking up and practising their way of life and religion is unjust.

In a bid to tell its side of the story, the Chinese government has invited Western media and interest groups from Muslim countries and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to see for themselves how the “vocational schools” operate.

Chinese officials describe the schools as free vocational education and training centres where Uighurs willingly learn the Chinese language and employment skills in order to assist with their rehabilitation and reintegration.

The foreign media and NGOs also witnessed the daily lives of Uighurs in the densely populated cities of Urumqi and Kashgar. Journalists are saying many of the excursions were staged to show that everything is fine in Xinjiang.

Piqued with curiosity, I read articles and videos that portray the treatment of the Uighurs. But I have yet to read the testimonies of Muslim groups, including those from Malaysia which have been officially invited to see what’s going on in Xinjiang.

A friend who has gone to Xinjiang umpteen times told me he decided against going there any more as the state is imposing stricter laws with excessive surveillance of the Uighurs via street cameras and cameras installed at homes.

Ever since the July 2009 Urumqi riots that killed 197 people and left thousands injured, the cities of Urumqi and Kashgar have been on lockdown.

A few days ago,the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations expressed dismay over a report by Ryan Fahey in the British Daily Mail on Dec 24 that China is contemplating rewriting the Quran and the Bible to reflect socialist values. Is this true? If it is, Muslims (and Christians, too) should protest.

Then again, this news item comes from a Western media organisation. There is nothing from the media in Muslim countries.

I wonder if the Chinese central government is prepared to deny the news report. We need to have more news organisations from Muslim countries reporting on Muslims around the world. But it is also important for Muslim countries to get down to business with China quickly to explain the gross misconception it has about Islam and Muslims.

What can Muslim nations in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation do? They need to engage with Beijing in a series of dialogues.

Bai Tian, China’s ambassador to Malaysia, in a letter to this newspaper on Dec 9, defends his country by describing the Western media reports as sensationalist and half-truths.

Muslims across the globe want to believe in what he and his compatriots in Beijing are saying. Engage and convince the Muslim nations more by showing civility and social justice to the Muslims in Xinjiang and Greater China in the efforts to create a “happy, prosperous and united China”.

C’est la vie.

The writer is a former NST journalist, now a film scriptwriter whose penchant is finding new food haunts in the country.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Sunday 29 December 2019


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