As someone others have tried to label not a “true Muslim, ” it’s amazing how deeply I feel the struggle of Muslims around the world and, in particular, genocide against Uighur Muslims in China and among Rohingya Muslims driven out of Myanmar. Years ago, I felt the same loss and pain as blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims were slaughtered in Bosnia.
I was blessed to come to Islam through the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, a 90-year-old Black Muslim movement, because of the work of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Intrinsic to our movement is our love of self, embrace of self and our understanding that we are related to Original People all over the planet. Islam is our nature. We don’t convert to Islam, we simply accept our own and be ourselves.
As Black people lost in the West, where Old World Muslims did not come to serve us, Allah gave us our own leader, teacher and guide who would teach us Islam and guide us to the path of the Holy Prophet of Islam and his life and example. Our great patriarch is the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and in His absence for the 40+ years Min. Farrakhan has led our movement.
For nearly 100 years, the Nation of Islam has demanded freedom, justice and equality.
And, justice for Uighurs came up during President Biden’s town hall Feb. 16 in Milwaukee. A question about China turned to the plight of Uighurs. While the president later admitted trying to discuss China policy in minutes was not a good thing, one Uighur group urged Mr. Biden to correct himself.
“We demand President Biden apologize to the victims of China’s aggression, the victims of genocide, the countless Uyghur and other Turkic women who are systematically raped and sterilized, and the countless Turkistanis who are killed for their organs. If President Biden has any moral decency and is faithful to his promises of upholding human rights and human dignity, he should lead the U.S. and the international community to ACT immediately to end this ongoing genocide,” said the East Turkistan Government in Exile, which describes itself as “the democratically elected official body representing East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and its people”
The group said President Biden dismissed genocide against the Uighur population in China by calling “mass internment a ‘different norm’—despite the State Department this month responding to ‘atrocities’ in the camps, following reports of systemic rape and torture.”
The Uighur group objected to Mr. Biden saying, “ there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.” But he also said China could not oppress people and rise to the level of a world power.
While in a Clubhouse audio app chatroom recently, I learned more about the Uighur struggle, their internment, the abuses and threat of erasure that they face. I previously knew of their plight because we have run stories about their struggle in The Final Call.
Coming from a people enslaved, slaughtered, abused, experimented on, debased and stripped of our identity by our slavemasters and their children, such atrocities stir my soul. They are especially jarring with current Black mass incarceration and prison labor, extrajudicial executions by police, medical misdeeds, inferior education and health care and deprived neighborhoods that are still a part of Black life in the good old USA.
According to the Minaret Foundation, “The Uyghurs are a Muslim Turkic minority whose territory became subject to China’s authority at the beginning of the 20th century after their empire dissolved. To completely assimilate the Uighur population, in 1949, the Chinese government offered financial incentives to the Han, the Chinese ethnic majority, to move to Xinjiang. This policy led to an influx of Han Chinese immigrating and leading to the Uighurs becoming the ethnic minority. The name is spelled in a variety of ways.
“Uyghurs faced job insecurity, had their farmland seized, were denied positions within the government, and faced systemic harassment to marginalize their way of life.
“Several Uyghur groups have unsuccessfully advocated for autonomy and to free themselves from governmental oppression. Still, the abundance of resources, such as oil, has drastically increased the region’s value and incentivized China to retain control.”
The Uyghur Human Rights Project added, “Since 1949, East Turkistan has become a nuclear testing ground for the Chinese military, it is home to large numbers of Chinese military and paramilitary units, and it is the site of numerous forced labor camps administered by the Chinese authorities. …
“With only a few extremely rare exceptions, Uyghurs continue to be the only population in China consistently subjected to executions for political and religious offenses. Mosques are summarily closed and the Uyghur language is banned from use in schools. Uyghurs are subjected to compulsory unpaid labor on infrastructures, such as oil or gas lines to transfer East Turkistan’s resources to mainland China.”
Different efforts and social media hashtags bring attention to this cause, such as #WhereIsMyFamily, #CloseConcentrationCamps, #StopUyghurGenocide, #HoldChinaAccountable and others.
Consider the fight of Rushan Abbas, a Uighur American rights activist and founder, executive director of the Campaign for Uighurs. Her sister is in prison. “On December 25, 2020, we received news that Dr. Gulshan Abbas was sentenced in March of 2019 in a sham trial, with common false charges used to convict Uyghurs and other dissenting voices in secret, sham trials. This news was confirmed on December 31st by the Chinese Foreign Ministry,” says an online petition on Change.org “Our fight continues.”
Here are some things that rang with me during the Clubhouse convo:
“It’s the terrorists China wants.” There have been a few incidents of violence that the Chinese government has claimed were perpetuated by Uigher Islamic “extremists.” This has never been independently identified. I see it tied to the U.S. global war on terror, which basically said, “You name your terrorists, I’ll name mine. You do what you want with yours and don’t ask about mine?”
Most U.S. terrorist events are committed by White extremists but the federal government barely admits it and has refused to confront this internal threat. Remember the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by thousands of mainly White Americans, Whites arrested with weapons and pipe bombs planted? Yet, I don’t hear a lot of talk about dealing with White domestic extremism.
It’s also amazing how oppressive and even genocidal regimes can label groups and people as extremists as if those governments’ actions are not extreme.
Dr. Martin Luther King, who the U.S. loves to lionize? In an August 30, 1963 memo, the head of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division William Sullivan called Dr. King the “most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation.” The government excuse for the statement, surveillance and destruction of Dr. King? The U.S. war against communism.
“Give up who you are, be like us and you’ll be okay.” Uighurs have been told to fully “integrate” into Chinese society, be good citizens and be successful. “Just give up your culture, your name, your language, your religion and go to school, you’ll be fine.” But “model,” Uighurs find themselves targeted. Human rights and Harvard-trained lawyer Rayhan Asat is the self-described “Proud Sis of a Concentration Camp Victim & @StateIVLP alum, Entrepreneur Ekpar Asat.” Her brother languishes in a Chinese prison. And the Chinese government has tried to pit “good Uighurs” against “Bad Uighurs.” Sound familiar?
“There are problems, but words like concentration camps and genocide are a little too strong.” Government abuses must always be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and language used to describe ethnic minority, or indigenous suffering, must be carefully scrutinized. So oppressed people don’t know what they are experiencing and what their suffering and lives are like? Here’s a basic Encyclopedia Britannica definition: “Concentration camp, internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order.
Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial. Concentration camps are to be distinguished from prisons interning persons lawfully convicted of civil crimes and from prisoner-of-war camps in which captured military personnel are held under the laws of war. They are also to be distinguished from refugee camps or detention and relocation centres for the temporary accommodation of large numbers of displaced persons.”
That seems pretty clear.
Some say the Chinese activity is more like U.S. action against Native Americans than Nazi genocide against Jews. Really? So, are you questioning whether the indigenous people in the United States were subjected to and are still subjected to genocide?
I’m Black. I’m Muslim. I live in America. I know what government abuses and repression look like.
Naba’a Muhammad is editor in chief of The Final Call Newspaper. Follow @RMFinalCall on Twitter.