Are Chinese Uighur Muslims a New Case of Moral Panic?

Uighur Muslim worshipers attend an early afternoon prayer session at the Kashgar Idgah mosque in Xinjiang province. Photo taken August 5, 2008 [Photo: Reuters]
As soon as I noticed a video of a mosque being attacked on pretext of being “illegal religious education” in the Chinese Xinjiang province that is predominantly Turkic Muslim; I rushed to contact friends in the media to get an insight.

My first conversation with an academic in Pakistan’s leading University surprised me a bit; a view that “It is all CIA propaganda against China” and another point raised was that too often social media disseminates such fake news.

Since last year a few western journalists and sections of the media are feeding the public a tried propaganda: it was the “weapons of mass destruction” and now “ISIS breeding ground” in the heart of Uighur Muslims in China.

These days, the moment one hears of terrorists, radicals or the jihadists marching towards a particular region an instant thought comes to mind and that is an opening-up of another war front.

Not surprising though, after all in our contemporary world war is a big business! Large corporations’ benefits from it greatly. Today, major world powers are also big arms exporters and so it stands to reason that conflict is welcomed as long as it also brings its customers along with it.

This business strategy is visible in recent conflicts around the globe. A notable common feature of any conflict lies in the following factors: Those conflicting regions are rich in natural resources, suitable for trade routes, cost effective and safe for oil pipelines and corridors for the regional hegemony.

A perfect illustration of this would be the Xinjiang region; a starting point for the USD 46 billion project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). So something should be done to sabotage CPEC project? That’s politics!

This fresh fear-mongering campaign of the western and Chinese media mirrors Stanley Cohen’s idea of moral panics: the nexus of five ‘P’s’, press, politicians, police, public bodies and pressure groups, a situation, often a hype that informs ordinary people that so and so community is posing a risk to our security.

The American genius, Robbie Gramer, has warned us back in 2017 that The Islamic State Pledged to Attack China Next. Here’s why?

ISIS are in need of a new work force, with a low pay rate and who better than oppressed Chinese Muslims?

More importantly as America prepares to leave Syria, the rebels and radicals need to find a new venture just like their masters, and where better than China?

Chinese Muslims are ideal for recruitment as they possess the key ingredients; valid grievances and reasons. They have experienced wilful ignorance by the Chinese government along with mistreatment. In China they are already seen as “the enemy within”.

In line with Gramer, there are academics that always inform, warn and sometimes push governments to take action against bad guys in faraway places.

Like Henry Kiesinger another mastermind is Sajjan M. Gohal who was so worried of so-called Muslim terrorists perhaps more than Hindu Fanatics in his own country; India where lynching of Muslims have become a common practice. Gohal had issued warning shots to the Chinese government to act fast before ISIS landing in Xinjiang. Gohal branded the Chinese threat as the “Seventh Stage” of terrorism in China and suggested that China should pressurise a Pakistan military root out, “TIP and other Uighur terrorists training within its borders. Uighur fighters travelling abroad for conflict. The reality is that there is an active Uighur terrorist movement that has developed an ideological agenda that is not dissimilar to that espoused by al-Qa’ida, and that has the ability for small cells to conduct operations throughout China”.

In a post 9/11 world, we have seen the worried media, politicians and governments worked up into a frenzy over so-called terrorists, they have (in some cases) illegally searched high and low for WMDs, chemical and biological weapons, this tried and tested method of ‘defeating terrorism’ has been played out in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Myanmar to name a few.

Myanmar saw the threat of a small Muslim radical group exaggerated whilst the scenes behind the sensationalism were economically motivated with China and India seemingly on the same page for regional hegemony.

Now, China is a bad-boy that makes America unhappy because of his treatment of Uighur Muslims. Chinese human rights record is well-established that has gone from bad to worse in Uighur. So what can be done about it? Human rights is the 21st century’s burning issue in the media and public sphere but what does it really mean to people in power?

We know that America is keen on Chinese human rights violations but silent on what is going on in Chinese neighbouring Kashmir. Not to mention that America and the West are not only inaudible about human rights desecrations in Palestine and beyond the Middle East but to a great extent are the reasons of violence and social disturbances.

Since 9/11, western mainstream academics, liberal minded politicians and media experts all have agreed upon a floating belief that global powers are fighting terrorism at one place whilst fully supporting it in other places for their socio-political and economic gains. Well! British writer Seumas Milne article: Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq reveals that “American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria”.

Is it that America intends to give peace a chance? Or is it that America plans to open up another front somewhere else?

China would be a good place and why not? Because years of competition for regional hegemony among the world’s major powers including Russia, America and Britain had shown that military industrial complex, arms trade and conflicts are all essential products to boom business and enlarge states profits.

The Chinese are simply business-minded people that believe in soft-invasions: from Africa to the Middle East; they have so-far stopped themselves from engaging in any political activities that could possibly lead to so-called extremist and jihadist groups coming to their soil.

Philip B. K. Potter’s analytical piece Terrorism in China Growing Threats with Global Implications categorically explains this thesis through which the Chinese have been successfully keeping them distance from the international politics of extremism, radicalism and terrorism. For some critics like Khaled A. Beydoun, believes that China is allergic to Islam; it sees it as a “mental illness” that should be “cured”.  But how and at what cost? Only time will tell-

Often many governments usually “educate” bad guys in concentration and detention camps such as the Gaza, Myanmar or perhaps the Guantanamo Bay. 

The Chinese have also learnt this from many western democracies and eastern dictator rulers that have been how to discipline supposedly bad guys mostly Muslims because they follow obsoleted ways of life! Think of veil ban and minarets bans in Europe and cows meat ban for Muslims in neighbouring India.   

So to correct Muslims China has opened up “re-education camps” for Uighur Muslims fitted with smart surveillance systems so no one misbehaves and to learn the ethics of how to live in a communist China.

Can the western media activism change western capital’s China policy considering her human rights abuse? But in that case the West itself is not in a moral position to dictate to China what human rights means? Only time will tell where Chinese human rights violations lead to?

Dr. Irfan Raja

A British-Pakistani academic and political analyst.
Dr. Irfan Raja

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