International Desk

 

Omer Kanat

Published 21 May 2020, 9:44 am

COMMENT | On May 14, the US Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. The bill now goes to the US House of Representatives and then to the desk of the president to be signed into law.

This is a milestone for us as Uyghurs. We have spent years struggling to have our voices heard. Since 2017, the Chinese government's brutal campaign of mass internment, imprisonment, and coerced labour has brought the continued existence of the Uyghurs into question.

The legislation endorses targeted sanctions on culpable Chinese government officials and creates a mandate for reports on human rights abuses in the Uyghur region and on Chinese government harassment of Uyghurs living inside the US. Uyghurs have a pathway to bring to account our persecutors.

It is now time for other countries to embark on similar actions and Muslim-majority countries must break their silence on Chinese state repression of Uyghurs. Malaysia can take the lead.

Malaysia has witnessed a growing outspokenness on the Uyghur crisis. Late last year, the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) urged the Chinese government to stop “playing with political propaganda” inside Malaysia about conditions for Uyghurs, adding the abuses are well documented.

Furthermore, the Malaysian government appointed the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation to investigate reports of Chinese government repression in the Uyghur region.

As the executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, an organisation dedicated to documenting rights abuses targeting Uyghurs and advocating for change, I welcome these developments in Malaysia.

Uyghurs understand that states like Malaysia must deal with China. We also believe that states like Malaysia can take a lead in advocating for justice and freedom from persecution.

Often when discussing China, observers claim some governments bury their values for the sake of economic promises. Malaysia can demonstrate that values can be at the forefront of relations with China and maintain national interest.

The Uyghur people are in an existential fight for their ethno-religious identity. An academic has estimated that up to 1.8 million Uyghurs may have been interned in camps since 2017.

The reports of a system that is diversifying its repression are shocking. One notes how in 2017 alone prison sentences increased 10 times than in the previous year.

Another describes how: “Nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools.” Camp survivors give accounts of indoctrination designed to curb Uyghurs’ religious beliefs and language, cornerstones of their distinctiveness.

Malaysian civil society has made its feelings known about the Uyghur crisis. In addition to Abim, others have spoken out. The Malaysian Bar Council has pointed out the repression facing Uyghurs in China. Tenaganita called for “protection and compassion” for Uyghurs, saying that they “are now one of the most persecuted groups in the world.”

There have been calls from the top Islamic jurist in Perlis and Malaysian intellectuals for more pressure to be exerted on China and to resist Beijing’s disinformation in Malaysia about the Uyghur crisis.

There are small signs the Malaysian government is losing patience. Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed said his former administration would not extradite Uyghurs seeking asylum in Malaysia on the grounds that they are not “fairly protected” in China.

Malaysia has a record of guaranteeing Uyghurs’ safety. In October 2018, Malaysia released 11 Uyghur refugees to Turkey, after dropping immigration-related charges. Mahathir commented: “They have done nothing wrong in this country, so they are released.”

All these actions have been undertaken because Malaysians believe in freedom and justice. These are values Malaysians are willing to defend. The people of Malaysia know what is at stake.

To speak out on the Uyghur crisis is to push back against the imposition of Chinese Communist Party values that Chinese diplomats, media, and political leaders are aggressively promoting across the globe.

What the Chinese party-state is proposing is authoritarianism that offers a narrow definition on freedom of religion, speech and privacy. Any real or perceived opponent is suppressed extrajudicially or in the biased criminal system.

Malaysia can make a difference and not just in its bilateral relations with China. It is an influential player among Muslim-majority states and in Southeast Asia. Its voice carries weight in multilateral organisations.

Already there are signs of concern about the intense repressive turn in the Uyghur region among Muslim-majority states. Whether it is protestors in Indonesia and Turkey, members of Parliament in Kuwait, or Bahrain’s Council of Representatives, leadership on the Uyghur crisis from Muslim states will make an impact on how China treats Uyghurs.

Image is everything in Beijing as it embarks on policies of global influence. Malaysia’s direction and reminders to China that the values of justice and freedom cannot be conveniently put aside in this pursuit is part of the solution to ending the Uyghur nightmare.

It is time for Malaysia, Muslim-majority states, and free nations across the globe to put in place legislative protections for the Uyghur people.

OMER KANAT is executive director of Uyghur Human Rights Project.

Sources: Malaysiakini

 

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian authorities’ move to turn away hundreds of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea has drawn criticism from the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) and a human rights activist.

“This is unconscionable. Nothing to be proud of,” said lawyer Eric Paulsen, after the Royal Malaysian Navy said it had foiled an attempt by some 200 Rohingya to enter Malaysian territory by boat.

The navy had despatched two ships after the boat was detected.

“Blocking desperate refugees from landing after months/weeks at sea can cause death. The world has seen this repeatedly,” Paulsen said on Twitter. 

 

This comes after another report yesterday that at least 24 Rohingya died at sea after their boat failed to reach Malaysia.

Authorities in Bangladesh said they rescued some 400 Rohingya from the vessel which had been adrift for weeks.

“They were at sea for about two months and were starving,” Reuters quoted an official as saying.

The incident also drew comments from Abim, which said it points to the failure of the United Nations and Asean to address the plight of the Rohingya. 

“It is time for Malaysia, Asean and all UN members to find a solution to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, which has been an issue for decades,” said Abim president Muhammad Faisal.

AFP quoted survivors as saying that 32 Rohingya died aboard the overcrowded vessel “and their bodies were thrown in the sea”.

“We have cordoned off the place where they have landed. We could not question them because of the fear they could be infected with the coronavirus,” a Bangladeshi official told AFP.

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar in 2017, with thousands paying smugglers to help them reach other countries including Malaysia. Sources: Free Malaysia Today. 

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) said that a proposed visit to Xinjiang, China by a Malaysian delegation would not resolve the plight of Uighur Muslims facing persecution there.

Its president, Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, said that instead, China should stop trying to cover up atrocities committed against the ethnic minority, as the situation has been uncovered by the world’s media.

Abim was responding to an open invitation by Chinese embassy spokesperson Tang Tang to “visit Xinjiang and discover a beautiful, peaceful and prosperous real Xinjiang with your own eyes.”

The invitation was made in response to a demonstration staged by Abim and several other NGOs last Friday, urging China to halt its human rights violations against the Uighurs.

Faisal said that analysis of reports by international bodies such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, and by international mainstream media, has shown gross infringement of the Uighurs’ fundamental rights on a massive scale.

“Besides, we ourselves read about the draconian laws enforced in Xinjiang, particularly the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Regulation on De-extremification 2017, where the provisions of the law prohibit Muslims in Xinjiang from wearing hijab, keeping a beard and promoting the concept of halal, which are claimed to interfere with other people’s secular lives.

“These oppressive provisions of law have allowed the Chinese government to abuse the fundamental rights of Uighur communities by interpreting any religious practice as equivalent to extremism and radicalism,” he said in a statement, today.

Faisal said that at the same time, Article 4 of the said provision states that the government must persist in “making Islam more Chinese”.

“It is totally against the spirit of freedom of religion and belief of the people when there are unreasonable interferences in religious affairs of Muslims, and they are forced to follow the incomprehensible laws that define Islam as a religion with an anti-religion doctrine,” he added.

Faisal added that the ongoing exodus of Uighur refugees, mostly women and children, refutes claims that the Uighur people are terrorists.

The mass flight clearly sends a message to the world that they are seeking help to fulfil their basic needs to live happily and freely, like any other people, he said.

“Thus, Abim firmly urges the Chinese government to solve the aforementioned issues, instead of persisting in efforts to normalise the persecution and atrocities committed against the Uighurs.

“Instead of leading us on a supervised trip to selected camps where Uighurs are detained, the Chinese government should let the United Nations independently observe the situation in Xinjiang, with reasonable access to all sources of information, without any interference.

Faisal said Abim is open to a frank dialogue and positive engagements with the Chinese government if the issues raised above are addressed in a transparent manner and in good faith.

“In fact, the stuffed panda and flowers brought by Abim during the protest the other day symbolised our peaceful intention to achieve those commitments,” he added. Sources: New Straits Times.

Two demonstrations were held in Kuala Lumpur today over India's withdrawal of autonomy for Kashmir and flooding of the region with military personnel. A demonstration involving some 100 people at Masjid Negara after Friday prayers saw protesters chanting "Hidup Kashmir" (long live Kashmir) and calling for the removal of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Protest leader and Muslim Youth Movement (Abim) president Mohamad Raimi Ab Rahim urged Parliament to speak up against the persecution of Muslims in Kashmir. "Why are our MPs keeping quiet? Even MPs in UK are protesting against what is happening in Kashmir," he told the press.

Abim, in representing 40 NGOs, later submitted a protest note to the Indian High Commission. Across town, another group of 20 protesters gathered in front of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy to protest against the country's decision to grant its highest award - Order of Zayed - to Modi.

Protest leader and president of Ikatan Rakyat Muslim Malaysia (Irimm) Amir Amsaa Alla Pitcay said Malaysians were concerned about the possibility of Kashmir becoming "another Palestine". The protesters had attempted to submit a protest note signed by 42 organisations to the embassy, but were not entertained by any of the embassy staff.

The group had initially planned to submit a protest note to the Saudi Arabian embassy, but called off the event after being ignored by the UAE embassy. Their message for the Saudis, according to Amir Amsaa, was that Riyadh should raise the plight of Kashmiris to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations. Kashmir is a Himalayan region which has been subjected to territorial conflict since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

The Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir is Indian territory, but was granted special "temporary" autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

On Aug 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. Following this, New Delhi had cut off communication in the region, increased military presence and locked up local political leaders. Kashmiris are concerned that ceding control of the territory to New Delhi would open the floodgates to land grabs by outsiders. Malaysia Kini.

The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) urges the People's Republic of China to immediately release all Uyghur Muslims from detention camps in Xinjiang province. ABIM also calls for all detention centres and camps to be closed immediately. This call is made in conjunction with the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 2019.

It was also on October 1, 1949 that East Turkestan was incorporated into China and renamed Xinjiang. The ongoing humanitarian tragedy of the Uyghur minority Muslims is already widely known throughout the world. ABIM considers the revelations and disclosures in the various forms of testimony and evidence have seriously undermined the international community’s confidence in the government of the People's Republic of China concerning human rights.

The atrocities committed against the Uyghur ethnic groups in the detention camps go beyond the norms of humanity and result in psychological stress, depression, and trauma among these ethnic people.

To this day, Uyghur communities outside of China are still being denied access to information and blocked from communication which have left them separated from millions of their family members in Xinjiang.

These Uyghur communities have also been denied the right as citizens from possessing passports that would allow them to travel freely including returning home legally. As a major force expanding its influence internationally, the actions of the Government of the People's Republic of China are contrary to fundamental values of human rights held by the universal community. The international community is also keeping abreast of developments in Hong Kong.

The world is observing every policy implemented by the government of the People's Republic of China in both regions. ABIM fears that every move by the Chinese government is a reflection of the policies and values that the country wants to address as a new universal reference norm.

On that basis, ABIM urges Malaysians and the world community to reject any form of normalization that seeks to justify the inhumanity of the Government of the People's Republic of China in particular to its mistreatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

ABIM strongly implores the Malaysian government and the Muslim world to continue to increase political pressure so that atrocities on the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang shall be ceased and their release from detention camps be achieved.

The millions of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic groups should have the right to live freely as dignified people as any other citizen in the People’s Republic of China.

Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, Secretary General, Muslim Youth Movesment of Malaysia (ABIM).

We, the undersigned organisations wish to affirm the fundamental rights of every human being to the right to life and the freedom of religion and belief. This affirmation is recognised in the charters, declarations and covenants of the international community. Specifically, we affirm Article 6.3 of the Asian Human Rights Charter which states that “the freedom of religion and conscience is particularly important in Asia where most people are deeply religious; many find their primary identity in religion”. The article together with other express provisions in other International Conventions of Human Rights are the necessary rights and conditions that serve to protect every human life and interest and make this world a better place to live in.

On this day 5 July 2019, as the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of the July 5th 2009 Urumqi Massacre, we wish to highlight the critical situation of human rights abuses of the Uyghur people and many other minority groups across the Xinjiang (East Turkestan) area. We note that the human rights violations of the Uyghurs people and their respective communities have increased significantly resulting in the rapid deterioration of the welfare and wellbeing of the Uyghur people.

In February 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report which documented Chinese authorities as having detained people without the due process of the law and placed them in “political education” camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government. It is reported that detainees in these camps are subjected to force political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment, and in some cases torture. Such acts could certainly be deemed as persecution on the basis of one’s faith and religion. It is contemptuous and should never be tolerated. In recent months, other UN officials, human rights organizations, and independent journalists have also supported such findings.

There are also restrictive legislation, suppression of the highest order and repressive policies in placed which the Uyghurs people routinely find themselves subjected to. Uyghurs are not allowed to peacefully practice their religion, to speak or move freely or even to be to be educated in their native language. This is all the worst when many Uyghurs are arbitrarily detained, confined in “political re-education” camps or made to disappear while in custody of Chinese authorities. These are grave human rights violations on the right to life and freedom of religion and belief.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned organisations strongly urge and demand the Chinese government to do as follows:

IIIT honored one of its late founders, Shaykh Dr. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani (d. 2016), with an October 23-24 seminar on the renewal of Islamic thought, a topic that he engaged with and pursued throughout his entire adult life, even when he was ill and confined to a wheelchair.

Held at the IIIT headquarters in Herndon, VA, this event celebrated his original and sometimes provocative contributions to Islamic jurisprudence, in which he had earned a PhD from al-Azhar (1973), most notably his establishment of a new discipline: a jurisprudence for minorities (fiqh al-aqaliyyat). Abubaker Al-Shingieti (executive director, IIIT), Hisham Altalib (president, IIIT), Ermin Sinanović (director of research, IIIT), Saber Al-Kilany (library director, IIIT), and Zainab Alwani (Howard University) welcomed the attendees.

Sinanović referred to Shaykh Taha as a traditionally trained scholar who understood modern realities. Al-Kilany, who had a long-term working relationship with him, remarked upon his humility, sense of humor, and concern for others – even children. His daughter and long-time pupil Zainab Alwani spoke on a usually ignored area: how well he fulfilled his responsibility as a father who would discuss matters of religion with his children instead of demanding unquestioning obedience.

The first keynote speaker, Azizah al-Hibri (University of Richmond and KARAMAH), recalled Shaykh Taha’s attitude that “it is better to think and be wrong than not to think at all” and his constant urging of others to engage in critical thought. Among many other important points, she praised him for his role, along with Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in refuting a Muslim group’s claim that the Supreme Court’s depiction of the Prophet in its frieze of humanity’s lawgivers was idolatrous and therefore had to be destroyed.

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