Wednesday December 15 2021, 9.00pm GMT, The Times
When I was growing up as a young Muslim in Scotland, the precarious state of the Muslim world was always blamed on malevolent external actors: the history of colonialism, continued western support for authoritarian leaders, anything. Even the Sunni v Shia sectarian violence was blamed on Israel and the CIA. It was simply out of the question that any of the ills besetting Muslims could be due to the behaviour of Muslims themselves.
Anyone familiar with the history of Islam, however, will know that violent Muslim sectarianism and relentless factional disputes have caused untold damage to the lives and wellbeing of Muslims around the world. Yet despite that fraught history, today something akin to Muslim unity is appearing to take shape, at least on one particular issue: the Uighurs.
More than a million Uighur Muslims are being held in “re-education” concentration camps in Xinjiang by the Beijing authorities, yet Muslim leader after Muslim leader from the Islamic world has come out publicly in support of the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide. Even the Taliban, the most extreme Islamist government in the world, approached Beijing before they came to power in Afghanistan saying they would support the party’s efforts to clamp down on Uighurs in exchange for investment.
And it is not just Muslim leaders who agree. For example, in Pakistan, a country founded explicitly as a land of refuge for Muslims, and where Muslim solidarity is one of the fundamental pillars of all political discourse, it is difficult to find anyone who is critical of China. Many will be openly supportive of China’s “efforts to restore order”.
Not one government in the Muslim world has sacrificed a single Chinese yuan of investment for the Uighurs. Not a single one of them has countenanced joining American efforts to speak for these oppressed Muslims. And hardly any civil society group in the Muslim world has so much as registered a protest. Instead, this has been left almost entirely to non-Muslims in the West.