PRESS RELEASE: WUC Highlights Religious Persecution of Uyghurs During Ramadan
As millions of Muslims around the world have begun to observe the holy month the Ramadan, many will have to do so while being confined to their homes, away from friends, family and community, due to the global coronavirus pandemic caused by the CCP’s lack of transparency and mismanagement of the situation. This difficult time has shown the importance of being able to freely practice your religion, participate in community life and enjoy your basic rights and freedoms. These have all been denied to the Uyghur people for years due to the repressive policies of the Chinese government. We urge Muslims all over the world to keep the Uyghur people in their thoughts and prayers during the holy month of Ramadan and to call on their respective governments to demand that China immediately ceases its religious persecution of Uyghurs. The WUC looks forward to a day when Uyghurs can join Muslims all over the world in observing Ramadan, unencumbered by CCP repression.
To draw attention to the persecution of Uyghurs during the month of Ramadan, the WUC will be sharing a series of videos from Uyghur activists and community members from around the world. Activists will discuss what Ramadan means to them, the current situation in East Turkistan and the impacts that the CCP’s persecution has had on their lives. These videos aim to show the real human consequences of the CCP’s persecution of the Uyghur people through their various experiences of observing Ramadan. Behind the news stories of China’s repression of Uyghurs are millions of people who are suffering, cut off from their community and are being denied their basic rights.
Uyghurs are not able to engage in even the most basic aspects of religious practice and are being completely denied their right to freedom of religion, in contravention to China’s own constitution. The extent of the religious persecution that the Uyghur population faces in 2020 in East Turkistan is virtually unparalleled. Even the most basic expressions of religious sentiment have been banned by the Chinese government and Uyghurs are banned from wearing traditional Islamic dress, displaying of the crescent moon, owing a Quran and other religious texts, praying at home with others or holding private religious ceremonies, giving Uyghur children traditional Islamic names, and teaching children in the spirit of Islam. Mosques in East Turkistan are now largely empty and are surrounded by razor wire and security cameras.
The CCP’s antagonism towards Islam and all religions in China is evident. Chinese officials have described Islam as an ‘ideological illness’ that must be ‘eradicated’. Through the mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in internment camps, the indoctrination of the younger generation of Uyghurs and the launch of a campaign to ‘sinify’ Islam in China, the Chinese government is trying to undermine and erode religious sentiment entirely. International scholars and observers have noted that China has created a “no rights zone” in East Turkistan and their actions may amount to crimes against humanity.
For years, Uyghurs in East Turkistan have not been able to fully observe Ramadan due to the heavy religious persecution and restrictions imposed by the Chinese government. Each year, the Chinese government imposes additional measures targeting freedom of religion. The Chinese government has banned Uyghur civil servants, students and teachers from fasting during the holy month, providing food and water to students throughout the day. Access to mosques is more tightly controlled, restaurants have been ordered to remain open and in some cases Uyghur intellectuals have been arrested beforehand to silence criticism. Chinese officials have also forced Uyghur retirees to make a pledge ahead of Ramadan that they won’t fast or pray during Ramadan to set an example for the rest of the community and to assume responsibility for ensuring that none of their friends or family members fast or pray either. Now a large portion of the Uyghur population is being detained in internment camps or in forced labour facilities, where they are forbidden from engaging in any religious activity, as the Chinese government forbids any religious practice in public buildings.
However, even though the persecution of Uyghurs is one of the most serious instances of religious persecution of Muslims in the world, Muslim-majority states and leaders have been shamefully silent on the issue.
If we want to live in a world where all people are able to enjoy freedom of religion and where all Muslims can observe Ramadan without fear and persecution, the Muslim world must practice what it preaches and stand up for Uyghur Muslims.
“For three years, Uyghurs have been waiting for the Muslim world to speak on our behalf and hold the Chinese government accountable,” WUC President Dolkun Isa stated. “During Ramadan in 2020, we urge Muslim leaders around the world to reconnect with the beliefs and values they hold and to do what is right by demanding China stop its crimes against humanity against Uyghurs.”
The coronavirus pandemic has shown the world that what happens in China affects us all. Leaders who remain silent about the persecution of Uyghurs and allow the CCP to undermine religious belief without protest are not just letting down the victims, but are contributing to the spread of anti-Islamic sentiment and Islamophobia. The persecution of Muslims and other faith groups in China will (and already is) spreading around the world as states follow China’s example. We urge Muslims around the world to demand that the Chinese government stop its persecution and ensure all people are able to practice their religion.
You can also help to support the Uyghur cause by donating to the World Uyghur Congress (https://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/support-the-world-uyghur-congress-3/). This helps us to continue our important work in advocating for an end to the persecution of the Uyghur people and supporting vulnerable Uyghurs around the world. We would like to thank you in advance for your empathy and generosity.