Organization of the Islamic Conference Accused of Ignoring Uyghur Muslims in China

Voice of America, March 25, 2022 — Interview with Asim Kashgarian

Why do countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia support China on its Muslim repression?

Many governments in the Islamic world do not represent the views of their citizens, particularly concerning foreign policy issues. In several countries, public opinion is highly sympathetic to Uyghur suffering and governments must tolerate open protests against China’s policies. Opportunistic politicians send contradictory messages to their citizens and to Chinese audiences in both public and private. Campaign rhetoric clashes with diplomatic discourse; stated policy deviates from actual behavior.

Ruling elites are often divided among themselves on basic matters such as recognizing refugee status, granting asylum, issuing passports, deporting alleged fugitives to China or third countries. This leaves Uyghurs in a constant state of insecurity, forced to move from country to country with little control over their lives or futures. Meanwhile, Chinese police try to infiltrate Uyghur communities overseas and human rights groups try to shelter displaced people from arrest and reprisal.

Even though, IOC has clearly supports Rohingya in Myanmar, Kashmir and Palestine issues, why is the organization silent on Uyghur Muslims in China and even invites Chinese foreign minister as a special guest  speaker at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC?

The OIC no longer plays a meaningful role as an international organization, particularly in regard to protecting Muslim minorities. Its record is disappointing not only toward Uyghurs, but for the many communities it has claimed to support against persecution around the world. China’s leaders are well aware of the OIC’s weakness, but they use it to showcase their ties with Muslim autocrats, especially the Arab oil monarchies. 

Turkish prime minister at the OIC in Islamabad spoke of Uyghur rights abuses in China, how do you compare it to other majority Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who never spoke of Uyghur human rights as abuses?

Naturally, Turkish politicians have always been the most outspoken defenders of Uyghur rights because of their special ethnic and cultural ties throughout Central Asia. Erdoğan’s party is particularly sensitive to demands from right-wing nationalists who are junior partners in his governing coalition. He can’t survive without their support so he often agrees to accept more Uyghur refugees and to speak out against Chinese repression. Thus, Erdoğan regularly quarrels with both his domestic allies and his Chinese partners. He constantly wavers, taking half-hearted measures that satisfy neither side.

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