Most people know that Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s two holiest cities- Mecca & Medina- and that the country of Pakistan is the second most populous Muslim country in the world. Having said that, however, it should collectively shock our global conscience that the respective leaders of these two Muslim-majority states recently refused to condemn the Chinese government, which continues to pump billions of dollars into their economies, its anti-Muslim ethnic cleansing happening on their watch.
Just a few weeks ago – in early February 2019 – the controversial crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman, traveled to China to meet with China’s president Xi Jingping regarding key agreements with Beijing related to energy production. According to Newsweek, Saudi Arabia and China have done over $63 billion worth of trade since 2018 alone. Therefore, for many people, it came as little surprise that the Saudi crown prince, who American intelligence agencies have publicly stated ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, actually public defended China’s use of “re-education” camps — which many international observers call “internment” or “concentration” camps — to persecute over one million Uighur Muslims.
“China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremization work for its national security,” Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) was quoted as saying live on Chinese television when asked about the plight of the Uighur Muslims.
The prime minister of Pakistan, former cricket superstar Imran Khan, was also recently interviewed by TRT World television when he was asked about the plight of a million Uighur Muslims in China. Prime Minister Khan was directly asked on-camera by the Turkish network: “You’re doing business with China…Does it mean you cannot criticize them when it comes to what they are doing with Uighurs?”
“I do not know the exact situation, frankly…To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about this situation [China’s well-documented anti-Muslim internment camps],” Prime Minister Khan bizarrely replied.
Instead of condemning the ethnic cleansing of a million Muslims in China, the Pakistani prime minister decided to highlight all of the Chinese money pouring into Pakistan, saying that the Chinese government has been a “breath of fresh air for us” by pumping over $62 billion into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects (which will ultimately build one of the largest deep-sea ports situated on the Arabian sea in the Pakistani port city of Gwadar in the province of Balochistan).
As one of the world’s largest superpowers, China has sought for several decades to restrict the practice of Islam within the Xinjiang region in the west, where more than half of the 24 million population are mainly Uighur Muslims. Their religion, language and culture, along with a history of independence movements and resistance to Chinese rule, have long unnerved the Beijing political nerve center.
As recently as last year, many global media reports claimed that at least a million Muslims are being held in Chinese internment camps, according to estimates cited by UN officials. According to The Atlantic, many Chinese Muslims have publicly stated that they were forced to renounce Islam, criticize basic Muslim practices and recite Communist Party propaganda songs every day. Additionally, there have also been multiple news reports of Muslims being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol (which are forbidden to observant Muslims), as well as reports of torture and mass deaths of Uighur Muslims at the hands of the Chinese government apparatus.
Under international law, “ethnic cleansing” is generally defined as the “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” Under Chinese President Xi Jingping, the brutal coercive practices used against Uighur Muslims have included: murder, torture, arbitrary arrest/detention, extrajudicial executions, rape/sexual assaults, and relocation to internment camps, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report from September 2018 on China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims.
So while the most of the world already knows about the ethnic cleansing of a million Muslims in China, it is quite disheartening to see two prominent Muslim leaders, the Saudi Crown Prince and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, overlook Islamophobic ethnic cleansing as their countries benefit from Beijing’s economic policies.