If China Had Drawn Some Stupid Cartoons Instead…
Instead of China brutally cracking down on their Uighur ethnic Muslim minority in western Xinjiang province leading to the recent brutal deaths of nearly 200 people, perhaps if China were drawing sophomorically offensive cartoons (a la Danish newspapers circa December 2005); we would probably (and sadly) see more of a global outcry from the greater Muslim world on Beijing’s most recent human rights catastrophe and “worst civil turmoil since 1989”.
Not since the now-infamous Tiananmen Square tragedy of 1989 has the world seen such civil turmoil inside China which revolves around the fulcrum of ethnic identity, societal discrimination and flat-out racism between the predominant ethnic majority Han Chinese (from the eastern parts of China) and minority ethnic Uighur Muslim populations indigenous to Xinjiang province along China’s western frontier.
The majority of Uighurs live in Xinjiang, the massive western “autonomous region” that accounts for nearly one-sixth of China’s total land area. At its height in the 9th century, the Uighur empire stretched from the Caspian Sea into eastern China. The Uighurs also managed to establish independent republics twice during the 20th century before being annexed by the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Since then, the Chinese government has actively promoted the migration of the dominant Han Chinese to Xinjiang, and since the 1950s, the region’s ethnic Han community has grown from 5 to 40 percent of the region’s total population. Although recent years have seen enormous economic growth for the region, local Uighurs have become increasingly resentful of political and economic control coming from Beijing. For example, after an Uighur uprising in 1990, the Communist Party took steps to accelerate the integration of Xinjiang into China by stepping up migration and increasing the security presence of baton-wielding police forces and control over freedom of religion in the region as well.
According to BBC World News, Chinese authorities say more than 140 people have been killed and hundreds more were wounded in riots in the mainly Muslim region since protests erupted last month. According to a recent article in Newsweek magazine, in June, a resentful laborer spread rumors that Uighurs had raped two Han Chinese women, leading a vengeful Han mob to attack Uighur workers. When authorities were slow to the arrest the attackers, Uighurs in Xinjiang took to the streets in protest.
As recently noted by Moises Naim in Foreign Policy: “…In different countries, mullahs, imams, and assorted [Muslim] clerics have found the time to issue fatwas [religious decrees] condemning among other practices, Pokémon cartoons, total nudity during sex for married couples, and the use of vaccines against polio, not to mention Salman Rushdie. They have yet to find the time to say anything about China’s practices toward Uighurs…”
Prominent Uighur Muslims like Rebiya Kadeer- once celebrated by the Chinese government as the richest woman in China- have been calling-out the Chinese government’s discrimination for years by saying that their policies are meant to “keep many Uighurs poor and badly educated.” However, outside of China’s borders and due to equally scant coverage within the international media, we have seen the greater Muslim world (and global media) largely silent on the human-rights abuses taking place today in western China.
One reason for this large silence may be that most people have never heard of Uighurs before. Since they are not Arab, it is not surprising to see that their plight is not within the current zeitgeist radar of the greater Muslim and Arab world. Furthermore, an even more sobering thought occurs when one thinks that perhaps if the Uighurs were not Muslim, we may have even seen more coverage within the global media as well. It is pretty safe to assume that if the Uighurs were Christians, the American evangelical Republican apparatchik would be (rightfully) indignant towards China and their continued human-rights abuses against their Uighur sisters and brothers.
Either way, sadly, if the Chinese government had drawn some stupid moronic newspaper cartoons instead, we might have heard some more global condemnations (from all sides of the global political velvet rope) on these blatant human-rights violations occurring on our global watch today in China.