Last week, the UN issued a report on human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region. Based on this report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for holding Beijing accountable for what he described as a “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority.
Indeed, the report said that these abuses may amount to “crimes against humanity,” but it did not describe Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs as “genocide.” In fact, this accusation was levelled against China by the US in early 2021 and has since been adopted by the legislatures of many other Western countries.
Certainly, the statements of the US Secretary of State express the directions of the current US administration, which emphasises on all occasions its focus on protecting human rights and restoring American leadership in this field. But at the same time, there are many indications that these statements are directly related to the hostile policies of the US against China and its desire to find convincing pretexts to impose more sanctions on China to undermine its global economic supremacy.
The most important of these pieces of evidence is the Biden administration’s indifference to what is happening to the Muslims of India, despite the abundance of reports in this regard. Also, and most importantly, the calm and indifference shown by this administration to the abuses against the Palestinians that many progressive members of Congress have already described as genocide.
This certainly does not diminish the importance of the issue of Uyghur Muslims, nor the issue of any other minority in any society. This is because the issue of “freedom of belief” is one of the most important issues that we must fight for if we want peace to prevail in the world and to live in a world free of prejudice and the imposition of opinion by force.
Indeed, the UN report on China included several main criteria confirming the existence of discrimination and racist treatment against Uyghur Muslims that can be taken as general criteria to indicate the violation of the rights of any religious minority in any society or country in general. The most important of these criteria is the placement of unjustified restrictions on cultural, linguistic, and religious identity and expression; violation of the right to privacy; discrimination in employment and labour rights; arbitrary detention; and frequent reports of destruction of religious sites and places of worship.
Additionally, the report concludes that serious human rights violations have been committed in Xinjiang in the context of the government’s implementation of counterterrorism and anti-extremism strategies. This is because China’s anti-terrorism law contains vague and broad concepts that give great discretion to various officials regarding their interpretation and application.
However, in one of the most flagrant ironies — which expresses the double standards regarding the rights of minorities in the US — a similar report was recently published, but about the violation of the rights of American Muslims within the US this time.
The report also relies on the same criteria set by the UN as an indicator of the violation of the rights of Uyghur Muslims in China. The report was issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the civil rights of American Muslims for 2022 and titled ‘STILL SUSPECT: The Impact of Structural Islamophobia.’
The report confirms that cases of discrimination against Muslims have developed into a systemic policy within institutions. The report says that “the title of this report is Still Suspect: The Impact of Structural Islamophobia. The word structural is significant in the understanding that Islamophobia has seeped into every part of our society. It has made its way into government institutions and the public sphere through laws and policies, political rhetoric, and other manifestations. For example, in 2021, the CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarcerated rights, school incidents, and anti-BDS/free speech.”
“These complaints indicate that government discrimination and bias continue to have a disproportionate effect on American Muslims and further demonstrate that our communities continue to be viewed with suspicion.”
The report adds that “This is the highest number of civil rights complaints we’ve received in 27 years.”
This also clearly means that the violations against Muslims during the Biden’s administration exceed what Muslims have been subjected to over the past years since 9/11 and even during the Trump era, which was characterised by its hostility to Muslims.
The report also asserts that there was a 28% increase in hate and bias incidents which included reports of forcible removal of hijabs, harassment, vandalism, and physical assault, among other complaints. This is in addition to a 13% increase in workplace and public accommodation discrimination complaints. Denial of Public Accommodations complaints included bank account closures, denial of services, and housing incidents. The abuses also amounted to attacks on mosques and places of worship.
Most importantly, 35% of law enforcement and government overreach complaints involved the government’s so-called terrorism watchlist, which stigmatises hundreds of thousands of people who have not been charged with or convicted of a crime.
The report is worth reading as it is no less important than the report on Uyghur Muslims. The only difference here is that the Muslims of China found someone to defend them, but who would dare to defend American Muslims?
* Marwa Al-Shinawy is an Assistant Professor at the International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS)