For China, Islam is a “mental disease” that must be “cured” by sending Muslims to concentration camps, ” re-educating ” and sometimes torturing them!
The Chinese Muslim Abdullah goes to bed every night fearing the knock on the door, a knock he has heard in recurring nightmares and in stories from neighbours.
He is a Muslim, an ethnic Uighur, and has always called Xinjiang his home.
His ancestors lived and toiled for centuries on this land, which was annexed by the nascent Chinese communist government in 1949. He is the father of two children, a son and a daughter, and a devout Muslim who performs his five daily prayers carefully behind the veil of secrecy his homeland temporarily offers him.
In recent months, several of his friends and colleagues have heard the dreaded knock on their doors and disappeared in the still of the night without a trace or warning.
Everyone, including Abdullah, knows where they were taken and held. But no one knows how long they will be held, and no one knows if they will ever return home. Most have not yet returned, and those who have are only a shell of their former selves, ghosts from the neighbourhood warning others of what threatens Chinese Muslims who refuse to deny Islam.
In August 2018, a United Nations human rights commission reported that nearly 1.1 million Uighur Muslims are being held in concentration camps in Xinjiang – the autonomous region in western China where some 11 million Uighurs live.
Today, in 2023, it is estimated that a total of 1.8 million Chinese Muslims are being held in concentration camps by China, tortured and in some cases raped.
In any case, the number of Uighur Muslims being arrested, torn from their families and lives, and detained in concentration camps – for no other reason than that they are Uighurs and Muslims – is increasing by the day.
Shortly after the UN broke the news of the concentration camps, Sigal Samuel of The Atlantic reported that inmates were “forced to renounce Islam, criticise their own Islamic faith and that of their fellow prisoners, and recite Communist Party propaganda songs for hours every day.” Male prisoners were forced to shave their beards and were fed pork and alcohol – which is forbidden to Muslims.
In these concentration camps, Uighur Muslims are transformed into atheist Chinese subjects – horrific places where fear and physical violence, psychological trauma and emotional abuse are used as a means to make Uighur Muslims renounce Islam, which the state calls a “mental illness”, and reject the particular Uighur customs closely associated with their faith.
This programme of brainwashing and indoctrination is not limited to adults.
The state also maintains orphanages for Uyghur Muslim children taken away from their parents, where the process of disengagement from their Islamic faith and ethnic heritage is deeply implanted in their education. In these orphanages disguised as schools, China turns future generations of Uighur Muslim children into loyal subjects who embrace Han atheism and customs, leading them to turn their backs on their families and follow Beijing’s vision of the destruction of the Uighur Muslim people.
Since Islam is the spiritual lifeline that connects the Uighur people to their land, history and fellow human beings, the state has targeted it. If it can destroy Islam, Beijing believes, it can destroy Muslim Uighurs.
And the more Chinese Muslims are unwilling to give up their spiritual identity and deny Islam, the more likely they are to be kidnapped and imprisoned far away from everyone they love and everything they know in a living hell designed to rid them of their faith, destroy their families and annihilate their nation.
(The article is based on a 2018 article in the Arabic magazine Al Jazeera.