The Muslim Council of Britain has been following distressing news reports from China of the detention of over one million Muslim Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in the North-Western region of Xinjiang in so-called “counter-extremism centres”.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has noted that large numbers have been detained under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism, particularly peaceful protesters and human rights defenders of Uighur and other ethnic minority backgrounds who have been tortured or otherwise subjected to ill treatment, including being held incommunicado for prolonged periods at risk of torture.
And according to Amnesty International’s China 2017/18 briefing, the Chinese Government has published a list of prohibited names, most of which are Islamic in origin, requiring children under 16 with these names to change them. Anecdotal reports of families being required to hand in copies of the Qur’an and other religious items upon risk of punishment have also come out.
The MCB in addition to many of our affiliates are rightly concerned about these injustices. Muslims across the UK, as well as Muslim-majority countries across the world are heavily involved in economic partnerships with Chinese companies and China itself, and it has been noted that responses to the injustices Uighurs have faced have been too few and far between.
In mid 2018, the UK government appointed Lord Ahmad its first ever Special Envoy on Religious Freedom. This is a welcome step and must now be followed through in practise with the UK doing more to raise the plight of the Uighurs.
In our capacity as a British umbrella organisation, we have written to the Chinese Embassy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to understand what they are doing to address an issue as serious as this, and we welcome the opportunity to work with a number of parties to co-ordinate the efforts of Muslim communities in the UK.
Organisations or concerned individuals who wish to get involved are requested to get in touch here