Opinion: China and the dilemma of Muslim nations in face of injustice

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

Worldwide, the Muslim community is facing a highly unpredictable wave of opposition. Incidents that sometimes spark global outrage are, at other times, barely noticed, highlighting a worrying inconsistency. This, combined with a rising trend of extremism in Western democracies, with countries like Argentina and the Netherlands witnessing a growing right-wing zeal, presents a daunting challenge.

Consider the stark difference between the immediate international condemnation from Muslim countries following the recent Quran burnings in Sweden, and the lukewarm response to the distressing situation of the Uyghurs. This contrast is telling. Furthermore, the few Muslim voices that have spoken out against the troubles in Palestine have been largely silenced. This glaring inconsistency reveals a concerning lack of unity and moral fortitude among predominantly Muslim countries when it comes to standing up for Muslims facing persecution around the world.

Ultimately, short-term economic and political considerations have taken precedence over solidarity with fellow believers in East Turkestan (China) or Palestine. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which aims to represent the Muslim world, has repeatedly failed to address China’s crimes against the Uyghurs even as it reacted vigorously to the Swedish incident. In 2019, the OIC foreign ministers issued a joint statement disregarding the widespread repression of Uyghur Muslims, exemplifying the selective outrage that plagues Muslim nations regarding human rights abuses against Muslims.

China’s strategic leverage, wielded primarily through its economic clout and the promise of investment, has bred compliant silence from Muslim allies. Chinese economic penetration of the Gulf region and the importance of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects have entrapped key Muslim nations, including Iran, Qatar, Morocco and Iraq. Their lucrative codependence on China has muzzled any criticism of the regime’s oppressive policies in Xinjiang. The recent visit to the region by Arab League members further demonstrated the willingness of Muslim countries to toe China’s line in exchange for economic and diplomatic dividends.

Propaganda and media manipulation have also been pivotal in shaping favourable narratives among Muslim nations regarding China’s policies towards Uyghur Muslims. Chinese state media works closely with Middle Eastern outlets, while pro-China content reaches millions through conferences, speeches and social media campaigns aimed at Muslim audiences. By co-opting influencers and Islamic NGOs, China has manufactured an illusion of Uyghur contentment that much of the Islamic world seems willing to believe.

This crisis of unity and moral leadership within the Muslim world has profound implications. Firstly, the legitimacy of organisations like the OIC, which seem more devoted to political expedience than defending human rights, will continue to erode. Secondly, the economic dependence on China will further inhibit any principled stance supporting the Uyghurs. Finally, the perceived apathy towards Uyghurs will tarnish the global image of Muslim nations.

Rectifying this situation is critical for the Uyghur community, Palestinian community and Muslim solidarity worldwide. Muslim nations must acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of genocide rather than deny the facts on the ground. Coalitions like the OIC must reform their agenda to prioritise human rights advocacy over political or economic interests. Reducing economic dependence on China through trade diversification among the Muslim nations could also grant them more diplomatic flexibility and perhaps a backbone.

In the realm of Muslim geopolitics, the absence of a divinely guided Khilafat among non-Ahmadi Muslims represents a significant gap. This is especially apparent when considering the Ahmadi Muslim Community, where the Ahmadiyya Khilafat exemplifies an effective model of spiritual and organisational leadership. This Khilafat, functioning as a cohesive force, provides a living example of how such leadership can effectively guide a global Muslim community, addressing broader challenges and fostering collective welfare. The lack of this amongst non-Ahamdi Muslims results in Muslim groups and nations acting based on narrow state interests rather than the collective interests of the ummah. This is particularly evident in the operations of the OIC, a body united under the Islamic banner but fragmented by the diverse geopolitical realities of its member states. The recent Israel-Palestine conflict underscores this fragmentation, highlighting the OIC’s inability to present a united front against global injustices, especially those affecting the Muslim world.

The OIC’s challenges are not merely organisational but fundamentally ideological. The Quranic injunctions, which should guide the policies of Muslim nations, often take a backseat to nationalistic aspirations. This misalignment is starkly visible in conflicts like those in Syria, Yemen, and Sudan, where national interests have overshadowed the broader good of the Muslim ummah. Such a prioritisation fuels regional strife and contributes to global issues, such as the Uyghur crisis in China.

The only solution is the unification of the Muslim ummah under a spiritual rather than a political Khilafat. This approach advocates for alignment with Islamic teachings and the principles of justice, potentially mitigating conflicts and fostering global Muslim solidarity.

In the interim, as emphasised by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, the focus for Muslims should be on prayer and advocacy for justice and unity. This spiritual commitment and adherence to Quranic principles will gradually pave the way for a more cohesive and just Muslim world. The journey is challenging, but the potential for a unified Muslim Nation, harmonised by faith, presents a compelling goal for the future.

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