Why China’s ‘repressed’ Muslims suddenly got dragged back into the light — RT World News

A report on Beijing’s crackdown on mosques was issued immediately after Muslim countries turned to the Asian giant to mediate in the Gaza war.

by Timur FomenkoPolitical analyst

Earlier this week, foreign ministers from a group of Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian National Authority, and Indonesia, traveled to China to seek support for a ceasefire in the ongoing war in Gaza.

The unconditional support for Israel by the United States and its allies has undermined their credibility throughout the Muslim world, and Beijing has positioned itself as a defender of peace when others are not willing to take on that role.

Curiously, within the next few days, Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing China of expanding its alleged campaign to close and redirect mosques to regions other than Xinjiang – which has so far been the focus of accusations against Beijing. Suppression of the Muslim-majority Uighur minority. Even those allegations have been somewhat of a back burner in state media recently, but the Human Rights Watch report was quickly picked up and amplified.

Although relations between the United States and China have cooled somewhat, it is clear that Washington does not want to see Beijing increase its influence in the Islamic world, because this will inevitably come at the expense of American influence. Trying to draw attention once again to China’s alleged repression of its Muslim population, while under-reporting Israel’s devastating attack on the (also Muslim) population of Gaza, is an exercise in deviance and part of the ongoing narrative war between China and the United States. Whether it is about Muslims or not, the Xinjiang issue has long been a key element in this struggle for influence.

Since 2018, the Uyghur minority has become a tool of “outrageous propaganda” used to launch public relations attacks against China. It is a means to an end, which often disappears and reappears in the media, coinciding with the ebb and flow of anti-Beijing rhetoric coming out of the US administration or State Department. This includes using it to turn public opinion against Beijing in selected countries, including allies, or to manufacture approval for policies aimed at supply chain shifts or “decoupling,” by accusing forced labor, especially in the areas of key agricultural commodities, polysilicon. And solar panels, or trying to embarrass China diplomatically at the United Nations, or pushing for a boycott of events like the Winter Olympics.

This is an incredibly opportunistic stance towards something Beijing’s critics claim is “genocide.” Since late 2021, the Biden administration has largely ignored the issue and it has fallen off the international agenda, precisely because Washington got the sanctions it wanted from it at the time. However, the conflict between Israel and Gaza presents a new dynamic in which the United States and its allies are dramatically losing face and credibility among Muslim countries because they unconditionally support Israel in the mass slaughter of Palestinians. From a geopolitical perspective, such a policy course is actually strategically disastrous because it alienates the entire Global South, acts as a beacon for US hypocrisy, and, worse, directly empowers China as a competitor.

So, when you face a situation in which Beijing gains diplomatic capital because of your failures, what do you do? You are very much aiming to deflect by trying to draw attention to another issue in trying to smear Beijing: Xinjiang and the Uyghurs. Now, as it happens, Muslim countries mostly ignore the US-led propaganda on the Xinjiang issue, because they see it for what it is and also share a common norm of respect for national sovereignty with Beijing, which is politically beneficial to them. The only Muslim country that has made public comments on this topic is Turkey, because the Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group and these issues are viewed through the lens of Turkish nationalist ideology in Ankara. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is still likely to ignore the issue, or involve himself in it solely based on what he can gain.

In contrast, the Gulf states, the United States’ main allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, support China’s position, and the Gaza issue also puts them under pressure regarding their relations with the United States and the decision. To normalize relations with Israel. So suddenly we are seeing a resurgence of Xinjiang-related material because the United States, even if it cannot influence its own governments, wants to inflame the Muslim population’s anger over another issue instead and reduce China’s credibility. Although this is less likely in Arab countries, it could fracture public opinion in key Asian Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where organizations such as the BBC have devoted significant resources to transmitting Xinjiang-related content in their own languages.

But the question is, will this campaign succeed? It may be useful to remember that Xinjiang is an artificially imposed issue pushed “top-down” by governments and the media, while Palestine is a popular issue pushed from the bottom-up, aspects of which the media and politicians seek to selectively ignore. China’s harsh management of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang is not actually genocide, and will never reach the same level of gravity as the direct bombing and mass killing of Palestinians, no matter how hard you try.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of RT.

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