Modern Reformative Concentration Camps for Chinese Muslims
June 14th, 2018
The headlines are pretty self-explanatory, but here’s the deal: Muslims living in China have been forced into “re-educational” concentration camps, in which they are forced to forsake their daily religious practices in the interest of “cultural cleansing.”
Muslims are China’s largest minority group, and they come in many varieties. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people living in East and Central Asia, and now considered primarily Islamic. The Hui, also known as “Chinese Muslims,” number about 11 million. The Kazakhs are a Sunni Islamic ethnic group who once considered Xinjiang a sanctuary.
According to The Guardian, there are over twenty million Muslims living in China--nearly 2% of the country’s total population.
An estimated one million of them are suffering though these camps today.
Affinity Magazine reports that, since the spring of 2017, Pakistanis have been detained and separated from their Uyghur wives in the predominantly Chinese Muslim province of Xinjiang. The remaining family members are kept under close surveillance by government officials, arrested by the dozens, or forced to marry other, non-Muslim Chinese men. All over China, Muslims have been unlawfully incarcerated without warning, legal justification, or access to an attorney for over a year, and no one has done anything to stop it.
The detention campaign aims to eradicate Islamic belief, reform the victims’ political thinking and rework their individual identities. One of these main goals being “political education,” detainees are forced to praise China’s ruling Communist party, learn Mandarin, and study the whims of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. As more religion-oriented forms of oppression, they’re asked to “confess” their wrongdoings, including prayer at mosque and teaching the Qur’an to their children, and to apologize for wearing the long clothing that is Muslim tradition. Those who do not conform to the camp’s demands are met with solitary confinement, beatings, and starvation.
The internment camps aren’t the first instance of China’s aggression towards its Muslim inhabitants. As an extreme example, the country’s history of being anti-Islam dates back to mass genocide of the Chinese Muslim population under the Qing empire. Modern day oppression is limited to prohibiting religious practices and jailing people from the community, but the Uyghur-American association says that both of these practices worsen significantly in the holy month of Ramadan.
As it began on May 15th and is scheduled to end this Thursday, June 14th, Ramadan is now upon us worldwide. In China, crackdowns on the Muslim minority even go so far as violently enforcing the ban on fasting--if officials have reason to suspect fasting in secret, it is common practice to place food and drink in front of the suspect and ask them to eat--and forbidding visits to the mosque for government officials during the holy month.
Though it’s not the first time Chinese Muslims have experienced maltreatment at the hands of their government, the emergence of these reformative concentration camps is by far the worst such occurrence in recent history. The phenomenon has spread across the territory of Xinjiang in less than a year, to the point that the camps are now referred to by a US commission as “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”