In a move aimed at countering international criticism of its treatment of Uyghurs, China hosted delegates from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) earlier this month. The delegation’s visit to Xinjiang, a region embroiled in controversy due to alleged human rights abuses against Uyghurs, has sparked debates about the authenticity of China’s narrative and the motivations behind the OIC’s response.
China orchestrated a carefully curated tour for the OIC delegation, taking them to cities like Urumqi, Kashgar, Changi, and the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture. During the tour, delegates were shown counter-terrorism and de-radicalization exhibits, rural revitalization projects, and Uyghur families’ homes. The delegation also prayed at a mosque and interacted with local Muslims. These activities were meticulously designed to present a narrative of peace, prosperity, and development under the Chinese government’s governance.
Mixed Reactions from OIC Delegates
Some members of the OIC delegation seemed to endorse China’s perspective on Xinjiang. Dya-Eddine Bamakhrama, head of the delegation, praised China’s “prosperity and development” during his visit. Similarly, Syed Mohammad Fawad Sher from Pakistan commended the “remarkable transformation” of the region. These statements suggest a growing acceptance of China’s narrative among OIC members.
Clash of Narratives
The United Nations has documented serious human rights abuses against Uyghurs, including arbitrary detention, surveillance, forced sterilizations, and attempts to erase their cultural identity. However, China vehemently denies these allegations, asserting that its actions are aimed at countering extremism through vocational training programs.
Critics argue that economic coercion and geopolitical interests are influencing the OIC members’ responses. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has drawn the majority of OIC members into economic agreements, potentially making them hesitant to criticize Beijing. Moreover, many OIC countries themselves have poor human rights records, which could contribute to their reluctance to speak out against China’s actions.
Power of Propaganda
China’s use of external propaganda and controlled media has been criticized for creating a manipulated image of the situation in Xinjiang. Critics contend that these carefully staged visits do not provide an accurate representation of reality, as they lack access to areas of concern, such as alleged detention camps.
Challenges to OIC’s Moral Values
The OIC’s response to the Uyghur crisis has sparked controversy. Despite its charter’s commitment to safeguarding the rights and dignity of Muslim communities, the organization has not taken substantial action against the reported abuses in Xinjiang. Some experts argue that the OIC is prioritizing economic interests and political considerations over its own moral values.
Divided Muslim World
The OIC’s perceived alignment with China’s narrative has exposed divisions within the Muslim world. While some countries support China for economic and geopolitical reasons, others view Beijing’s actions as contrary to the principles of Islam and human rights. This divide underscores the complex nature of the issue and the challenges of achieving a unified response.
China’s efforts to shape the narrative surrounding Xinjiang have found a degree of support among the OIC delegation, raising questions about the role of economic interests and geopolitical considerations in shaping international responses. As the controversy surrounding the treatment of Uyghurs continues, striking a balance between economic partnerships, political interests, and upholding moral values remains a challenge for both the OIC and the international community.