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Scratching Chinaware | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The massacre being carried out against Muslim Uighurs in north western China is distressing. I say this not only out of sympathy with a Muslim minority that is being subjected to real injustice and oppression but also because the Islamic world does not need any more battlefronts with regional superpowers. The Islamic world is yet to recover from healing wounds following the conflicts with the superpowers in Iraq, and Afghanistan where two superpowers have fought; the Russians in the 1970s and the US, along with its allies, in the 1990s and the early 21st century.

This would explain the silence of Muslim countries and why they failed to comment on the recent events that took place in China; it is not because they were scared to criticize the Chinese dragon but rather in the hope that the rocks of the Great Wall of China would stop falling on the Muslim minority in Eastern Turkestan before the problem further exacerbates and spirals out of control. The issue of minorities in general and specifically Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries is an ultra-sensitive one and should not be dealt with by military force and sentiment regardless of the bitterness of these events. Moreover, these distressing attacks coincided with calls for dialogue in which King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz played a leading role, and was further consolidated by Obama’s recent speech aimed at proving the invalidity of the clash of civilizations’ theory. This is all true but persisting in oppressive practices will break diplomatic customs and rules.

These violent attacks and their Muslim Uighur victims in a province under Chinese control bring to mind talk of the historical heritage of the struggle between China and the Islamic world. This struggle, if it existed, was not as bitter and lengthy as the battle with the West. It is true that the Tatars were the ones that struck the finishing blow against the Abbasid caliphate, but this attack, despite its aggression and destructive consequences, was nothing more than a savage conquest that had nothing to do with doctrine or ideology; thus the conquest ended with the conquerors embracing Islam. The other point to make about the ties between China and the Islamic world is that China controls Muslim areas such as Eastern Turkestan, which used to be inhabited only by Muslims. However, the Chinese authorities tampered with the demography of the region by ordering millions of Chinese to migrate to that area, including the ethnic group of Han Chinese who, last week, attacked the Muslim Uighurs, killing at least 180, according to Chinese data!

Yet regardless of all this, in reality, the Islamic world feels no hostility towards China and there is no historical bitterness between the two. On the contrary, the Islamic world considers China sympathetic to its important causes, the Palestinian cause in particular. We are not exaggerating when we say that the Islamic world looks to the future in search of a revival of the old defence tradition that was wiped out with the collapse of the Soviet Union leaving the United States of America to dominate the Islamic world unilaterally. What happened in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and south Lebanon happened and China is certainly the strongest candidate to play that [defence] role, and to make it an enemy is to neglect a potential ally.

At the same time, despite China’s super strength, like its dishes, it is fragile. I do not intend to undervalue its enormous military and economic force; however, the Islamic world is crucial to China’s giant economy so any persistence in oppressing the Muslim Uighur minority or encouraging the Han Chinese majorities [to attack the Muslim minority] will jeopardize its economic interests. If governments in the Islamic world remain silent because of the aforementioned considerations, the Muslim nations are capable of boycotting Chinese goods. Those who managed to make Danish butter melt are capable of scratching Chinaware.