Note: In the preparation of this article, FWI reached out to all organizations mentioned in it. No responses were forthcoming.
For all their talk about defending the rights of Muslims against “Islamophobic” oppression, prominent Islamist organizations in the United States have remained silent regarding the misdeeds of the Chinese government, which Amnesty International reports has subjected hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims to “mass internment and torture.” In addition to conducting a massive surveillance campaign against the community, the regime has been credibly accused of forcing Uighur Muslim women, whose husbands are detained in internment camps, to share beds with members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Given these outrages, one would expect American Muslims to march in the streets en masse, protesting outside of Chinese consulates, and enlisting their political allies to promote boycotts against companies that manufacture goods in the country. Nothing like this has taken place. Instead, we see website posts, webinars, and policy statements in campaigns targeting French “Islamophobia,” Israeli “apartheid,” and Qur’an burnings in Denmark and Sweden.
Why? Evidence suggests the close connection between US-based Islamist organizations, and states and movements with close ties to China, including Turkey and the Jamaat-e Islami movement in Pakistan. In 2021, China exported more than $3 trillion worth of goods to countries throughout the world and imported more than $2 trillion worth of goods, making it the second most economically powerful country in the world after the United States.
Some sporadic action on behalf of the Uighurs has occurred. The highwater mark for US Islamist activism on their behalf came in 2020 when the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) hosted a virtual press conference in promoting a letter condemning the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) failure to condemn China’s oppression of the Uighurs. The organization has said very little — if anything — about the crisis since then. USCMO did, however, organize an anti-Israel march attended by 35,000 people in 2020.
That same year, USCMO called on Muslims to “boycott France economically and censure it politically until it rescinds its new tyrannical law of ‘separatism,’ which nakedly justifies targeting Islam and Muslims alone in France.” While it called for a boycott of France for its “Islamophobia,” USCMO didn’t call for a boycott of goods from China, where Muslims are infinitely worse off, in its 2020 letter. It did, however, come out with a vocal condemnation of America’s July vote against the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution about Qur’an burnings in Sweden, declaring that there are limits to free speech, exactly the same line China uses in its anti-Western propaganda.
USCMO is viewed by experts as a front group for Türkiye’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has stifled efforts to hold China accountable for its violence against the Uighurs for economic reasons. Therefore, its relative silence on China’s mistreatment of the Uighurs comes as no surprise.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has also remained largely silent about the oppression of the Uighurs in China. It did publish one article (authored by an intern) about the issue in late 2022. By way of comparison, MPAC displays at least a dozen entries on its website about the alleged mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. In fact, MPAC’s website, which has more than 1,000 references to Israel and approximately sixty references to Qur’an burnings, has a category of entries devoted to the Palestinians, but not for the Uighurs.
The Musim American Society (MAS), which federal prosecutors have described as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America,” exhibits a similar tendency to give China’s mistreatment of the Uighurs short shrift. The organization, which has declared its solidarity with Asians in the United States in a statement issued in 2021, has posted next to nothing about the Uighurs on its website, the exception being a link to a webinar about the genocide. Predictably, there are numerous articles on the same website about the suffering of the Palestinians and an obligatory statement about Qur’an burnings on the site. Apparently, MAS leaders, who draw their inspiration from Hassan al Banna, the Hitler-praising founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that has assailed Europe for decades, simply lack the appetite to stand up to China.
The Islamic Circle of North America’s social justice division addressed the issue in two webinars and a YouTube video about the mistreatment of Uighurs in China. China itself merits about 30 mentions on its website but by way of comparison, the organization has 67 entries about “Palestine” on its website and 22 entries about France, many of them dealing with that country’s alleged “Islamophobia” problem. One explanation for ICNA’s lack of emphasis on the Uighur issue is its ties to the Pakistani jihadist organization Jamaat-e-Islami, which signed an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party in 2009.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, hosted a talk about China’s oppression of the Uighurs at its 2022 convention. But overall, its website is largely bereft links to information about the subject. Predictably, the same website has more than 200 links to articles and statements condemning Israel’s alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians. To its credit, condemnations of Islamist attacks make up a significant portion of ISNA’s website references to France, but there is more than 1,200 mentions of “Islamophobia” on ISNA’s site.
One organization that has brought the issue of China’s oppression of Uighurs front and center is the Council on American-Islamic relations, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood with a long history of promoting antisemitism — which it is now trying to whitewash. Its website is filled with hundreds of articles expressing outrage over China’s mistreatment of its Muslim population. It even has more entries about China’s mistreatment of the Uighurs than it does Qur’an burnings.
Despite the CAIR exception, American Muslim organizations ostensibly committed to human rights have given soft treatment to a regime that, in addition to brutally oppressing Uighurs, has rewritten the bible, destroyed thousands of monasteries in Tibet, (and forced those temples that remain to display images of CCP officials). The conclusion is inescapable. For all their bluster, these organizations are not independent actors on the American scene, but proxies of foreign powers who themselves are reliant on trade with China to keep their economies afloat.
Dexter Van Zile is managing editor of Focus on Western Islamism.