“They force Muslims to eat pork”
“Muslims’ organs are being harvested AS WE SPEAK”
“More than 1 million Uyghurs are arbitrarily detained”
“caging 3 million Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang”
“China has imprisoned 5 million muslims”
“Upwards of 6 million Muslims are imprisoned in China”
“Up to 9 million Uyghurs are unaccounted for”
Wow. I remember that when I first came across this, I was outraged. I added Uyghurs to my list of mazloom Muslim groups I prayed for every Friday at least (Palestinians, Afghanis, Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis, Hazaras, Kashmiris, Rohingyas, and more). But as time wore on, I was forced to confront the reality: the Uyghur narrative is a case of literally unbelievable propaganda. Not to mention a glaring abuse of statistics, math, and sampling.
I came to this conclusion after living through the pandemic in Canada. Almost out of nowhere I was hit in the face, over and over and over again, with a simple message: China bad. China terrible! China horrible! But once I scratched the surface and clicked beyond the heavily editorialized headlines, I realized all this bombast was meant to distract us from our own frankly horrifying plight under the domination of monied interests. As I write this now in May 2021, Wuhan and Hubei have been free from their lockdowns for a year. We’re on lockdown number X — I’ve lost count. I’ve lost hope in Canada’s ability to take care of its citizens. I’ve lost what little faith I had in our media to speak truth to us. And I’m concerned that despite decades being the bêtes noirs of the West, we Muslims are suddenly swallowing anything the West, in particular the US, tells us.
Which brings us to this essay. In it, I’ll try to chart my personal journey grappling with a baffling reality — that Muslims still listen to the US and Western media as if they cared about us, or about the truth.
I started out by doing some independent research. And Subhanallah. No really. Subhanallah. Subhanallah in every situation, of course, but really. Subhanallah.
This entire Uyghur narrative is riddled with inconsistencies, untruths, and malicious intent.
1It is pushed by the US and the west — those noted defenders of Muslims. Frequently featured: think-tanks and media linked to weapons manufacturers and to the literal CIA. I’d say the Iranians got it right — US is indeed the Shaitan e buzurg.
2 It relies on frankly terrible and unscientific extrapolations, leaps of faith, and bad faith translations. And it’s not a one-off. You have people using estimates that come from a handful of interviews (eight, to be exact), misleading translations of Chinese, misplacements of decimal points, mislabeling reversible IUD treatments as straight up sterilization, and mischaracterizations of high schools and apartment buildings as genocidal camps.
3 It depends heavily on the testimony of a few witnesses. This testimony is unprovable, unreliable, unstable, and constantly changing, but it tugs at heart strings all the same. In a post Iraq-invasion world (with hits like the fraudulent Nayirah testimony used to drum up support for the 1991 invasion of Iraq and human shredders pre the 2003 invasion) plus recent examples like Gaddafi Viagra rapists leading to open air slave markets now, I’m sorry, but I need a bit more verification. Plus, Uyghur testimony seems to change all the time, e.g. those who in 2018 said they witnessed mental violence alone suddenly remembered public gang-rapes in 2021, among other changes. Witness testimony is important, and often the only thing we have. However, I’d suggest reading deeply, asking for proof of accusations overheard, and listening to a variety of sources to get a complete picture.
4 It actively suppresses eyewitness testimony from Uyghurs and others that contradicts the dominant narrative. It’s so easy to say “Oh these 2021 Eid celebrations are actually [forced/paid for/forbidden]” (choose one). Or “These Uyghur girls talking about the Xinjiang they live in are clearly delusional”. Perhaps “This Australian who’s lived in China and has visited Xinjiang multiple times is just a liar”. And of course, who can forget “The millions of domestic tourists who go to Xinjiang every year are just coordinating their stories to defend the CPC’s reign of terror”.
5 It brings out the classics — satellite images are back in vogue! It’s amazing to see how high schools, just because they have guards and barbed wire, become concentration camps in the fever dreams of Western propagandists. Just an FYI — after the terror attacks and general worsening of the security situation in Pakistan, guards, barbed wire, and other annoyances and indignities in schools and universities were (and are) common.
6 It posits that China is uniquely anti-Muslim and is full of malicious sadists who hate Muslims (but only Uyghur Muslims and not other Chinese Muslims). Which makes even less sense when you compare China to the US or to India. It’s amazing. Suddenly, the same people who killed a million Muslims in Iraq and 200,000 in Afghanistan and whose actions led to the appearance of open-air slave markets in Libya are the defenders of Muslims. Yeah, right.
7 It actively breaks (already scarce, sadly) pan-Ummah solidarity by denigrating Muslim countries, who (after investigation!) believe China, as sell-outs. Just because you fall for US propaganda does not mean they do. Pakistan is a typical target of this — we’ve evidently sold our souls for Chinese investment. Thanks for your faith in us, guys. However, there’s a slight problem. The Pakistani establishment is also simultaneously smeared as in bed with extreme right-wing elements. Schrödinger’s Pakistan — simultaneously both religious nutjobs but also greedy sellouts who care not a whit for religion. So, which one is it?
Anyway, there’s an absolute mountain of rebuttals and fact-checks available: Here’s a few good ones:
- Muslim/Palestinian media on pro-Israel Muslims who are also all in on the China ‘genocide’ and the problems therein,
- A diaspora Chinese collective with an exhaustive and well-sourced report and resource compilation on Xinjiang,
- The Grayzone with a deep dive into the data abuse behind the lies, damned lies, and statistics at the heart of this propaganda,
- Redsails with a critical overall view of how this is an atrocity propaganda blitz trying to cover up the glaring holes in western narratives,
- Caitlin Johnstone on the only sane response to any narrative being promoted by Western intelligence agencies,
- and if you’re a video person: American debunking western propaganda on Uyghurs and XJ.
But this essay is about my journey as a Muslim to reconcile what I was told with what I found out.
Firstly, we have some lessons to learn from Hz Musa and his story in Surah Qasas (15–19):
And he entered the city at a time when its people were not watching: and he found there two men fighting, one of his own religion, and the other, of his foes. Now the man of his own religion appealed to him against his foe, and Moses struck him with his fist and made an end of him. He said: “This is a work of Evil (Satan): for he is an enemy that manifestly misleads!”
He said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged my soul, so forgive me. Then He forgave him. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.
He said: “O my Lord! For that Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace on me, never shall I be a help to those who sin!”
So he saw the morning in the city, looking about, in a state of fear, when behold, the man who had, the day before, sought his help called aloud for his help (again). Moses said to him: “Thou art truly, it is clear, a quarrelsome fellow!”
Then, when he decided to lay hold of the man who was an enemy to both of them, that man said: “O Moses! Is it thy intention to slay me as thou slewest a man yesterday? Thy intention is none other than to become a powerful violent man in the land, and not to be one who sets things right!”
I would argue that we Muslims are used to having each other’s backs. But sometimes, like Hz Musa here, we should be careful to make sure we are supporting the right party. I’d be very reluctant to support the ETIM (thread with some of their most hateful hits) and Uyghur separatists who may be lying to get Muslim support but are definitely partnering with people who have made their disdain and hatred for Muslims clear. I don’t blame the Uyghurs for dealing with the devil to advance their interests. But I do mind when they weaponize our automatic empathy and compassion and love for our fellow Muslims.
As the Quran says clearly in Surah Nisa (Ayat 135)
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
Muslims must be on the side of justice, not automatically on the side of the first Muslims we happen to hear from. After all, it’s worth asking who put those particular witnesses in front of us. The Prophet instructs us to help both the oppressed and the oppressor of our brothers, but the oppressor only by preventing him from oppressing others (Sahih Bukhari, 2444).
And so, we need to verify the information that comes to us. The Quran says, in Surah Hujarat (Ayat 6):
O ye who believe! If a wicked person (faasiq) comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.
I would argue that the US and its lackeys and its instruments of propaganda, including Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe, the myriad human rights NGO’s that care not a whit for Muslims in Afghanistan but so so much in neighbouring Xinjiang, the weapons manufacturers and the think tanks they fund, Adrian Zenz and the Victims of Communism… all of them are faasiq. We should always ascertain the truth, lest we harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what we have done.
We come from a tradition where the truth matters. Would Imam Bukhari accept this witness testimony that changes constantly? Would hearsay from motivated separatists be acceptable information? Would what modern versions of Musailma Kazzab or Mir Jafar have to say be given any importance?
If such obviously weak testimony is not scrutinized but is instead given massive airtime and coverage in Western media, why should we believe every single person who comes and claims to have been victimized?
Also, as a general rule, it’s best we stop believing Western media. You can see the CLEAR bias when they cover Israel/Palestine, or literally any other Muslim issue. What on earth makes you think they’d cover anything else with honesty? Even now, with 65 Palestinian children killed in Gaza in a week, they are still talking about anti-Semitism (some more than they did after the 2018 synagogue massacre). Of all the Muslims in the world, Western media just happens to care deeply about Uyghur lives?
I wish my Uyghur brothers and sisters the best. I want them to be happy and secure and prosperous and developed and safe. And it gave me great happiness and relieved my worries to learn that in fact they are not being genocided. I’ll continue to pray for them — may their conditions be eased, and their genuine grievances be resolved. But I am not down with my consent being manufactured to make the new Cold War hot.
Here’s my request: stop spreading misinformation you have not looked into. Be like Imam Malik when he replied “I don’t know” 36 times out of 40. Uyghur issues are real and deserve attention. But using cheap propaganda tricks like passing Taiwanese BDSM sex dungeons as Chinese state run prisons, or sharing maliciously mistranslated and mislabled Tiktoks/douyin videos, or boosting grifters whose testimony changes all the time, is NOT the way to earn our trust and support.
This is not to say that there isn’t mistreatment or surveillance or discrimination or even abuse against Uyghurs in China. But there is no evidence of genocide — no fleeing refugees, no smoking guns, no vivid videos, just witness testimony from separatists and diaspora based four miles from the Pentagon, grainy misinterpreted satellite images, and a healthy dose of ‘just trust me bro’ everywhere– sparking déjà vu of the US invasion of Iraq. The recent ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah and the bombardment and murder rained upon Gaza showed that many if not most of those most fervent in their desire to protect the Uyghurs were silent when faced with far clearer, far more pressing, and objectively far more egregious violence against Muslim (and Christian) Palestinians. Calling it “Uyghur genocide” despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary is meant to shut down discussion, harm a growing competitor of the US, and advance Western foreign policy objectives.
What’s more, it hurts Uyghurs in China. It hurts them when their legitimate concerns can be dismissed as clear lies and fabrications, just like the boy who called wolf. It hurts them when they are denied employment and forced out of the economy precisely because Western media has (with literally no proof) tarred all of their work as slave labour. And it hurts them when their marginalized, disaffected, and unheard youths become targets for recruitment by extremist groups. I’ve seen that happen in Pakistan. I would hate for that to happen anywhere. If Muslims continue to swallow lies and propaganda made by our enemies, it will continue to happen.
I’m a practicing Muslim. I love my religion. I love how I can go into a mosque and immediately feel brotherhood — ikhwa/bhaichara with anyone there. I grew up inspired by the Sahaba and the Auliya and the caliphs and the prophets — I had 6 historic Muslim names shortlisted for any potential children/niblings from the age of 10, and felt aggrieved that I couldn’t use Abu Ubaydah or Abu Bakr since I didn’t feel comfortable saddling a newborn with a kunya that meant father of the servant of God or father of the goat. And this childlike sense of wonder for our history and faith remained as I grew older to be the kind of guy who would tell people next to me at the mosque that hey, it would be great if we could stand in a line — be that toes on the line or heel on the line (but really, heels on the line makes so much sense!). That said — I am far from a perfect Muslim. I try to console myself by saying even when I commit a sin — I know it is one, and I ask God for His forgiveness, and ask for strength and taufeeq. May Allah forgive us all and enter us into gardens beneath which streams flow. Ameen.
All this to say — I love my religion, I love my fellow Muslims, and I love (non-genocidal and non-evil) humanity. I’ve been called a CCP shill and a wumao but I’m just a normal Muslim. Sure do wish I got paid for telling the truth, though!
All that is good in what I have shared comes from Allah, and all that is bad comes from me, or from Shaitan mardood.
I pray that God guides me, and guides us all to the right path. May Allah bless us all.