Once again, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has shown its unconditional support to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), despite the CCP’s massive persecution of Muslim people in Xinjiang – chiefly Uyghurs but also other Turkic minorities.
On August 17, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li met with an OIC delegation, saying the organization “symbolizes the unity and independence of Islamic countries and functions as the bridge for China to develop its relations with Islamic countries.” In turn, the OIC delegation praised China as “a great country that has scored remarkable achievements in its economic and social development” and noted the expectation that the OIC would “further expand its cooperation with China.”
This was not an aberration. In March 2019, at a meeting of the organization’s council of foreign ministers, the OIC adopted a resolution “commend[ing]” China’s efforts “in providing care to its Muslim citizens.” By contrast, the United Nations’ Human Rights Office has warned that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Of the 51 states that co-signed a letter to the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to voice their support for China’s policies in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 28 were members of the OIC. In the joint letter, the ambassadors commended China for its putatively effective counterterrorism and de-radicalization measures, and strong guarantee of human rights.
Chinese media and government statements have regularly and ostentatiously used statements by the OIC on Xinjiang to legitimize the state’s policies there, and fend off criticism. The Islamic organization’s lack of concern about the persecution of Muslims in China, and collaboration with the CCP, strengthened by agreements and official visits, is well publicized and promoted by Chinese authorities, including publishing road maps of this friendship.
The OIC’s decision to repeatedly turn a blind eye to the persecution of Muslims in China has sharply diminished the organization’s credibility, and the legitimacy of its member governments.
According to the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) spokesperson Dilxat Raxit. “The ‘re-education concentration camp’ measures that China is promoting are severely destroying the culture of the Uyghur people and their Islamic identity.” The WUC, based in Munich, Germany, and chaired by Dolkun Isa, is one of the most important organizations of the Uyghur diaspora.
Amid the CCP’s systematic persecution of Uyghurs, “and the widespread suppression of Uyghur language, culture, religion and identity,” Raxit added, the “OIC has not only kept silent until now, but also blindly catered to the propaganda of the Chinese authorities. In this way, OIC has become an accomplice to China’s propaganda machine in attempting to cover up its genocide, thus seriously violating the fundamental purpose of the organization.”
In December 2020, several Muslim groups protested against the OIC’s policy of appeasement, asking the bloc to speak out against China’s persecution of Muslims. It is noteworthy that this appeal found its way unto Al Jazeera, arguably the most prominent voice of the Arab and Muslim world.
In October 2022, Human Rights Watch wondered whether the OIC “will […] remain conspicuously silent” on the United Nations Human Rights Council’s report on Xinjiang. The answer is yes: The OIC indeed remained silent about the report.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project, based in Washington, D.C., has published more than one dossier on the Muslim world’s support of China. UHRP co-founder Nury Turkel, a prominent Uyghur-American advocate and commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has often publicly denounced the situation. On March 23, Turkel gave his sixth testimony to the U.S. Congress on issues related to Uyghurs and China. In the “Recommendations” concluding his written statement, Turkel said that “[d]iplomatic efforts must be redoubled with member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to end the near-total silence by Muslim-majority countries regarding the genocide.”
It is legitimate to wonder why a prominent pro-Muslims organization such as the OIC never speaks on behalf of persecuted Muslims in China.
Founded in 1969, the intergovernmental organization is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and maintains permanent delegations to both the United Nations and the European Union. It includes 56 member states that are also members of the U.N., plus a 57th, Palestine, which is an observer at the U.N. Out of the total, 49 states have a Muslim majority population or are officially Muslim states. The OIC also has five observer states, including Russia. In sum, OIC members include almost 2 billion people, that is to say a quarter of the world population. The organization claims to be “the collective voice of the Muslim world.”
Why, then, should such an unrivaled pro-Muslim organization bless and support the persecution of Muslims in China? Is it because, as China’s read-out of the meeting between the OIC delegation and Vice Foreign Minister Deng openly said, the OIC “appreciates China’s contribution to supporting the economic and social development of Islamic countries”? But which kind of development can a persecutor of Islamic people bring to Islamic countries? Which reward does “the collective voice of the Muslim world” obtain in return for its refusal to speak up on behalf of voiceless Muslims?
With the blessing of OIC, the CCP gains legitimacy from the “good” Islamic world for its persecution of the “bad” Islamic Uyghurs, who are smeared as terrorists and extremists. Ironically, the OIC’s hypocrisy has seriously undermined the ideal and goal of international Muslim fraternity.