American hypocrisy in critiquing China's treatment of Muslims

American hypocrisy in critiquing China's treatment of Muslims
4 min read
04 October, 2019
How are the views and policy prescriptions of both Trump and Pompeo any different than those expressed by leaders in Beijing, asks CJ Werleman.
Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo had scolded Beijing for its persecution of Muslims [Getty]
"Beijing claims it is combating extremism. Praying to God is not extremism."

Jewher Ilham Tohti, daughter of renowned Uighur Muslim scholar Ilham Tohti, delivered these words to the 74th United Nations General Assembly at an event hosted by the Trump administration on religious freedom on Tuesday.

Seated on the panel next to her were US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who two days earlier had scolded Beijing for its persecution of Muslims and other religious minorities, accusing the Asian power of attempting "to erase its own citizens".

"Further on the subject of terrorism, I want to make clear that China's repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism. It's about China's attempt to erase its own citizens. ...We call on all countries to resist China's demands to repatriate the Uighurs," said Pompeo.

On the surface, both Pompeo and Trump are to be lauded for calling out and criticising Beijing's effort to wage what amounts to cultural genocide in Xinjiang, as upwards of three million Muslims are detained in a network of concentration camps.

But that the fate of China's Muslims has fallen upon the words and deeds of both men is the most damning indictment of the international community's refusal to pressure the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into ending what is now the largest scale persecution of a religious minority since the Holocaust.

In other words, the United States is striking the right message, but not with the right messengers.

Trump launched his political career on the back of anti-Muslim bigotry in falsely accusing the country's first black president – Barack Obama – of being a foreign born Muslim, and then there’s the fact that one of the first executive orders he put in place as president of the United States was a ban on Muslim migrants entering the country, which has now blocked more than 31,000 visitors and revoked the visas of another 60,000.

There are almost too many examples of Trump's hostility towards Islam and Muslims to count. He has claimed, "Islam hates us". He has falsely claimed he witnessed Muslims celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers during the attacks of 9/11. He has claimed, "There is a Muslim problem in the world". He has supported discriminatory surveillance measures against Muslims. He has said he's open to "closing mosques", and called for a Muslim identification database during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

There are many more examples of Trump vilifying adherents of the Islamic faith.

Then there's Mike Pompeo, who also established his political career on the back of demonstrating extreme hostility towards Islam and Muslims, once even holding all Muslims "complicit" for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

In fact, there's no other way to describe the current US Secretary of State than as someone who has long been at the centre of the "Islamophobia Industry" in the United States, having worked alongside and endorsed groups and individuals that have been identified by human rights organisations as "anti-Muslim hate groups".

Even more troubling is the fact Pompeo co-sponsored legislation to criminalise Muslims and Muslim organisations during his time as a member of the US congress, including a bill meant to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, which as JM Berger, a renowned terrorism expert, noted was about "controlling American Muslims, not with any issue pertaining to the Muslim Brotherhood in any practical or realistic sense".

In all seriousness, how are the views and policy prescriptions of both Trump and Pompeo any different than those expressed by CCP leaders in Beijing?

After all, Beijing also believes Islam to be a gateway to terrorism, and thus all Muslims worthy of suspicion and therefore surveillance, which explains why it has established a network of concentration camps to forcibly indoctrinate Muslims into renouncing their faith and accepting Communist-atheist ideology.

Why Muslim countries are turning their back on China's repressed Uighurs
Read also: Why Muslim countries are turning
their back on China's repressed Uighurs

That the United States is left to take the lead against China's crackdown on Muslims at the same time that the leaders of Muslim majority countries are torn between staying silent or endorsing Beijing is why the CCP succeeding in a lid on global condemnation of its crimes against humanity.

"Many, many governments are looking the other way and self-censoring on the issue of Xinjiang," Daniel R. Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Obama administration, told The New York Times.

"Beijing is notoriously prickly about its self-declared 'core interests', and a few countries are willing to put the economic benefits of good relations with China at risk – let alone find themselves on the receiving end of Chinese retaliation."

With newly leaked footage showing roughly 600 handcuffed, shackled, and blindfolded Uighur Muslims being transported to a concentration camp in Xinjiang, the time to apply meaningful pressure on Beijing has never been more urgent.

For this pressure to be meaningful, however, it must be applied by the right messenger, but certainly not the current administration of the United States.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman