For the past couple of years, the minority population of Uyghur Muslims in China has been a consistent target for the Chinese government. Whether it’s the ‘re-educational’ camps where Muslims are systematically ‘cleansed’ of their religion or razing of mosques to break the spirits of Muslims, the Chinese State has made their disdain towards the religion of Islam very clear. In a recent, possibly anti-Islam move, China has now turned a destroyed Uyghur mosque site into a public toilet in Suntagh village, Atush city in the Xinjiang, as reported by Radio Free Asia, a nonprofit corporation that broadcasts news to Asian countries where accurate news reports are unavailable.
In 2016, the Chinese Communist Party had issued directives to destroy Muslim places of worship naming it the ‘Mosque Rectification’ plan, the scheme was driven by the CCP’s fears of Islam spreading religious extremism and creating disregard for the State. As part of this directive, China destroyed the Tokul Uyghur mosque, which now has a toilet built on its site, along with few other mosques in the same area.
In an interview by Radio Free Asia (RFA), Uyghur neighborhood committee chief from Suntagh village in Atush said the mosque was demolished in 2018 and now the “Han comrades” have constructed a toilet in its place. “It’s a public toilet … they haven’t opened it yet, but it’s built,” he added.
Upon asking if there was a requirement for a public toilet, he said, “People have toilets at home, so there weren’t any problems like that.” It is unlikely that it’s for tourists as Suntagh is located around 3 kilometers outside central Astush, which isn’t considered to be a tourist spot.
He suspects that the government of China only constructed the toilet to cover up the ruins of the destroyed Tokul Uyghur mosque and to cater to the inspection teams that sometimes visit the area. The chief also said it was unclear how many people the restroom was built to accommodate.
“It’s still closed, so I haven’t even been inside,” he told the RFA.
An unnamed resident of the village told the RFA that Azna mosque, another mosque in the area was converted into a convenience store that sold alcohol and cigarettes. A low blow to the Muslim community as both items are usually frowned upon in Islam. The only mosque that remains is the Teres Mosque, though in an abysmal condition.
The razing of Uyghur mosques in China or ‘mosque rectification’ campaign
The Chinese State is systematically targeting mosques since 2016; a 2019 report claimed that the State’s ‘mosque rectification’ campaign uses geolocation among other techniques to destroy mosques and have destroyed of over 14,000 mosques, shrines and other religious sites between 2016 and 2019. The report titled “Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghurs Mosques and Shrines” was published by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) based in Washington.
The reason behind the mass-destruction of mosques serves as a “spirit breaking” tactic aimed at the Uyghur Muslims, according to Qahar Barat, an Uyghur historian. In his interview with RFA, he urged all Muslim organizations in the world to take serious action against China’s activities, which he believes is an overt “declaration of war on Islam”.
Apart from destroying Muslim shrines, mosques, and cemeteries, the Chinese state has been accused of committing grave human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province as well.
The Chinese state is systematically ‘cleansing’ Muslims of their religion through camps
OpIndia reports that Uyghurs are often forced to stay in concentration camps, euphemistically called ‘re-education’ camps which started in 2017. According to an Al Jazeera report, more than a million Uighur population is estimated to be in these re-education camps, and in some cases, half of the entire village, townships are kept in these concentration camps.
These camps are created to force Muslims to renounce Islam, criticize Islamic ideology, and reaffirm their support to the Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. Muslims residing there are also forced to eat pork and drink alcohol which is considered taboo in Islam.
A woman, who is a former detainee of such a camp, recalls her experiences saying that she was made to repeat lines such as “My soul is infected with serious diseases. There is no God. I don’t believe in God. I believe in the Communist Party.”
Kayrat Samarkan, who was in a re-education camp in 2017 tells the Globe and Mail, that to test the detainees’ commitment, camp leaders sometimes perform a cruel test on inmates to see if they’re indoctrinated against Islam or not, they would do this by putting prayer calls out on the loudspeaker.
Anyone who answers to it or is woken up is taken away for stricter re-education. OpIndia reports that the treatment to ‘cleanse’ them off Islamic ideologies uses physical and psychological force and in some cases, even pills and medications are provided to the inmates.
Muslims can get sent to these camps even on account of growing a long beard
Initially, the State used to target the extremists and Jihadi elements among the Uyghur community, however, recently even manifestations of Muslim identity such as growing a long beard can send an Uyghur to concentration camps.
In another instance, a Muslim woman was sent to a concentration camp for fashioning long hair instead of the modern short-hair look. Other reasons why Muslims can get sent to these camps are missing compulsory flag-raising ceremonies or failing to speak Chinese.
The concentration camps bear a dark resemblance to the practices in the Nazi era and so does the language employed by Chinese authorities when speaking about Muslims.
Here is a small excerpt, “Members of the public who have been chosen for re-education [sic] have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient. … The religious extremist ideology is a type of poisonous medicine, which confuses the mind of the people. … If we do not eradicate religious extremism at its roots, the violent terrorist incidents will grow and spread all over like an incurable malignant tumor.”
Chinese authorities are blatantly comparing Islam to a pathological illness that infects Muslims and seem to have taken up the responsibility to ‘cure’ the Muslims of their ‘disease’.
To do so, their first measure is sending the ‘diseased’ to concentration camps until they renounce their religion but if that doesn’t work, they seem to be hinting that they will go to any extent to eradicate religious extremism. This could mean death for Muslims that are deemed incurable or ‘terminally ill’.
It’s not an overstatement to say that this could turn into a mass genocide over time. Muslims are already brutally tortured in the camps using techniques such as water-boarding, or tiger chairs that strap detainees into these metal chairs for hours and even days, depriving detainees of sleep, and immobilizing them until their legs and buttocks were swollen, what stops the State to commit mass murder, in the future?