Current Affairs 3
OIC, the Uighurs (also spelt as Oyghurs), and Kashmir – How OIC cowers before the Chinese for commercial gains
OIC is the acronym for Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It is a body of some 57 Islamic countries, who strive to plead for preservation of Islamic interests around the world. Founded in 1969 in Rabat, Morocco, it is the second largest organization of countries, next only to the United Nations. The total population of these 57 states is a staggering 1.8 billion.
From time to time, OIC has spoken about the sufferings of Muslims in different places around the world, such as Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Bosnia, Turkish Cyprus, Kosovo, and Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite a façade of unity of purpose, and its vast reach and size, the OIC has not been able to make any impact in shaping the geo-political climate of the world. The squabble among the members is more visible to outside observers, than its cohesiveness and convergence of purpose. Quite understandably, OIC resolutions fail to make much impact on world politics.
When it comes to castigating the western nations, Israel, Sebia etc., the members jump to their feet and pass very stinging resolutions. Pakistan routinely raises Kashmir matter in OIC, and gets a strongly-worded declaration vilifying India passed unanimously. Only in 2018, this trend was reversed, when Pakistan kept away and India’s minister for External Affairs, Mrs. Sushama Swaraj attended the meeting as an invitee. Prime minister Modi’s assiduous befriending of some important Islamic countries got India this invitation, much to the Chagrin of Pakistan.
OIC and the Chinese action in Xinjiang province
Xinxiang is the northwestern border province of China having a large Uyghur population. The Uyghurs constitute 45% of the population and the Han ethnic group making up 40%. Over the last few decades, The Communist government in Beijing has aggressively promoted large scale induction of people of the Han ethnicity into Xinxiang, thus disturbing the demography of the state. The policy has understandably caused considerable heartburn among the native Uighurs who, being practicing Muslims, have their distinct educational, cultural, and religious practices. In great many ways, they are more aligned to Turkey, than to China. However, such bonding with Turkey is more sentimental, than political.
In the recent years, the province has been rocked by terror attacks apparently staged by militant Uighur groups. This has triggered a massive military crackdown by the Chinese authorities. They ascribe the Uighur resistance to the traditional madrasa-based education most Uyghur children receive. The Chinese suspect that such antiquated education indoctrinates the Uighurs right from their childhood, and creates hurdles in their assimilation with mainstream Chinese life.
To counter the influence of their religious and tradition-bound values that tempts them to be inimical to the government in Beijing, and their penchant to seek redress through militancy, the Chinese government has started a massive ‘re-education’ programme for the Uighur people. Large prison-type facilities have been built to keep the Uighur community for fairly long periods. The inmates are temporarily uprooted from their homes and villages under duress to stay in the government-run camps. During such forced confinement, the inmates are taught Chinese culture, History, and the Chinese ethos. They study modern science, and acquire skills that make them job-worthy. Through cleverly-designed pedagogy, they are made to treat their Islamic upbringing as regressive and unsuitable for modern age. In short, the re-education drive leads to erasing of Islamic values from Uyghur minds – at gun point.
The photographs of the detention centers, and the life inside is known now to the outside world. Even reporters from the BBC, and even a delegation from the OIC were taken on a guided tour to the internment camps. Quite curiously, the OIC that cries from the rooftop whenever any non-Islamic country transgresses on the religious rights of its Muslim citizens, has chosen to protest the Chinese action in a very mild and muted way – almost amounting to acquiescence.
The Chinese crack-down on the Uighur militancy has its logic, but compulsory detention and re-education of hundreds and thousands of people of this ethnic group is repugnant to universally accepted human rights, and more specifically to Islamic rights of the Uighurs. Is the OIC representing the Islamic world reluctant to take on the might of the Chinese? The answer is, tragically, yes.
China buys oil from the Arab countries and Iran. So, China is a valued customer whose feathers must not be ruffled, at any cost.
India too, being a large buyer of crude also has this leverage, but then India is a democracy, and has more Muslims than Pakistan. The time has come for India to tell the OIC to see the Pakistani hand in Kashmir unrest, and desist from passing sweeping resolutions on Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan. Unilateral declarations of such type undercut the credibility of the OIC.