By INS Contributors

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The oppressive and discriminatory polices implemented by Chinese authourities is the leading cause of extremism namong the country’s Uyghur ethnic minority, a Muslim youth leader asserted at a forum on Saturday.

In his remarks at the “Tribunal Uighur - Mengapa & Apa Yang Perlu Kita Peduli?” (Uyghur Tribunal- Why And What We Need to Care About?), President of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz said oppression by Chinese authorities elicited an aggressive response from the Uyghurs and this in turn was used as the justification for further oppression against the ethnic minority.

“When talking about extremism, it is important to consider what causes extremism. Firstly is stereotyping. For example when we stereotype a group we call them dirty or other negative things, this creates hatred towards this group. We have seen this before, Israel stereotypes against the Palestinians, China stereotypes against the Uyghurs and others, Myanmar against the Rohingya. When you have these stereotypes it leads to hatred, hatred against the Rohingya, the Uyghurs etc,” he explained.

“Hatred gives way to discrimination. They use this hatred to justify discrimination. This in turn leads to oppression and then this causes extremism. And this causes escalation. Those who are oppressed will of course retaliate.

“What is wrong to allow people to practice their faith freely? When the Uyghurs are not allowed to fast (for Ramadan), not allowed to grow beards and other religious practices and this will create aggressive responses from the Uyghurs. It is not just about terrorism. We need to deal with the root cause of terrorism,” he added.

Muhammad Faisal also panned any official or managed visit organised by Chinese authorities for foreign visitors to “see for themselves” that the Uyghurs are infact being treated daily and not being discriminated against.

He noted that Chinese authorities had refined their methods and used a number of unspoken rules and silent policies to oppress the Uyghurs: “We have been asked why we don't visit China to see for ourselves but we have said it will be a "supervised visit" coordinated for security reasons.

“For us it is a set up. But ABIM we have our ways and we have had activists who have visited Xinjiang. In Xinjiang they have big mosques with minarets and speakers but there is an unwritten rule that for the Azan, you must not use the speaker, it's just for show,” he said.

Muhammad Faisal also noted that while people are allowed to pray in mosques, this is restricted to only certain people, usually the elderly with the young being prohibited from participating.

“It is an unwritten rule that only the old can pray. That is a strategy, that when these old people die there will be no one left to pray at the mosque. These are the strategies, the silent oppression that people do not see and that is why we reject these supervised trips,” he said.

He also warned against attempts to muddy the waters of the fact that the Ugyhurs are facing systemic oppression and even elements of cultural and actual genocide as Chinese authourities attempt to suppress their cultural and religious identity.

“Even though this issue is not a new one, it has been going on for decades, and there are even claims of it being a "false" narrative we feel this is not a reason to become weary. Some irresponsible quarters say it is a hoax. The narrative of the Chinese government is that this is a false claim of the West or UN.

“The tribunal was conducted in a fair and transparent manner with witnesses allowed to present their facts and testimonies. Despite all this the Chinese government which was given the opportunity to participate, chose not to and instead criticised the tribunal and its findings,” he said.

Despite all that has happened, Muhammad Faisal said activists campaigning for the rights and dignity of the Uyghurs must not fall into the same trap and that the struggle is for humanity, not against the Chinese people.

“We are not anti-China. When the COVID-19 pandemic first started ABIM was the first NGO to meet with the Chinese embassy and deliver a letter of sympathy. We care about the Chinese people during the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. It is our love towards humanity that leads us to speak out,” he said.

“While we might talk about the Uyghurs it is not just a Muslim issue. It is about humanity. It is not just about atrocities against Uyghurs but about atrocities against Christians, Tibetians and we can see a lot of atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese government. We are not anti-China. We love the people of China and we love all people who love peace and respect human dignity,” he added.

The forum was jointly organised by ABIM, Malaysia4Uyghurs (M4U) and Global Peace Malaysia with several speakers including M4U President Zuhri Yuhyi, prominent human rights lawyers Usha Kulasegeran and Andrew Khoo and Association of NexGen of Christians of Malaysia advisor Jason Leong participating in the forum.

British lawyer, Geoffrey Nice who chairs the Uyghur Tribunal, participated virtually to deliver his opening remarks. Nice, is well-known for his role as prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević for crimes against humanity.

The tribunal was established in June 2020, following the request of Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an advocacy group. Its purpose was to investigate crimes against humanity and genocide under international law, allegedly perpetrated by the Chinese state against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims in north-western China.