Jan 2, 2022 - World

Muslims in the West embrace the Uyghur cause

Illustration of a holding an Islamic crescent stylized in the Uyghur flag colors.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the past year, Muslim organizations in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and elsewhere have become outspoken advocates for Uyghur Muslims, who are experiencing genocide at the hands of the Chinese government.

The big picture: Governments of many Muslim-majority countries have faced criticism for their silence in the face of China's repression, but Muslim citizens are organizing and speaking loudly about the issue.

  • As the Uyghur genocide has gained more international prominence over the past year, the fate of a once little-known ethnic group is becoming an issue of global concern.

What's happening: In September, more than 40 Muslim organizations in the U.S. and abroad announced a boycott of Hilton, after reports that a planned hotel in Xinjiang would be built atop a demolished mosque.

  • In December 2020, more than 70 Muslim student associations around the world and dozens of Uyghur groups wrote an open letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), comprised of 57 member states, urging them to denounce China's abuses.
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy groups, regularly sends out press releases highlighting new reporting on the Uyghur situation in China and demanding action by U.S. lawmakers and the international community.

What they're saying: "It’s important that all American Muslims stand together in fighting this genocidal campaign," Robert McCaw, government affairs director at CAIR, said in an interview with Axios.

  • Uyghur Americans have also been impacted by the genocide, making this an issue directly related to American Muslim communities, McCaw said.
  • "A number of Muslim governments, though, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, have been silent on this issue," he added. "Thus it is our responsibility as Muslim citizens and organizations to demand justice and accountability for Uyghurs in China."

Go deeper: Jewish groups urge Biden to take action on Uyghur genocide

Go deeper