The Alarming Crisis of the Uyghur Muslims in China


Imagine being denied breakfast because you messed up the lyrics to a nationalistic song or giving up the language you had grown up in because it is deemed as ‘threatening’ to the oppressive majority. Well, this is a reality in Northwestern China for Uyghur Muslims. This autonomous region of Xinjiang is known for having a Uyghur Muslim majority that have a bit of a rebellious spirit. Over the years, tensions between the Chinese Communist Party and the Uyghurs have grown due to the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the province, along with the Uyghurs seeking independence from China. These tensions have led to the Communist party trying to rid the province of Islamic inspirations, catching International attention. 

The Chinese government has such a strong control over Islam in the country because the government sanctions the Islamic Association of China, which is responsible for regulating the sermons Muslims are allowed to use in Mosques along with oversight on Pilgrimages and the translations of Islamic texts. The reasoning the Chinese government gives for these regulations is that they are trying to strengthen ‘national unity’. Furthermore, China passed the “Reinforcing and Improving Islam Work in the New Situation” directive in 2018 as an attempt to remove Arabic influences from Islam. For instance, Arabic-language schools have been banned from teaching religion or having international trips. The government has also destroyed domes and minarets on Mosques. Mosques that remain intact face the risk of being closed by the government. Arabic script cannot even be used in public. 

These methods of repression have expanded to the creation of re-education camps. The Associated Press published a database that listed many names of people who have been detained in these camps. Overwhelmingly, the reasons given for detainment range from praying to attending mosques, everyday activities of Uyghur Muslims. On top of this, the database keeps information of family and friends of those detained for easy access. This information can be used to watch these citizens closer because they may practice similar actions as the person detained. Detainee’s families are also given classifications on whether they are ‘trustworthy’ or not, in the eyes of the Chinese government.

Life in these camps is not easy. Reports from people released from the camps describe terrible conditions. Detainees must pledge their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and renounce Islam. The detainees are tortured and experience sleep deprivation, grueling interrogations, sexual assault, and forced abortions. They are forced to memorize nationalistic songs, with lyrics like “Without the Communist Party, there would be no new China”, and if they happen to forget the lyrics, they are denied food. When you ask any of the detainees why they are there, they all respond with similar sentiments: ‘they were infected by extremist thoughts and tried to spread it to others.’ 

China claims that these camps are optional, and detainees can petition the courts for their release. The Chinese government also claims that these camps teach Mandarin, Chinese government operations, and vocational education to combat extremism expressed through the terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. China released a White paper – a government report that gives information on an issue – arguing how many countries are applying unjust criticism on Xinjiang because they are holding the province to a double standard.

The world is divided on the actions China is taking against terrorism in this province. The UN has discussed these concerns and no consensus has been reached on the appropriateness of these actions. Thirty-five countries, mostly from the Middle East, signed a document in support of the actions taken, while twenty-two countries, primarily from the West, signed a document against China. 

Picture Credits:

Coca, Nithin. “Islamic Leaders Have Nothing to Say About China’s Internment Camps for Muslims.” Foreign Policy, 1 Jan. 7631,

Works Cited:

Al Jazeera. “China ‘War on Terror’ Uproots Uighur Families, Leaked Data Shows.” 

China News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 18 Feb. 2020,

“China Islamic Association”. China Muslim Tours, Islamic China Tours, China Muslim 

Holidays, China Halal Tours.,

“China Uighurs: Xinjiang Legalises ‘Re-Education’ Camps.” BBC News, BBC, 10 Oct. \ 2018,

Martin, Peter. “China Defends Detention of Muslims ‘Voluntarily’ Staying in Xinjiang Re- Education Camps.” The Japan Times, pacific/pressure-xinjiang-re-education-camps-china-defending-detention- 


Myers, Steven Lee. “A Crackdown on Islam Is Spreading Across China”. The New York 

Times, The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2019,

Walden, Max. “Xinjiang’s Uyghurs Were Enslaved and Forced to Convert to Islam, Chinese White Paper Claims.” World Uyghur Congress, 23 July 2019,