The Plight of the Uyghur People in the Holy Month of Ramadan

Throughout the Islamic world, Ramadan is a time of contemplation and renewal—of reaffirming one’s faith with fasting and prayer. But since 2014, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China the practice has been outlawed.

Muslim worshipers kneel on prayer carpets outside of Id Kah Mosque at the end of Ramadan in 2008, in Kashgar, Xinjiang. (Shutterstock | Pete Niesen)

The Uyghurs are a Muslim people culturally and ethnically much closer to their Central Asian neighbors of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan than to the Chinese. For more than a thousand years, caravans crossed through Xingjiang as they traveled the Silk Road from China to the West. The region was annexed and became part of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

In August 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took up the plight of Uyghurs in its the annual periodic report on China.

The UN Committee acknowledged “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.” The Committee pointed out “there is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political ‘re-education camps’ for even non-threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings. Estimates about them range from tens of thousands to upwards of a million.”

The U.S. Department of State in its annual human rights report has designated China as a country of particular concern every year since 1999.

Members of Congress have introduced a resolution and bills in both the House and the Senate (H.R. 7384 and S. 178) to address the persecution of Uyghurs in China. These pieces of legislation would encourage the Department of State to be more involved in providing assistance to the Uyghur region, increasing the documentation of human rights violations, and calling out American corporations that have been complicit in such abuses.

From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.

The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.

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China Uyghur