A delegation consisting of more than 30 Islamic figures and scholars from 14 countries began their visit from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far northwest of China.
Xinjiang is a predominately Muslim province of China from where often news of persecution of Muslims is reported in the western media.
The Western media narrative is, “China’s Xinjiang policy has included intrusive surveillance, religious restrictions, the destruction of mosques, arbitrary arrests, and the detention of an estimated 1.8 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in a vast network of internment camps and prisons. Some have been subjected to sexual assaults, forced labor, and forced sterilizations.”
In order to counter this narrative an Islamic delegation that compromised of members from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina visited the Xingjiang region.
The purpose of the delegation was to have a better understanding of the ground-level situation of the region and come up with a finding that is in contrast to the US-led smear campaign against China persecuting its Muslims in the Xingjian province.
The delegation was led by Ali Rashid Abdullah Ali Alnuaimi, the former foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates and currently Chairman of the World Muslim Communities Council, who after the meeting with the officials said that the concept of targeting Muslims or Islamic civilization has never been part of Chinese civilization trait. China has never been anti-Islam or sided with the forces which are working against Islam, Ali said.
He added, “it is some anti-China forces that have indulged in a smear campaign on the persecution of the Muslims in the Xingjian region that needs to be exposed and it is his responsibility to tell the world, the other side of the story.
Dr. Osama Sayyid Al Azhari, the Egyptian President’s Advisor on Religious Affairs said “I believe that this visit demonstrates that China has attached great significance to preserving the ethnic culture with racial distinctions of many nationalities in Xinjiang province.”
Dr. Mustafa Ceric, former Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina said “What we’ve heard outside China surely has a bias. I’d say Muslim communities in China include more than Uygurs and there’re more than ten Muslim groups such as Hui and Mongolian and others in the region.”
In addition to meeting with the officials, the delegation also visited an exhibition on the fight against terrorism and extremism. The exhibition showed how the three forces of separatism, extremism, and terrorism have plagued the Xingjian region from 1990 to 2016.
The Xinjiang region was a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism and extremism in China. Several thousand acts of terrorism, including bombings, assassinations, and riots, documented in the past two decades were displayed at an exhibit to the visiting delegation of top Islamic figures and scholars.
“I think that what we saw here in the exhibition reflected what actually happened on the ground… anyone coming to visit the region should come and see this… It is not only China but the whole world that has suffered from terrorism and extremism” Ali Alnuaimi said.
“It is for a long time, we have heard US and Western narratives that described China’s counter-terrorism measures as oppressing ethnic Muslims,” Ali said. “We should not play political games and apply double standards when countering terrorism and extremism. The threat from extremism and terrorism is not a threat to one single nation or single region but to the entire world,” he added
The delegation also went to the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and some mosques in the capital Urumqi. The institute covers an area of 50,000 square meters with an investment of USD 41.1 million. It includes a teaching building, a library, a gym, playgrounds canteens, dormitories, and also a mosque. The institute offers systematic education and training and finds employment, increases incomes, and most of all safeguards social stability and long-term peace in the region.
“We are impressed to see the institution’s new and unique compound and were amazed by the elegant design of the prayer hall, I feel Muslims can feel the aroma of peace, the moment they step in here,” said Mestaoui Mohammad Slaheddine, advisor to the Tunisian Prime Minister and also secretary general of the Supreme Islamic Council.
The statements by the delegation members have sparked widespread anger from Uyghurs abroad and a strong reaction from US-based Muslim organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations and Justice for All. Maya Wang, associate director in the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, said the Chinese government has used Muslim governments and Islamic scholars to whitewash its abuses.