The Palestinian cause is a deeply rooted issue with far-reaching implications. As global solidarity movements emerge to address the plight of oppressed communities, it is important to acknowledge that not all communities find themselves in a position to support or align with each other.
I hope to shed light on one particular perspective by addressing why the Uyghur community — facing its own existential struggle in East Turkestan — might face challenges in unconditionally supporting the Palestinian cause.
While recognising that this perspective does not apply universally to all individuals or groups, I also aim to shed light on the influence of funding sources, power dynamics, and geopolitical considerations that impact their stance.
I will also delve into the reasons why Muslim-majority states may be reluctant to provide financial support to the Uyghur community.
Palestine and East Turkestan
Understanding the historical and geopolitical dynamics surrounding both the Uyghurs and Palestinians is crucial.
The Uyghur struggle stems from the systematic persecution they face at the hands of the Chinese government, which undermines their cultural, religious, and demographic identity, and right to independence.
Palestinians have also faced similar systematic persecution from foreign occupiers since before the state of Israel was declared. However, they have had much more international support since then, and have been involved in an ongoing struggle with Israel relating to regaining their territories, sovereignty, and religious rights.
While the bulk of Uyghur Muslims love and support the Palestinians, and other causes of the Ummah, there are, sadly, many Uyghurs who are being put in a situation where they are unable to fully support Palestinians publicly.
Pragmatism is a sad reality in politics
“When your house is on fire, you don’t bother to ask who is bringing water.”
Engaging in international politics often requires making pragmatic decisions in order to effectively advocate for a cause.
For the Uyghurs, maintaining diplomatic relations with countries and organisations — including Israel — provides a platform to raise awareness about their plight and gain support to end genocide.
This sometimes puts Uyghurs in an unfair position balancing political sensitivities, which can limit their ability to publicly align with the Palestinian cause.
The Uyghur issue receives international attention and support from a diverse range of actors, including states, international organisations, and civil society groups. However, some of these actors, including certain countries in the Middle East that support Palestine, whilst simultaneously maintaining close ties with China.
In this complex political landscape, it becomes challenging for Uyghur advocates to openly attach themselves to any political cause that may potentially disrupt this quagmire of interests and alliances.
The message they’re effectively getting is,
“Shut up about Palestine, or we’ll let China finish you off.”
While Palestinians advocate for their rights through various means, including grassroots movements and political mobilisation, Uyghur advocacy often relies on international legal frameworks, public awareness campaigns, and diplomatic pressure.
The strategies employed by each community stem from their unique circumstances and goals, making it challenging for Uyghurs to fully immerse themselves in Palestinian advocacy activities.
Financial support and complex power dynamics
The funding received by Uyghur advocacy groups plays an undeniable role in shaping their positions and focus.
Some Uyghur organisations have received financial support from governments like the United States, as well as pro-Israeli organisations.
These financial ties create an inherent conflict, as they exert pressure to align with the interests and narratives of those funders, potentially compromising the groups’ ability to fully support the Palestinian cause.
Uyghur advocacy groups, therefore, navigate a complex international political landscape while seeking support for their own plight. This reality places them in a precarious position, often relying on broader partnerships to achieve their objectives.
This situation needs to change
Some Uyghur organisations maintain diplomatic support from countries and organisations that also maintain close relations with Israel. This creates a challenge in openly supporting Palestinians, as it may disrupt these diplomatic relationships, collaborations, and potential aid.
The Uyghur cause is predominantly a Muslim cause, and if Uyghur advocacy groups had stronger connections and funding from Muslim-linked organisations or Muslim-majority states, their approach to Palestinian liberation would indeed be different.
Such support could foster deeper bonds of common struggle and shared values, resulting in stronger solidarity and advocacy for Palestinians, from a truly Islamic perspective of divine justice for everyone; not based on national or geopolitical interests of competing superpowers.
However, financial and diplomatic support from these sources may be limited due to myriad political and diplomatic considerations that influence their decision-making.
In the realm of geopolitics, countries often prioritise achieving their national interests and maintaining “regional stability”.
When it comes to Uyghur-related issues, this can lead Muslim-majority states to adopt a cautious approach as they consider their broader relationships with China. Various factors, such as diplomatic alliances, geopolitical concerns, and maintaining stability within their own borders, can limit their willingness to extend support to the Uyghur community.
Engaging in support for the Uyghurs may trigger economic or political repercussions from China, for example.
Given China’s significant global influence and its growing economic leverage, Muslim-majority states may be reluctant to risk jeopardising their economic ties and potentially harming their countries’ financial stability.
The fear of potential sanctions, trade disruptions, or diplomatic tensions influences their decisions and restrains their ability to actively support the Uyghurs.
Reluctance of Muslim states to openly support Uyghurs
Instead, many Muslim-majority states prefer to address sensitive issues, including human rights concerns, through diplomatic channels and negotiations rather than through direct financial support.
These states may express their concerns about the treatment of Uyghurs privately, or advocate for diplomatic solutions, while maintaining economic relations with China.
Uyghur advocacy groups are often engaged in a delicate balancing act. While grappling with their own struggle for survival, they must also navigate international politics and the expectations of their funders. These dynamics shape their decision-making and ability to lend unwavering support to other causes, such as the Palestinian cause.
What is the solution?
It is crucial to acknowledge the complexities and diverse perspectives within global solidarity movements. All of the suffering limbs of the Ummah deserve all our support. However, there are different solutions for different people.
Strategy is key
Those within a specific movement or political bind need to create a strategy where they can eventually free themselves from dancing to the tune of the powers that align with their interests.
They need to be courageous but, at the same time, not fall into recklessness. Strategy is key.
Understanding is key
Those with the freedom to advocate for all causes need to continue to advocate for all, but also have empathy with those who are in a difficult situation, balancing their own survival with the survival of others.
Pray that Allah does not put you in such a position, and do not condemn your fellow Muslims from afar, if you don’t know their situation. Understanding is key.
Those who do not have the freedom to advocate for all causes must advocate for the causes they do have the ability to advocate for, whilst working towards a strategy for their own liberation and empowerment. If they are unable to advocate publicly for something, they should never end up ignoring — or worse, harming — the cause. The least they can do is hate what is happening in their hearts and continuously make du’ā for Allah to make a way out for them and their brethren.
We must all work towards building the Ummah’s own institutions, solidarity, causes, and movements that are based on our own terms. If Uyghurs found diplomatic and financial support for their survival from the Ummah, for example, then pro-US or pro-Zionist sources would cease to have us in a stranglehold. If Muslim countries were strengthened to a point where they were no longer slaves of China or the US, then those empires would cease to have them in a stranglehold.
The unfortunate situation we are in is not the fault of any one of us, but a duty of the entire Ummah to be united and leading on its own agenda.
Be a part of that.