A Look Into China’s Uyghur Muslims

Aliyah Sarmiento - Teen Aspect - July 26th, 2022
A demonstration in Brussels against China’s mass detention of Uyghurs (New York TImes, 2018)
 

Descended from ancient Turkic tribes, the Uyghurs are one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities and comprise less than 1% of China’s population. Mainly situated in Xinjiang province, the group has had previous tensions with the Chinese government due to conflict over land. [5]


As they derive a lot of their culture and beliefs from Islam, Uyghur Muslims are forbidden from eating alcohol and pork. Their diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meat dishes. Authentic meals include dishes with meats such as mutton and beef, often being eaten with Nang, a Uyghur flatbread.


Uyghur women usually wear one-piece dresses, silk scarves, and bright vests and roomy sleeves, while men don gowns with long scarves around the waist. They commonly associate silk with wealth and status, enjoy jewelry, and never leave their house without a cap, which they often adorn with beautiful designs and pictures.


Besides clothing, the Uyghur people have many other aspects in their lives that truly shows their rich culture. One of which is the Corban Festival, also known as the Sacrifice Festival, celebrated by them and other Muslim groups. They prepare special food, purchase new clothes, and tidy their houses for the valued occasion. Other customs include married Uyghur women being limited to only two braids and the practice of receiving gifts with both hands. To them, politeness and showing respect are important in their culture.[6]


Being a minority group, the Uyghurs are no strangers to underrepresentation and discrimination. However, with recent events, the livelihoods of the Uyghur Muslims and their rich culture have been jeopardized now more than ever.


Since 2016, leaked documentation revealing China’s horrific mass detaining of Uyghur Muslims has led the most populated country in the world to receive continuous accusations of genocide. According to multiple human rights groups, China has detained over a million Uyghurs against their will [1].


From heavy surveillance, interrogation, and cruel treatment to the Muslim minority, much evidence has gone against China’s initial dismissal of the camps’ existence. However, when images were released of the camps’ construction, with the inclusion of watchtowers and fences with barbed wire, China finally acknowledged their doings in what they refer to as “re-education camps”, much to many people’s skepticism [2].


Global stances and action have been taken by numerous world powers including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom sanctioning Chinese government officials. A number of countries also announced their diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics held in Beijing, mentioning how it was due to China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities” [3].


It is without a doubt that the Uyghur Muslims of China are a fascinating and unique group of people. A minority group of 12 million people, it is now more vital than ever to appreciate and understand Uyghur culture, taking into account the devastating events affecting their people in relation to China’s government. As more of them continue to face harsh conditions and discrimination, the determination of their people and growing global support will hopefully allow a permanent solution and justice for the one million of them held in camps.


[1] Who are the Uyghurs and why is China being accused of genocide? (2022). BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22278037


[2] Wood, B. (n.d.) What is happening with Uyghurs in China? PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/features/uighurs/


[3] Boissoneault, L. (2022). Is China Committing Genocide Against the Uyghurs? Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/is-china-committing-genocide-against-the-uyghurs-180979490/


[4] The targeting of Uighur Muslims in China. (2022). Facing History & Ourselves. https://www.facinghistory.org/educator-resources/current-events/targeting-uighur-muslims-china


[5] Deason, R. (2019). An Introduction to China's Uyghur People. The Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/china/articles/an-introduction-to-chinas-uyghur-people/


[6] Gavin. (2022). The Uyghur Minority. China Highlights. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/nationality/uygur.htm


[7] New York Times. (2018). A demonstration in Brussels against China’s mass detention of Uyghurs [photo]. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/world/asia/un-china-xinjiang-muslim-internments.html

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