Over the last year, a lot of attention has been drawn to the plight of those in dire straights, outside of the Covid situation. From BLM (which is still a thing, by the way, even it’s no longer trending on social media), to #endsars and the multitude of issues transpiring in Mother Africa, LGBTQ rights, Turkish women’s rights and the conflict in Armenia- and all of these issues are worthy, but there has been little to no uproar over the treatment of Muslims in France and China.
Whilst in France the treatment of Muslims may not be mass genocide, the level of deliberate antagonistic taunting and oppression that goes on in the country does more harm than good and makes a mockery of the values of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ that France fought for. As for China- what’s happening there is actually mass genocide, and there hasn’t been nearly as much outrage and condemnation for that as there should have been- which is just frightening.
It is a well-documented fact that the display of religious symbols is banned in France. But this ban, non-coincidentally, affects Muslims most – Muslim women in particular. Wearing religious symbols is said to increase separatism and terrorism – a link that has no basis in any fact. France is known for its support of deliberately offensive religious material and apathetic approach to dealing with its Muslim and black citizens alike and acknowledging them only when their actions make France look good- particularly in sport and popular culture.
In mainland China, millions of Muslims are being rounded up and held in ‘re-education’ camps – essentially torturing the Islam out of them. Whilst China is known for its heavy surveillance of all of its citizens, its surveillance of the Uighur Muslims is significantly more heavy-handed. They are one of the few, though not the only, minor ethnic groups being severely prosecuted, interred, tortured and who are more prone to simply ‘disappearing’, despite being an ethnic group recognised as being native to Northern China.
Why is this appalling?
There are a lot of people that we don’t like, but the mark of a real civilised society is tolerance.
Marking all Muslims as terrorists, massacring them because they follow a religion you don’t understand, or because they are from a different ethnic group, isn’t behaviour that the 21st century should be keeping silent on, especially given Western Europe’s history of religious and ethnic genocide. Even societies that don’t claim to be democratic don’t have any political or religious justification for eradicating swathes of human life. But more than that, for ‘democratic’ institutions that are so determined to be in the business of every other country but their own, with citizens who behave likewise, it’s astonishing that they have chosen to stay comparatively silent when those who could really use their intervention, even if it’s just by spreading awareness, are suffering.
And it has everything to do with Islamophobia and racism (Islam isn’t a race but because it’s associated with brown people, racism helps fuel Islamophobia and vice versa). If Islam was a European white man’s religion, or if all terrorists were white European, this would be an entirely different narrative.
Freedom of speech and identity should be a mark of democracy identity.
Not all speech will agree with yours, but so long as it’s not inflammatory or derogatory, differences of opinion and ways of existing should be embraced.
What France is doing: monitoring it’s citizens, stopping them from expressing themselves or their identities through their clothes and speech, non-Muslim French citizens attacking innocent Muslim French citizens, is oppression and dictatorship and potentially the beginning of a long and dangerous road to greater crimes against humanity. Deliberately offending Muslims and calling, that offence ‘French values’ is a testimony to underlying lack of democracy and lack of civilisation of a county that claims to be one of the major powers in the west. It flies in the face of civilisation and modernity and is worryingly being ignored. Of course there is no amount of religious conviction that can justify beheadings, stabbings, or any other type of attack, but responding to it by cracking down on your own citizens- doing away with the ‘cornerstone’ of civilisation, is not the way.
What China is doing, picking off Muslim in concentration camps, force-feeding them pork and alcohol, would cause outrage if it was being done to some other religious groups. And for those who know oppression to not to draw attention to this is hypocritical at best.
But while China is arguably further away with its own agenda France is on the doorstep of the West and freedom is being threatened- uninterrupted.
And this goes for their treatment of black people as well. Every now and then you will hear a story of a black man in France being assaulted in custody or racism at sporting events. And for the most part, whether it is or isn’t reported on in the news, there is very little song and dance about it as there would be if these things were happening somewhere else.
And this privilege of apathy seems to be is reserved for Western powers. Because if a country like the UAE were to do the same things as France and China to non-muslim, non-black ethnic groups, Britain and America would have no end of rhetoric for them.
When a country like the UAE even tries to enforce its own religious law or identity, it’s own ‘values’ by trying to implement a dress code in certain places or restricting alcohol consumption in public places everyone in Western Europe makes a big whoo-ha – that their rights are not being respected and they feel restricted- not that it will stop them from going there and posting it in all of their snaps. But because of all this fuss, the UAE has, bit by bit conceded to accommodate, the non-muslim Western European citizens so that they can feel more relaxed and free in a country that, voluntarily, may only be their’s for a few weeks. Meanwhile, these same voluntary holidaymakers ignore or abuse these same Muslims in their homes in other countries.
And that is not to say that these injustices are not being reported on – they ae are only a few Google searches away- but they are not given the spotlight on social media, in conversation or on the front pages that any assault on human rights deserves.