Genocide Watch Report: Islamophobia in Asia

A Comparative Study of China, Myanmar, and India


Published by Genocide Watch on July 25, 2022.

Muslim devotees offer Friday prayers in an open ground in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi on 17 December, 2021 (AFP)




The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic global rise in Islamophobic attitudes and anti-Muslim violence in Asia and around the world. From hate speech on social media to illegal detention and torture under the pretext of countering violent extremism, Muslims are facing an unprecedented assault on their human rights, religious freedoms, and even their very existence. Among the countries that have exhibited the most overt genocidal violence against Muslims in recent years, three blatant examples can be found in Asia. This study seeks to better understand these developments by examining the case studies of China, Myanmar, and India. China and Myanmar are actively committing genocide against the Uyghur and Rohingya communities, respectively. India is moving towards the brink of genocide against its Muslim population at an alarming rate.



Key Findings

  1. The feeling of Islam being an alien and foreign religion that is incompatible with the beliefs of the majority underlies Islamophobia narratives in each country. The more alien their religion seems, the less Muslims are seen as citizens and human beings in the eyes of broader society. Majoritarianism of this kind helps fuel Islamophobia.

  2. The Global War on Terror has become an easy justification used by the state in all three countries to mask their own hatred towards Muslims. However, the problems lying at the heart of all these Islamophobic campaigns are historically and territorially entrenched within the political and social fabric of each country. The targeting of innocent, unarmed Muslim civilians cannot ever be justified as counter-terrorism operations.

  3. Population control is an important part of the genocidal campaigns underway in China and Myanmar. To bring down the reproductive capacity of a group is an intentional attempt to destroy in part a religious group. It is genocide.

  4. Resettlement of the majority population in Muslim-dominated areas by the government is a recurring feature in all three countries. Chinese authorities are offering incentives to Han Chinese citizens to set up businesses and residences in East Turkistan. A similar pattern has been seen in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where the government has lured Buddhist citizens to settle on land abandoned by fleeing Rohingya residents. The revocation of Kashmir’s special status will also allow non-Kashmiri Indian citizens to buy land and settle in Kashmir. It is intended to reverse the displacement of over 100,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990’s.



Recommendations


  1. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues should investigate China, Myanmar, and India's discrimination against Muslims and report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Frequent reports on Islamophobia in the three countries have been published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights but little action has come of this.

  2. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter must carry out rigorous training programmes for employees to make them better equipped to deal with hate content against Muslims. They must invest in employing many more moderates who speak local languages and are familiar with the specific contexts of each country.

  3. The U.S. along with the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada placed sanctions on Chinese officials in March 2021 to punish them for human rights abuses. This kind of multilateral effort must be sustained to pressure China to end the Uyghur genocide.

  4. In response to the Rohingya crisis, the U.S., E.U., and U.N. have devoted considerable funds for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Now that there is a military government in power in Myanmar, they should invest in foreign aid for Myanmar’s civil society. The military junta in power today committed the Rohingya genocide. Trials of the Myanmar military leadership should be seen as a necessary step to address the Rohingya crisis.

  5. The U.S. should recognize the Islamophobic nature of India's current leadership and reconsider its relations with India accordingly. The U.S. and the E.U. should impose targeted Magnitsky sanctions against officials responsible for anti-Muslim policies in China, Myanmar, and India. The U.S. has thus far refused to publicly criticise the Indian government. The U.S. should strongly and publicly oppose the Islamophobic policies of the Indian government.



Methodology


This report is based on detailed interviews with individuals and human rights organizations working for Rohingya, Uyghur, and Indian Muslim organizations. Interviews were conducted online and in person by Genocide Watch between June 2021 and July 2022. The participants were human rights specialists working with a rights organization for Rohingyas; survivors of the Rohingya genocide currently based in a refugee camp in Bangladesh; Uyghur survivors and human rights specialists on the Uyghur genocide currently based in the United States; and human rights specialists working with organizations that advocate for religious minorities in India.


None of the interviewers or interviewees received any form of compensation. All participants were informed of the nature and purpose of the study and the ways that the information they shared might be used. Informed consent was obtained from each participant following explanation of the purpose of the interviews. In the interest of the security of people who spoke to Genocide Watch, the names of interviewees and other identifying information are not revealed in this Genocide Watch report.




Islamophobia In China: The Uyghur Genocide


Han are the majority ethnic group of China that comprises more than 90 percent of the population. The Muslim population of China, estimated to be around 20 million, includes a variety of ethnic groups. Islamophobia in China manifests itself in two ways: First, Islamophobia across the country that targets all Muslim groups, including the Hui, Uyghurs, Khalkhas, Kazakhs, and Uzbeks, who are discriminated against based on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) atheist ideology that discourages all religious practices; and second, specific state-sponsored genocide targeting Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.


The Hui have not been subjected to the same severe persecution as the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Some scholars surmise that this greater tolerance might be due to the greater assimilation of Hui into Han culture. The Hui have undergone a gradual Sinicization of their Islamic beliefs.


Anti-Muslim sentiments and actions have long existed in China, but since 2014 the CCP has subjected the Uyghur community to large scale state-sponsored repression. Uyghurs are an ethnic minority residing in the northwest region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. They are a Turkic ethnic group whose language and culture bear a strong resemblance to other Turkic Muslim cultures. Uyghurs face religious discrimination and racial othering, which allows the government to label them as outsiders.


Xinjiang has become a mass surveillance state, with the government forcing Uyghurs into so-called “re-education facilities” that are actually concentration camps. China has illegally detained more than one million Uyghurs in these mass internment camps. In the camps, they are subjected to indoctrination, torture, sexual abuse, and forced labour.


The Uyghur population outside the internment camps is subject to strict surveillance, and their freedom of movement has been severely curtailed. Uyghurs are followed and video-recorded in their everyday activities, with individuals identified by facial recognition and artificial intelligence. Uyghur families are forced to live with Han Chinese spies in their own households. “Radical activities,” which include praying in a mosque, possessing a Quran, growing a long beard, and eating halal, are punished.


The Chinese government contends that its actions in Xinjiang are designed to combat religious extremism and separatism. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, the Chinese authorities have subjected religious worship to continuous surveillance. They have banned the use of the Uyghur language in education and relocated Uyghur children to boarding schools where they are taught solely in Mandarin Chinese. This forcible transfer of children directly violates Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention.


There is overwhelming evidence to support the claim that China is committing genocide against Uyghurs. Among the acts of genocide against Uyghurs are the mass sterilization and forced birth prevention policies in Xinjiang, a violation of Article 2(d) of the Genocide Convention. In 2018, the region had the highest number of forced intrauterine device (IUD) placements in China. Another act of genocide is the forced removal of Uyghur children to Mandarin Chinese boarding schools. This forcible transfer of children directly violates Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention.


The goal is not only to destroy Uyghurs physically through the prevention of births and transfer of their children but also to destroy Uyghurs as a culturally distinct people.



Note on Genocide Denial by Professors William Schabas and Jeffrey Sachs


Professors William Schabas and Jeffrey Sachs and a few other commentators deny that the Chinese government’s attempt to destroy the Uyghur people constitutes genocide because China has not relied primarily on mass killing. However, Schabas and Sachs and other deniers adopt a truncated and incomplete definition of genocide, inconsistent with the explicit language of the Genocide Convention. Such denial is especially astonishing coming from Schabas, who wrote an influential treatise, The Genocide Convention in International Law.


The Genocide Convention prohibits more than mass killing. It outlaws “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”; “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part;” “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” China has committed every prohibited act of genocide listed in the Genocide Convention.



Notes