UN’s First ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’ Largely Ignores Plight of Uyghur Muslims

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations on Wednesday marks the first International Day to Combat Islamophobia, but at an event at the U.N. General Assembly in the lead-up to the commemoration, arguably the worst manifestation of anti-Muslim persecution in the world today received scant attention.

The Chinese Communist Party’s mass atrocities against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang were hardly mentioned at Friday’s high-level meeting in New York.

Speaker after speaker, mostly representing Islamic nations, cited other purported examples of “Islamophobia.” They included the burning of Qur’ans by far-right extremists in Europe, media commentary linking Islam to acts of terrorism, “deliberate defamation of our holy prophet,” and what the Palestinian delegate alleged were repeated Israeli “incursions” into the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

It was left to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield to raise the situation in Xinjiang, where the U.S. government says the CCP has incarcerated more than a million Muslims in re-education camps, and subjected Uyghurs and others to forced labor, forced sterilization, religious freedom restrictions, and forced separation of parents and children.

“We have also determined that the Chinese government has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Thomas-Greenfield told the gathering.


“The international community must continue to condemn these atrocities. We must continue to demand accountability,” she said. “And we must continue to call for all those unjustly detained in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to be released and reunited with their families.”

A Chinese delegate later took the floor to reject “the baseless accusations made by the United States,” and said the U.S. was “abusing” the event.

“The so-called genocide in Xinjiang is totally a lie of the century, fabricated by the United States,” he said. “The whole world has long been clear-eyed about the U.S. political agenda of using Xinjiang to contain China.”

After charging that “the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans throughout U.S. history is the real genocide,” the Chinese delegate ended his intervention by saying that U.S. attempts to create divisions between China and the Islamic world were “doomed to fail.”

The event was co-hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the bloc of 57 mostly Muslim-majority states, and co-chaired on the OIC’s behalf by Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Neither Zardari nor other representatives of leading OIC member-states raised the plight of their co-religionists in Xinjiang.

In recent years the OIC has consistently withheld criticism of Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs, to the consternation of Uyghur campaigners and supporters.

In a typical example, a communique by OIC foreign ministers highlighting conditions faced by Muslim minorities around the world devoted one paragraph to China, “commending “the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens.”

A search on the OIC website finds its most recent statement that did voice concern about Muslims in Xinjiang was issued in 2015, two years before reports began emerging about mass incarceration of Uyghurs.

Individual Islamic governments have gone further. Influential OIC member-states, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, have signed up repeatedly to joint statements at the U.N. – both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva – defending China’s Xinjiang policies, and echoing Beijing’s denials and talking points.

Many of those same OIC nations are partners in China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Then-Foreign Minister Wang Yi told an OIC event a year ago that China has launched more than 600 large-scale BRI projects in 54 Islamic countries, worth more than $400 billion .

‘Laws at a national and international level to outlaw hate speech’

Although Xinjiang barely featured in the International Day to Combat Islamophobia event, Zardari did say in his remarks to the gathering that “the policies and violent actions of those who deny the right of self-determination of Muslim peoples represent one of the worst manifestations of Islamophobia today.”

(At a press conference afterwards, he spoke about the situations in disputed Kashmir and the Palestinian areas, but did not mention Xinjiang.)

Zardari called for a global action plan including the appointment of a U.N. special envoy to combat Islamophobia, the adoption of international measures for the protection of holy sites, and the adoption of “laws at a national and international level to outlaw hate speech.”

Pakistan, which oversees some of the world’s harshest blasphemy laws, has spearheaded OIC efforts at the HRC to counter religious “defamation.” Critics see the campaign as an attempt to target supposed anti-Islam “blasphemy” globally.

When Pakistan and the OIC a year ago proposed a U.N. resolution to mark March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia – a resolution co-sponsored by China – the European Union called the move “unnecessary duplication,” recalling that the U.N. in 2019 adopted August 22 as an “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.”

“We are concerned with the approach of addressing only one religion through a General Assembly initiative,” said E.U. representative Silvio Gonzato.

“By using the term ‘Islamophobia’ instead of ‘anti-Muslim discrimination’ or ‘anti-Muslim hatred,’ the OIC initiative focuses on protecting religion as such, which is an approach that undermines the protection of the individual human rights of persons, such as the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to debate and criticize religion.”

See also:

With Islamic States’ Support, China Defeats Bid to Have UN Human Rights Council Discuss Xinjiang (Oct. 7, 2022)

Muslims Lash Out at Islamic Bloc Over Uyghur Silence, ‘Complicity’ (Dec. 18, 2020)

China Thanks 36 Countries, Half of Them Islamic States, for Praising Its Uyghur Policies (Jul. 15, 2019)



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