What if the Uighurs were Christian Rather than Muslim?
By Glenn Greenwald
— According to The New York Times this morning, violent clashes between Chinese government forces and Muslim Uighurs — that country’s long-oppressed minority — have left at least 140 people dead and close to 1,000 injured. This incident in Western China highlights an important fact about America’s "War on Terror."
Just imagine if the Uighurs were a Christian — rather than Muslim — minority, battling against the tyrannical Communist regime in Beijing, resisting various types of persecution, and demanding religious freedom. They would be lionized by America’s Right, as similar Christian minorities, oppressed by tyrannical regimes, automatically are. Episodes like these — where a declared Tyranny like China violently acts against citizens with whom we empathize — are ones about which, in general, the American political class loves to sermonize.
But the Uighurs are Muslim, not Christian, and hostility towards them thus easily outweighs the opportunity they present to undermine the Chinese Government. Rather than support and venerate them, we instead spent this decade declaring them to be "enemy combatants" and locking them up in Guantanamo — despite the fact that they have never evinced any interest in doing anything other than resisting Chinese persecution, and have certainly never taken actions against the U.S. (as even the Bush administration ultimately admitted). Yet even now, both Congress and the administration actively block release into the U.S. even of those Uighurs we wrongfully imprisoned for years, while the Right screams with outrage — and fear — over the administration's commendable efforts to find a home for them elsewhere.
For all the Serious analysis about the War on Terror, so much of it has been driven by nothing more complex or noble than sheer hostility towards Muslims. Muslims generally — not just Al Qaeda — replaced Communists as our New Enemy and became the new enabling force for our endless state of War and never-ending expansions of executive power. Rather obviously, the Uighurs were swept into the Enemy category solely by virtue of their status as Muslims. What more compelling evidence of that could be imagined than the fact that we imprisoned — and continue to imprison — people at Guantanamo whose only political interest is in resisting oppression by the Chinese government?
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York.