Malaysia must use seat at UNHRC to reinvigorate Uyghur cause, says expert
*This article is originally published in Sinar Daily, dated 21 June 2022.
The Uyghurs are said to be among the most oppressed groups
SHAH ALAM - Malaysia must use its time as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to reclaim its position in global affairs by tackling challenging issues such as the plight of the Uyghurs, an expert said.
Bait Al Amanah founding director Abdul Razak Ahmad Malaysia needs to take the lead in pushing back against the Islamophobia that has been used by authorities in China to justify the repression of the ethnic minority group.
“Malaysia should realise this timely opportunity provides a platform for us to reclaim our position in global affairs. Malaysia prides itself on its role as a model Islamic country.
“Through the United Nations, Malaysia should consider appointing a Special Envoy on Religious Freedom and countering Islamophobia and work in collaboration with the Human Rights Council to address the issue of the suppression of the Uyghur,” he said.
Razak added that the appointment of such an envoy must be to play a wider role to the broader problem of islamophobia and religious suppression globally, to avoid it being construed as being “anti-China” and to coordinate with other international bodies such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“Such mechanisms will give Malaysia a more universal ground in addressing the issue and not mix it under the rubrics of bilateral relations.
“Therefore, it is imperative to view international organisations like the OIC and the UN as stepping stones for Malaysia to lead the call for action on the Uyghur under the pretext of addressing the concern on Islamophobia and suppression of religious freedom,” he said.
While rallying together an international coalition would be ideal in nudging China towards better treatment of the Uyghurs, Razak noted that achieving consensus among different Islamic countries remains a challenge but this must not be an excuse for inaction.
“Malaysian should be the leading voice on issues of human development and security, Islamophobia, the rights of the Muslim minorities, global inequalities, democracy and progressive political Islam. The need for a progressive and effective OIC has become vitally important in the increasingly globalised economy dominated by non-Islamic powers.
“Therefore, Malaysia beside being active in promoting economic cooperation amongst OIC members, should also promote OIC’s role on issues affecting human security, human rights, and the dignity of the Muslim Ummah. OIC can no longer be a state political security forum but instead should be more people-focused and issues-centric,” he added.
Along with the Rohingya, the Uyghurs are said to be among the most oppressed groups, with China’s authorities frequently citing the “threat” of extremism to justify its actions despite little evidence of widespread extremism in Xinjiang.