A year ago, after watching Sky News do a report on Rohingya muslims in Myanmar, I remarked:
The reporter appeared to be firmly in the pay of a professional lobby group hired to make their case.
Around the same time I also said:
I’ve noticed a concerted effort on the part of the mainstream media over the past few weeks to get everyone interested in the plight of the Rohingyas, a minority Muslim group in Myanmar who are being hounded by the majority ruling Buddists.
I have also noticed that nobody seems to give a shit. It might be tempting to put this down to the fact that westerners don’t generally care about brown people being killed in far-off lands with no oil underneath, but I suspect there is something else at work as well: people in the west are getting a little bit tired of hearing how Muslims are suffering.
I was reminded of the Rohingya advocacy campaign masquerading as news when I read this story, variations of which have been doing the rounds in the media for the past few weeks:
Chinese officials have pushed back against growing criticism of the detention of Muslim minorities in internment camps, claiming authorities are merely providing professional training and education.
Beijing is facing allegations of mass incarceration and repression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang in China’s north-west. An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where, according to former detainees and other witnesses, inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.
That the Chinese lock up and execute large numbers of their population is nothing new, nor is their suppression of ethnic minorities, especially those who might show loyalty to a deity other than the Communist Party of China. Ask the Tibetans how they’ve fared under Chinese rule, for example. So why the sudden fuss about Uighurs and Kazakhs?
Well, thanks to the system of zakat and Middle Eastern oil and gas revenues, there is a lot of money sloshing around the world earmarked for Islamic causes. A portion of this ends up funding terrorism, but it’s also used for things like Islamic schools, construction of mosques, charity work – and lobbying. There are countless Muslim bodies sitting in every western capital, advocating Islamic causes and interests, and some of these will be well funded. Thanks to most western governments having deep sympathies with Muslim minorities and assigning them the coveted Protected Class status, Islamic lobby groups have easy access to the propaganda organs of the ruling classes, i.e. the media. Provided they don’t go against the interests of the ruling class, e.g. by questioning why they destroyed Iraq, removed Gaddafi, and sell bombs which land on the heads of Yemenis, Muslim advocacy groups are pretty good at getting articles promoting Muslim practices and interests into the mainstream media, particularly the BBC.
So that explains why every now and then we’re suddenly bombarded with “news” reports regarding the suffering of some obscure group of Muslims on the other side of the world. But why Uighurs and Kazakhs? Well, I suspect the lobby groups are aware the British and American public are more than a little tired of hearing about problems in the Middle East or Africa, and just tune out as soon as they’re mentioned. But more likely it’s because this is a case of Muslims being oppressed by non-Muslims, and by a major power at that. Muslims generally don’t care if Muslims are oppressed by other Muslims – where is the concern for Kazakhs rotting in Kazakh jails, or Uzbeks who suffered under Islam Karimov’s rule? – but if non-Muslims are doing the oppressing they don’t like it at all (especially if there are Jews involved).
Now nobody thinks the Israelis are killing Rohingyas, but Britiain has ties to Myanmar and they were a useful lever with which to exert pro-Muslim influence over a weak and hapless May government. Get invited to Downing Street to discuss the terrible plight of the Rohingyas, and while you’re there casually mention the levels of Islamophobia hook-handed jihadists are subject to in the criminal justice system. Similarly, getting a pro-Muslim angle into any geopolitical opposition to China elevates their cause by an order of magnitude; look at the boost they received by turning the Cold War a little warmer in Afghanistan. If they can hitch themselves to a general strategy of containing China (of which criticism of human rights abuses is very much a part), money, power, and prestige beckon which can be used to exert greater influence in the west.
There’s clearly a well-funded and organised strategy being executed here, and I suspect the dullards in the media aren’t even aware they’re being played. Whether the general public are as gullible, and whether they care about Muslims in far-flung corners of the world, is another matter. What is certain is these campaigns will not have the slightest effect on the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, nor Muslims languishing behind barbed wire in the Gobi desert. This is a domestic campaign.