It is under circumstances similar to those that surround Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province that I am reminded of Niemoller, a Protestant pastor in Nazi Germany. In his oft-repeated poem, Niemoller admits to the reader, “When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and no one was left to speak for me.” While, obviously, the atrocity of Nazi Germany has not yet been rivaled, it is Niemoller’s ideology of the need for protection of victims by those who may not have direct interest in the conflict that has valiantly outlasted the Nazi sectarian agenda.
While claiming to be inhibiting the ability of Uighurs to commit acts of violence through the ban on fasting, the government’s coercion of a population of 12 million Sunni Muslims only further divides and ostracizes an immigrant population often reduced to menial work because of the elitist attitudes that characterize the region. The actions of the nation to weaken terrorist propaganda through the restrictions on one of Islam’s central tenets marginalizes traditional Muslims and has been shown to encourage normally amicable students to turn to more violent schools of thought. It is more likely to incite conflict and violence, and will do nothing but escalate the possibility of retaliation. The restrictions will not only have an inverse effect on the Uighur Muslims, but will also draw criticism from the international community for being the most clear example of a violation of the Declaration of Human Rights, which the then-fledgling nation adopted on December 10th, 1948. And as citizens who have not yet been subject to the brutality suffered by these Muslims, it is our responsibility to speak out and demand an explanation. Niemoller, in his poem, made one thing clear: Without the preservation of human rights for all, the rights of none are guaranteed.