Today, in a world where nations as close as Myanmar and as distant as France are weaponising Islamophobia to drive racist, populist visions, China is not only joining in, but violently upping the ante, capitalising on this global moment to use Islamophobia to push forward its own populist vision: Wiping out an indigenous people seeking self-determination and standing against the state-sponsored mandate of Han supremacy.
With Islam serving as the spiritual lifeline connecting the Uighur people to their land, their history and to one another, the state has zeroed in on it. If it can destroy Islam, Beijing believes, it can destroy the Uighurs. And this is precisely what it has been doing behind a curtain of global ignorance for years and, even after the UN lifted that curtain for the whole world to see in August, it has carried forward without pause.
For Abdulla, that feared knock on the door is yet to come. It may never come, or it may come tomorrow, or the day after. Yet, the fear of the unknown and the stark reality that every moment with his children, his wife, and his elderly parents, could be his last, follows his every step like a shadow. Beyond the walls of the concentration camps, Xinjiang has become an open-air prison for Uighur Muslims like Abdulla, whose every word is monitored and religious expression closely policed.
He only finds solace in prayer. Prostrating himself before Allah, beginning in the early morning and one final time after sitting with his children at dinner, he prays that the state does not take him away and destroy his family.
Yet, the paradox of prayer symbolises the imminent perils of being Muslim in Xinjiang today, whereby the more people are unwilling to relinquish their spiritual identity and disavow Islam, the more likely they are to be taken way and kept far from everybody they love and everything they know, locked away in a living hell devised to purge them of their faith, disintegrate their families, and wash away their nation.