'We must not stand by' in the face of Uyghur genocide

Maajid Nawaz and Sir Mick Davis discuss the persecution of the Chinese Muslim minority in Limmud session


China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority was condemned as “genocide” in a Limmud session dedicated to the crisis. 

Maajid Nawaz, the broadcaster and anti-extremism campaigner, who staged a five-day hunger strike in an effort to persuade the British government to address what was happening to the Uyghurs, was in conversation with former Jewish Leadership Council chairman Sir Mick Davis. 

Asked by Sir Mick, who chairs the Prime Ministers Holocaust Commission, about comparisons between the Uyghur genocide and the Holocaust, Mr Nawaz said he believed there were analogous lessons to draw — “the fact that it is almost too late to do anything, as was the case with the Jewish community in Europe”.  

Each situation, he said, had been “met with ignorance”, not the least of which was the international community’s dependence on economic power, then in Germany and today in China. 

“Our lifestyle [in the West] has been built on genocide, and that makes it intolerable”, Mr Nawaz declared. 

Sir Mick made clear his exasperation with the slogan “Never Again”, often uttered at Holocaust-related events. “It means nothing, because genocide happens all the time. We say ‘Never Again’, but it does recur because the nature and direction of human history is that we shall always find someone to hate”.  

Instead, both he and Mr Nawaz agreed, the words should mean that “we must not stand by or be complacent in the face of history’s most technologically sophisticated genocide”. 

Mr Nawaz blamed “corrupt, entrenched political interests” for the relative silence by Muslim nations to speak out on behalf of the Uyghurs, He praised the Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish News for highlighting the issue — but deeply regretted that apart from a story in the Economist, “not one single mainstream Western newspaper has put this story on their front page.” 

The Chinese government has rejected foreign criticism, insisting that a network of camps where around a million Uyghurs are thought to be detained are “vocational training” facilities. 

Rahima Mahmut, director of the London office of the World Uyghur Congress, is due to address Limmud on Tuesday. 

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