Last year we all heard about the murder of George Floyd by white police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s death ignited a wave of national outrage which evolved into global protests – a movement that is leading to changes in symbols of racism. We saw a vast number of people from different races and religions unite to form a colossal community supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM). Although the fight for racial equality continues, the movement led to some significant victories.
Alongside the BLM protests, 2020 has seen a handful of other catastrophic events: one being the Coronavirus pandemic which led to a significant rise in mental health cases. COVID-19 first began to have a detrimental effect on the mental health of people with the first lockdown, which began in March and lasted well into July. There was a 15% increase in urgent referrals of people suffering mental health crises in this time, with a staggering 2,276 more urgent referrals made in July 2020 than the same month in 2019. With tragic deaths of loved ones at the hands of COVID, mass unemployment, as well as limitations on day-to day activities, positivity was the last thing on people’s minds.
Although the pandemic has caused a substantial amount of distress, millions of people have united to applaud the NHS for their long hours of hard work to save thousands of lives. This was conducted through the Thursday ‘clap for the NHS’, businesses providing huge discounts for NHS workers, and window art thanking the NHS for their endless amounts of hard work. This year the world has encountered numerous obstacles, but no matter how severe the situation people have been uniting as one to form supportive communities. So, why aren’t people doing the same with other issues such as the Chinese concentration camps?
Omar Bekali is just one of the millions of innocent Uighurs Muslims who have been locked up in concentration camps – branded as “re-education camps” – in China, and, following the BBC Panorama investigation in 2019, there is increasing evidence of forced labour and other abusive behaviour. Bekali, a 41-year-old proud father of three, spent 7 months locked up with no access to lawyers, family, or explanations for his arrest. “They shackled my hands and put black fabric over my eyes, I feel my body tremble every time I remember that moment”, he recalled. Bekali was forced to sing songs praising the Chinese communist party and forced to show personal gratitude towards President XI Jinping. The imprisoned Uighur Muslims are being forced to eat pork, which is prohibited in Islam, and are being brainwashed into denouncing their religion. The number of people being admitted into these concentration camps has exceeded the number of victims in the holocaust, so why is the world so silent?
One of few released photos from a concentration camp in China.
I conducted a poll on my Instagram page asking the following questions:
“Are you aware of the concentration camps in China?” This question received a 95% yes vote which clearly demonstrates that most people know of the current situation, and yet no action seems to have taken place.
“Do you think the camps are not getting enough attention due to the minimalised media coverage?” This question also got an overall vote of 95%.
“Do you think the camps are not getting enough attention due to the worldly chaos currently going on?” This received a vote of 85%.
“Do you think the lack of concern has something to do with Islamophobia?” This gained a majority vote of 98%.
The representation of Muslims in the media is primarily negative. This was the conclusion of a study conducted in 2018 by the Muslim Council of Britain which involved the analysis of more than 10,000 news articles and found that 59% of the articles associated Muslims with negative behaviour with 78% of stories in the Mail on Sunday containing negative coverage of Muslims living in the UK. This has been an ongoing ideology which mainly rooted itself in people’s minds after 9/11. Newspapers around Britain are often quick to create misleading stories which blame Muslims for terror attacks, yet they seem to disregard white terror attacks which occur just as often. Could it be that Islamophobia has been derived from the predominantly negative views in the media and is this the leading cause of the failure to act on the humanitarian crisis in China?