At a time when expectations were split whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, will turn a blind eye to the plight of China’s Uyghur Muslims or raise the issue to China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, MBS adopted an unexpected position.
On Friday, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where both parties signed agreements related to energy production and the chemical industry.
China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, quoted bin Salman while affirming his position in support of China’s war on terrorism and extremism to protect the national security.
— Raziya Mohamedali (@RMohamedali) September 7, 2018
“We respect and support China’s right to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security. We stand ready to strengthen cooperation with China.”
MBS’ position toward China was similar to several positions and remarks have been made lately regarding different causes and issues in the Middle East and the Islamic world; including his position on the Palestinian Cause when MBS changed the decades-long Saudi rhetoric of supporting Palestinians and instead started forming closer ties with Israel.
However, for many Muslims, such remarks coming from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia; the birthplace of Islam and the custodian of the holiest sites in Islam, Mecca, and Madinah were shocking and unacceptable.
For others, MBS’ defending China’s oppression against the Muslim minority being ethnically cleansed by the Chinese government has refuted a long-believed assumption that Saudi Arabia is the guardian and official representative of Islam.
One tweet suggested that Mecca and Medina should come under the international Muslim community, and stop Saudi Arabia from manipulating them by the name of religion to their own political or economic benefits.
This comes in a time when China’s government has been accused of systematically oppressing and carrying violations against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, by detaining around one million people and putting them in detention camps, so-called “re-education camps”, where they are being forced to denounce religion, eat pork and drink alcohol which are prohibited in Islam in addition to facing physical and verbal abuse by authorities.