By Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), Opinion Contributors —
06/14/19 06:15 PM EDT The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
Under the false pretext of deradicalization, China’s largest province has quietly become the largest outdoor prison in the world. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination estimates that approximately 1 million ethnic or religious minorities within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China are arbitrarily detained in “political re-education camps,” including members of the Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tartar communities.
As the co-chairs of the Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, we are deeply concerned by the human rights abuses perpetrated against the Uighur Muslim minority. The arbitrary mass detention of persons on the basis of their religious or ethnic background, without due process of law or individualized credible allegations of wrongdoing against each detained individual, is not a credible or effective counterterrorism strategy. It also constitutes a severe violation of international norms and standards.
Since 2014, the Bipartisan Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus has fought to defend the human rights of oppressed religious minorities, regardless of faith, around the world. The Caucus was born out of advocacy for the rights of Ahmadi Muslims who face extreme persecution, human rights abuses, and threats to their religious freedom around the world simply because they are Muslim and peacefully practicing their faith. Thousands of Ahmadi Muslims have been arrested on account of their faith in numerous Muslim majority nations. In Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims face state-sponsored and institutionalized religious oppression, including criminal prosecution and imprisonment under anti-blasphemy and anti-terrorism laws, police torture, voter disenfranchisement and publication bans.
At a time when religious repression is on the rise, we derive inspiration from persecuted communities standing up for one another. Time and time again, we have witnessed the Ahmadiyya Community stand in support of other religious minority groups, demanding justice for Rohingya Muslims and the Uighur population.
The United States must follow their lead and act to end the atrocities leveled against Uighur Muslims in China. At the culmination of this historic advocacy effort, we were encouraged to see that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also denounced the persecution and renewed demands for an end to China’s practice of arbitrarily detaining Uighur Muslims, calling the practice “abhorrent.” Likewise, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who joined us alongside Uighur leaders, has provided much-needed leadership on this issue.
The work of the Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus mirrors the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s commitment to protecting international religious freedom for all. That is why we support efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure freedom and accountability in Xinjiang. We believe legislative action is a necessary next step. As co-chairs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, we strongly declare our support for H.R. 1025, the UIGHUR Act of 2019, and ask our colleagues to do the same. The UIGHUR Act would bring much-needed accountability to this ongoing crisis.
We firmly believe that advocating on behalf of the Uighur population is a moral imperative. In the United States, we have a proud tradition of religious tolerance and the freedom to practice religion without fear of persecution. We must all work to combat religious intolerance, no matter the victim, the circumstance, or the location. Freedom and dignity of faith must be recognized as an inalienable right for all of humanity.
Speier and King are co-chairs of the Congressional Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus.