“To the glorious believers who are fighting alone.”
Mesut Özil has spoken up for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are persecuted in Xinjiang. Here are four sobering takeaways from his message:
1. THE POWER OF A PUBLIC FIGURE’S VOICE
Özil, a star player in the British Football team Arsenal has 4 million followers on Chinese microblog Weibo. Arsenal is also among the favoured clubs in China. Özil’s post, not only enraged Chinese laymen but also the Chinese Arsenal Fans!
For so long, public figures and influencers have been used to spread various narratives and propaganda to the masses.
With such a huge influence and ground support, a public figure’s voice is extremely powerful in shaping the mass’s perspective.
Unfortunately, a lot of Muslim public figures are underutilised for strategies that will benefit Islamic revival.
Only those advocating a ‘less harmful version of Islam’ is allowed to voice themselves out. Otherwise, they’ll be pressured into silence.
Guess who is even worse: those public figures who are in the office of leadership but choose to remain silent.
2. THE DEEP SENSE OF MORAL JUSTICE OF A TRUE MUSLIM
The flip side of Islamophobia is that a sense of inferiority has pierced deep into the hearts of the Muslims at large including those who are struggling for the cause of Islamic revival.
Alas, the term ‘pride’ is being exploited by the wrong group of people.
Özil is a Muslim with a deep sense of moral justice. He made no apologies for his uncompromised sense of justice as he stood up for fellow human beings (who happen to be Muslims) who are being unjustly persecuted and tortured.
And he is not even from a Muslim-majority football club.
3. DISAPPOINTING RESPONSES TO CALLS FOR FIGHTING INJUSTICE
Ozil writes passionately:
“Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one.”
“Despite all this, the Ummah (community) of Prophet Muhammad is silent. Doesn’t say anything. Muslims are not supported. Don’t they know that consenting to persecution is persecution?”
“While these events have been on the agenda even in the Western media and states for months and weeks, where are the Muslim countries and their media?”
“Don’t they know that staying neutral when persecution is carried out is despicable? Don’t they know that what our brothers and sisters will remember about these sad days, years later, is not the torture of the tyrants, but the silence of us, their Muslim brothers?”
Criticised, a lot of Chinese football fans became enraged. They burned Arsenal football shirts and demanded the club to fire Ozil. The authorities of China are taking aggressive actions against Arsenal.
Not surprisingly, save for a few Islamic NGOs, Muslims at large keep staying quiet.
4. THE WORLD IS IN MORAL LIMBO TODAY
The stories inside Xinjiang/East Turkestan is neither new nor a Muslim’s fiction. A United Nations (UN) report affirmed that “upwards of one million” members of Muslim minority groups may have been detained in the far western region of Xinjiang.
At least 23 countries have condemned China at the UN over such horrifying treatment of the Uighur minority.
However, China has consistently denied the allegations.
The conflict of Xinjiang has long surpassed religious boundaries. It has become a critical issue of human rights abuse.
Some Chinese fans, however, felt betrayed by Özil’s claim,
“Really so disappointIng. When the whole world said you weren’t good, we supported you. Now that you have started to get better, we had hoped that you can happily play football. But you suddenly stabbed us. ARE YOU HUMAN?”
Given the playout of political power and abuse, even the definition of humanity has fallen into a grey area.
Yet we think we still have the luxury of staying low and doing Da’wah for fun?