By Mamtimin Ala
Surely, I am not a believer of the idea that history repeats itself. For this idea simply presupposes the existence of an underlying cause that necessitates repeated happenings of certain events in history. However, this underlying cause is hard to be pinpointed. Hence, this idea seems unscientific as it is unable to explain sufficiently as to why only certain events repeat themselves in a definite pattern whereas others are not in history. And yet, from time to time we experience constant feelings of deja vu when confronted with the events reminding us of some historical archetypes. The story of the Exodus is such an archetype.
All Abrahamic religions share the same story about the departure of enslaved Israelites from Egypt in search of freedom under the leadership of Moses to Canaan. It permeates the religious life of Jews as well as the religious canons of both Muslims and Christians. The message, in this sense, is universal, at least, in the Abrahamic faiths—under no circumstances is slavery accepted and freedom is, in essence, a God-willed (-given) right.
Thousands years later, the story seems to be told again—this time, it is not the Jews who were delivered from slavery to freedom but the Uyghurs who have reversely been delivered from freedom to slavery in China. It has come to light since 3 July 2017 is still continuing that Egyptian authorities have reportedly rounded up scores of Uyghur students studying at Al-Azhar University at the behest of Chinese authorities in raids on restaurants, student dormitories and super markets in Cairo and Alexandra, sending many in hiding and arresting more than 200. Apart from this, 90% of the estimated 7,000-8,000 Uyghurs living in Egypt had already returned to China in response to China’s threat that their family members back home would pay a heavy price if they failed to return home. As such, all Uyghur students in Egypt have been terrorised with the risks of punishment in the same way that the ancient Jewish people in Egypt at the time of the prophet Moses were.
If history repeats itself, the historical figures re-appear in reality with different names whereas the historical roles are unchanged, to a large extent. Hence, the story of the Uyghur Exodus has almost had the same drama triangle like the Jewish Exodus with slight variations: The perpetuator (The then Pharaoh who is now resurrected as the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi), the victim (the then Jewish people who are now changed to the Uyghur students) and the Rescuer (the then Moses who are replaced with the Chinese government in a reverse and ironic way). Contrary to the original exodus story, the role that the Chinese government is currently playing is opposite to the role Moses played—it was not a liberator but an imprisoner—not a rescuer but a punisher.
The disturbing fact is that this is not the first time that the Uyghurs have faced deportation from such countries as Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand back to China where they have already been subject to heavy punishment and long prison terms in the absence of proper judicial processes. The whereabouts of some of these Uyghurs remain unknown. This time it is Egypt that is sending Uyghurs to a painful torture in China in exchange for lucrative financial and political gains.
All these countries know that the Uyghurs have great exchange values with China—the Uyghurs who have no real Moses to save them from slavery and, resultantly, who can be sold in the slave markets. Therefore, in a world there is no Moses, everything is possible. In such a world, China fills in this spiritual vacuum as an imposter of a saviour as mighty and omnipresent as Moses is—a saviour saving Uyghurs anywhere in the world from their freedom.
Almost silent, Al-Azhar University has tacitly been taking sides with the Egyptian government in the deportation of the Uyghur students to a tyrant country. Renowned as Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university, Al-Azhar University has failed to save the Uyghurs from a painful death to a dignified life. Instead, it has turned its back on them who are sacrificing their life for this very common Islamic faith that this prestigious university is expected to promote globally. Ethically speaking, in doing so, it has lost a boundary line between an oppressor and an oppressed—to help the oppressor is nothing else but to oppress the weak, the wrenched and the abandoned, albeit indirectly.
Apart from this, no foreign governments have ever uttered any official statement about the forced deportation of the Uyghur students to China. Sadly, this reminds us of the Holocaust. Long after the death of Moses, the Jews were left leaderless, unable to be delivered from one calamity after another, fatally culminated in the Holocaust. During the Second World War, the Jews were deported in many European countries under the pressure of Nazi regime to the concentration camps. Again, history seems now to repeat itself to the Uyghurs—the Uyghurs have been deported to China in the very eyes of the silent world to the concentration camps in China where there is no life for Uyghurs.
In the case of the Holocaust, the world was not fully aware of the hidden manifestations of evil, to which the Jews were almost unanimously exposed. However, in the case of the Uyghurs, the manifestations of the evil, to which they are similarly being exposed, is not hidden. It is just happening before us like other violations of human rights being normalised, being psychologically compromised and, finally, being forgotten. The world is turning a blind eye to the plight of these Uyghurs, pretending that they are returning home where China can be able to “take care” of them. The chilling point is that in the Moses-less world, the weak will be abandoned and sent to death; and the strong will personify evil in the name of “salvation” in a silent world.