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This file photo taken on July 15, 2009 shows armed Chinese soldiers marching on patrol as a Uighur man crosses the street in Urumqi, in northwest China's Xinjiang province. -- AFP photo

JULY 5, 2009 is a day that the Uighur Muslims would like to forget. On that fateful day, ethnic violence erupted between Uighurs and Han Chinese. The riot began as a result of the killing of two Uighurs following a brawl on the factory floors of far away Guangdong.

The Guardian of the United Kingdom said 196 people died in the violence, while Al Jazeera reported 200 deaths. The narrative was different then. Ten years on, the narrative continues to reflect different realities.

But since then, the noise around the world has grown louder, demanding the truth to be made known. It was not about what happened during the riots, but about what is being visited on Uighur Muslims following the riots.

There is a Chinese version. And there is the rest of the world’s version. Navigating the narratives is not easy.

On Saturday, the New Straits Times carried an Op-ed piece by human rights writer Nadia Zaifulizan calling for the record on China’s Uighur narrative to be set straight. We think this to be a just call.

Labelling the world’s version as fake news only complicates the matter. Things such as this cannot be branded away. Because Nadia’s wasn’t the only voice. The United Nations, Western governments and human rights groups are also adding their discontent to the plight of the Uighurs.

Christian Shepherd, writing on July 6 from Beijing for the FTWeekend, talked about Muslim families being “forcibly” separated. In the English newspaper’s account, about 1.5 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in re-education camps.

China explains this off by saying that it is an essential tool in fighting terrorism. But questions continue. If so, why place young children in de facto orphanages, is one such making the media rounds.

FTWeekend calls in aid a research conducted by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology and commissioned by the BBC to support its claim.

Islamophobia may have something to do with what is going on in Xinjiang. Islam is much misunderstood and maligned. Especially after Sept 11, 2001, a disaster that has divided the world into “them” and “us”.

Even after 1,440 years on and two billion Muslims later, Islam is, for some strange reason, viewed with fear. This is not the right way of seeing. The Russian communists had a similar jaundiced view.

Like Karl Marx came to say it, many today view religion — not only Islam — as the opium of the people. And the post-9/11 world has added its own complications.

Secularists, by some clever design, have forged religion and terror into an artificial wedlock. Like inseparable twins. This-world centred beings seek to find evidence of the twain, but finding none, invent one.

We may disagree on how we originated. Or even on how long we have been around on Earth. But we cannot disagree that we come in different shapes, sizes and hues. Because our eyes bear witness to our varied skin colours: yellow, brown, black and white and every other colour in between.

Granted, for convenience of rule and reign, we have carved up the planet into sovereign territories. But such divisions must accommodate, not exclude.

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