Muslim Minority and Jihad: The Cases of Rohingyas and Uyghurs
Keywords:Muslim minority, ethnic conflict, jihad, terrorism, Islamism, Uyghurs, Rohingyas
The minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, China, and Rohingyas in Rakhine State, Myanmar are facing civil and violent persecution by authoritarian governments. These minority ethnic groups are also Muslims. As the world watches in condemnation, there is curiously little traction by Islamic jihadist groups in these countries. That is not to say that their influence is absent in the regions: al-Qaeda in South Asia is taking advantage of the Rohingya refugee crisis and the so-called Islamic State was able to attract Uyghurs to their doomed caliphate. Nevertheless, this paper seeks to understand why jihadists failed to make much inroad in these places. It is important that we understand this phenomenon in order to undermine the influence of jihadists in other parts of the world. Using the framework of ethnic minorities living in Dar al-‘Ahd, this paper argues that the governments in China and Myanmar are oppressing a selective group of Muslims and thus making it difficult to build the case that they are at war with Muslims in general. This argument is based on the classical understanding of jihadism, which is to fight against foreign intrusion in Muslim territories, whereas the call to jihad against one’s government is a much recent and controversial innovation. Therefore, despite different types of persecution by the Chinese and Burmese governments, and the different response by the locals, there is a comparable relative absence of jihadist movements explained by the limited repression of specific Muslim minorities.
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