The term “fake news” has been thrown around quite often over the last few years. But what if the real problem was poor coverage? An issue that will prove just as, if not more, dangerous to the state of mankind. UConn’s Muslim Student Association draws attention to poor coverage in regard to the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uyghurs via an art competition. They are encouraging students to submit any form of media that can inform people about the plight of the Uyghurs or celebrate their culture. MSA’s goal is to spread awareness, the first step to activism.
The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority, composed mostly of Muslims, living in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, formerly known as East Turkestan. After spreading fear over religious extremism through propaganda, the Chinese government has persecuted the group, an event that has been largely under the radar due to a lack of coverage. Although the media has begun to pick up the story, there is very little being done, with an estimated 6 to 11 million Uyghurs currently unaccounted for. The Uyghurs are in a situation alarmingly similar to the Holocaust, being sent to concentration camps where they are tortured, forced to abandon their beliefs and victim to human trafficking.
Earlier this year, MSA participated in a nation-wide texting campaign run by the Free Uyghur Coalition. This campaign sent out pre-written letters to representatives, urging Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act — an act that would prohibit imports from Xinjiang made through forced Uyghur labor. By texting “GO UYGHUR” to 50409, student activists were able to enact change remotely and were a large source behind the passing of the act in the House of Representatives. The campaign is ongoing and by texting you can encourage the U.S. Senate to pass legislation as well, forcing Chinese companies to prove their products were made without the aid of unwilling Uyghurs.
Beyond this, MSA is hosting an art contest, accepting forms of media including, but not limited to, videos, music, writing and drawings. The artwork should either highlight the struggles of the Uyghurs or commemorate their culture. With donations from several department heads and faculty members, MSA is offering a cash prize for top submissions. Due to growing interest, the deadline for submissions has been extended to Nov. 29. The contest is open to undergraduates and graduates alike, giving students plenty of time to participate in this form of activism and political commentary.
The idea for this contest stemmed from the minds of MSA’s Social Justice Chair, Osama Elsherbini, and the President of MSA’s Hartford Branch, Muhammad Elsabbel. The club, like many student organizations this year, has been struggling to engage members with everything being online. The pair found that putting together an opportunity for students to showcase their creativity while partaking in activism would be far more beneficial and interactive than simply hosting an informational session.
“Using these artistic mediums to convey the heartbreak and horrors of the genocide is so much more powerful than reading off statistics,” Khaleel Rahman, fifth-semester biological sciences major and MSA Secretary, said.
As MSA has emphasized, activism starts with awareness and the contest is a great way to take matters into our own hands, drawing light to the Uyghurs through the power of creativity. The submission link, as well as the contest rules can be found at MSA’s Instagram page: @uconnmsa.