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Xinjiang is a Land of Happiness.

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By Yu Xueyong, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Chinese Embassy in Maldives

On May 13, the 30-day Ramadan in Xinjiang of China came to a peaceful and joyful end. Early in the morning, the local Muslim citizens from the Flaming Mountain Community flew into the nearby mosque for the Eid al-Fitr rituals. Though wearing face masks, they could still feel the happiness and joy by sharing pleasantries and greetings with each other.

People gathering in front of a mosque in Xinjiang, China at Eid al-Fitr

Such happiness and joy is the most intuitive reflection of the sense of contentment, happiness and security brought to the local people through the sustained economic and social development of the Xinjiang region in recent years.

According to statistics, Xinjiang’s GDP grew by 3.4% in 2020, 1.1% higher than the average of the nation, and over 3 million poor people in the region were all lifted out of poverty. Highway has found its way in all prefectures and cities, and all administrative villages are connected through tarmac roads, buses, power electricity and fiber optic broadband. 99.7% local residents enjoy basic medical insurance, and 100% local people enjoy free health check-ups.

Xinjiang has realized full coverage of nine-year compulsory education in the whole region, and southern part of Xinjiang goes further to cover three-year preschool and 12-year fundamental education.

The number of mosques in Xinjiang is now 10 times higher than it was 40 years ago, and the ratio of mosques per capita is even higher than that of some Muslim countries.

Undoubtedly, these achievements should be attributed to the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to the continued successful implementation of the regional ethnic autonomy system and strategies on governance of Xinjiang of CPC, to the unity and hard work of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang as well as the strong support and assistance from the other parts of the country.

At the Third Central Symposium on Work Related to Xinjiang held last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the strategy for governing Xinjiang in the new era, demanding law-based governance and long-term efforts to develop Xinjiang into a region that is united, harmonious, prosperous, and culturally advanced, with healthy ecosystems and people living and working in contentment.

The strategy has pointed out the direction and injected momentum for the long-term prosperity and stability of the Xinjiang region.

Regrettably, in sharp contrast, some Western countries and media  have recently hyped so much the so-called “human rights abuses in Xinjiang” such as “genocide” and “forced labor” in the region. That came as a complete surprise and is pure Alice in Wonderland.

In recent years, I have been to Xinjiang many times and witnessed with my own eyes the hustle and bustle in local bazaars, the social life running in orderly manner, the people living and working in peace, and all ethnic groups staying together in unity and harmony. When I talked with the local people, I was told that what they want most was “peace” and “tranquility”.

I was not surprised at all. Actually, from 1990 until the end of 2016, thousands of violent terrorist attacks pounded on Xinjiang, causing great pain and suffering to people of all ethnic groups. The 2009 riot in Urumqi alone killed 197 people and injured more than 1,700.

In recent years, the local government has taken resolute and strong measures to combat terrorism, extremism and separatism and has realized substantial progress and significant effects, enabling the local people to enjoy peace and tranquility again.

Isn’t it the greatest human rights for the local people? Shouldn’t the Chinese government be respected and appreciated by the international community for its efforts to safeguard and develop the human rights of the people in Xinjiang?

As for “genocide” and “forced labor,” these terms are strictly defined by international law. It is the atrocities committed by certain countries during World War II that constitute “genocide” and “forced labor”, which was the darkest chapter of human history in modern times. History cannot be erased, nor can it be allowed to repeat.

In fact, what the Chinese government is doing in Xinjiang is fighting against violence, secession, and extremism, which is in the interests of the people. Under no circumstances could the tags of “genocide” and “forced labor” be imposed on China. Otherwise, how could people explain that Uyghur population in Xinjiang increased from 5.55 million to 12.8 million in the past 40 years? How could people explain the life expectancy of Uyghurs in Xinjiang increased from 30 years 6 decades ago to 72 years now? And how could people explain that with 100% mechanized cotton cultivation and 69.83% mechanized cotton picking in Xinjiang, the locals are actively engaged in cotton picking of their own free will and enjoying the lucrative rewards in return?

Obviously, if these Western countries and media are not ignorant and arrogant, then they must be bright persons who play dumb by fabricating sensational lies and rumors such as “genocide” and “forced labor” for the purpose of muddling and containing China with Xinjiang-related issues.

In fact, recently there have been more and more objective and unbiased international voices about Xinjiang. For example, Project Syndicate, U.S. investigation journalism website The Gray Zone, Counterpunch, and other media in Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Sweden, and South China Morning Post in Hong Kong have published articles pointing out that the so-called “forced labor” and “genocide” in Xinjiang are only a means of the western countries to discredit China, and revealing the double standards of the United States and other Western countries on the issue of anti-terrorism and the geopolitical conspiracy of “using Xinjiang-related issues to contain China”.

Just as a famous Chinese poem says that thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea, it is obvious that the smear campaign of a few countries and media outlets can never negate the good situation of long-term stability and unity in Xinjiang and its prosperous development. The Communist Party of China, the Chinese government and the Chinese people have the confidence and ability to build, develop and govern Xinjiang well.

Xinjiang is a land of happiness. I sincerely welcome Maldivian friends to visit Xinjiang and find out by their own eyes and hearts the unique history, picturesque landscape and remarkable development achievements of Xinjiang. That’s the real image of Xinjiang, a prosperous autonomous region of China.

Night view in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang, China

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Opinion

“We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day” Silent struggles during COVID-19 in Maldives.

Mariyam Mohamed

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The pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives especially our livelihoods and emotional wellbeing. While the situation in some countries is getting worse, others are slowly recovering from the impacts of Covid-19. The recent surge in cases in South Asia has also swept across the Maldives creating numerous social and economic issues.

Most Maldivians, depend on monthly wages to support their daily needs and expenses. During this pandemic, many have lost their jobs, and some are struggling to manage their expenses due to wage cuts. Some work in more than two jobs to make ends meet.

The capital Male’ is most populous city in Maldives with more than 38% of the population living in the capital making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

People migrate from rural areas to the capital city for better education, jobs, and healthcare system. A significant percentage of people living in Male’ have shared accommodations with extended families and friends due to the sky high rents in the capital. Some families share a single room with their children which is not an ideal living condition especially during a pandemic.

We took an interview from an individual to get an insight of daily her struggles throughout this pandemic. To protect the person’s identity her name will not be disclosed in this article.

Are you working?

I work freelance now mostly tuitions. I quit my job to be the full time caretaker of my son with autism. And to cater for his needs. I work during his school time.

Do you get any assistance from anyone?

Any help I get is paid for by me. With pandemic all incomes stopped. So I was fully relying on the government financial assistance. That’s the single parent allowance and special needs child allowance summing to MRF 3000/- (three thousand). We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day. Since my son has sensory issues he cannot eat many varieties food. So I did my best with bread and cheese. And fruit based juices of a particular kind. His therapy stopped and that has led to regressions in some areas. But he also has improved in some areas as well since I am with him constantly and i got to work one on one with him. Alhamdulillah.

What difficulties do you face?

With routine being broken, it gets tough for him to adjust. Sleep patterns and some food stuff he has been taking also has stopped.

What would you request from authorities to improve?

I believe there is little any one can do in this situation. But some form of consideration for these children may be good. In terms of permission on movement and health care. And also some better way for parents like us to work and have a respectable life is essential. We are skill and knowledge rotting away at home because no one can accommodate for our situation. It took a pandemic for organizations to realize physical presence is not required for efficient work to be done. I pray they use this information and experience to help people like us make a living in a manageable way for us.

The situation may reflect that of many who are suffering in silent during this pandemic. The question is what authorities will do to help such individuals. The government support given to these individuals is clearly not acceptable considering the living standard in the capital.

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Opinion

Assisting Poor & Needy in the Midst of the Pandemic using Modes of Islamic Social Finance.

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Islamic finance has become popular today in the Maldives. The population had become well acquainted with modes of Islamic commercial finance as those modes have been institutionalized in the formal finance sector. However, like in other parts of the world, the pandemic has made us realized in the Maldives that it is not sufficient only to have the modes of Islamic commercial finance institutionalized; but there is need to activate and institutionalize Islamic social finance modes as well. In the midst of the pandemic, due to the containment measures taken by the governments to protect human race from becoming extinct, it has been reported that the world poverty clock has turned back. What has been witnessed in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic is that overnight people have become poor. This domino effect caused by the pandemic in a nutshell is shown in the figure below. As such, the poor and needy segment of the population needs financial assistance that is not compatible to be provided using the modes of Islamic commercial finance. Social finance is an approach to managing investments that generate financial returns while including measurable positive social and environmental impact.

What is Islamic Social Finance?

Islamic social finance is a branch of Islamic finance that offers product and services not for profit. The objectives of Islamic social finance are to achieve social justice via redistribution of wealth. The list of Islamic social finance institutions and tools are not exhaustive as it is an area which is still developing. Islamic social finance is also known as Islamic social safety nets or charitable sector of the economy.  It is imperative to note that Islamic social finance is different from Islamic commercial finance of which the objective is different even though some of the instrument/contract used could be same.

Modes of Islamic Social Finance

The modes of Islamic social finance include: zakat; sadaqat or infaq; waqf; takaful; and microfinance.

  • Zakat: A compulsory payment paid every year by those who are eligible for the benefit of those who are stated in Quran, 9:60.
  • Sadaqat or Infaq: A non-compulsory payment given to assist poor and needy to seek pleasure of Allah (SW).
  • Waqf: A non-compulsory irrevocable which means a permanent contribution of one’s wealth whether cash or in kind to seek pleasure of Allah (SW) for social purpose.
  • Takaful: A concept based on mutual assistance or Ta’aawun and donation or Tabarru where joint guarantee to one another is by provided by a group of people who agree to participate with each other who is known as contributors by contributing an amount of money as donation to help each other from damages caused due to happening of future unfortunate events to any participant of the group by helping them using the donation made by the participants of the group.
  • Microfinance: It is providing finance to those who are poor financing via non-profitable means such as interest free loan (qard hasan) or via profitable means such as mudharabah or musharakah to assist them.

 

Ways in which Islamic Social Finance can be utilized to help the needy and Poor

In the midst of the pandemic it has been realized that in different countries in the world, modes of Islamic finance have been activated to assist poor and needy via shared responsibility. Below listed are some ways in which in the Maldives, modes of Islamic social finance could be activated to assist poor and needy.

  • Revise the criteria of poor and needy to provide opportunity to receive zakat assistance to those whose income has been affected adversely due to the pandemic.
  • Even after giving of the debt moratorium to those who have taken financing facilities from financial institutions, but due to loss of income who are unable to pay their debts ought to be assisted by zakat or sadaqat or infaq.
  • A special waqf fund to assist the poor and needy in the society need to be created and this needs to be initiated by the private sector.
  • Islamic microfinance schemes need to be introduced to assist poor and needy to provide them with opportunities to venture into business with interest-free loans and other shariah compatible modes of financing.

 

Conclusion

The pandemic has provided with the opportunity to re-strategize our economic and financial activities. Therefore, it is imperative to innovate ways to utilize Islamic social finance tools and institutions to help those who are poor and needy. As such, the required legal, regulatory, governance and technology infrastructure need to be developed. Definitely through implementation of Islamic social finance tools and institutions, the socio-economic justice will be achieved. From Maqasid al Shariah (objectives of Islamic law) perspective, it is mandatory for one to help each other in protecting one another from hardship as one can achieve success in this world and hereafter.

 

Dr. Aishath Muneeza is an Associate Professor at the International Center for Education in Islamic Finance. 

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