China has detained hundreds of thousands of its Muslim citizens from the Uighur ethnic minority in the last three years.
The football player used social media to raise awareness about the situation of Uighur Muslims, who are suffering detention and strict policy.
The football player wrote that Qurans are burned, and mosques were closed in China, urging Muslims to speak up against the systemic mistreatment.
“Islamic theological schools, madrasas [Islamic schools] were banned, religious scholars were killed one b one” in China.
Ozil also blamed Muslims for looking the other way while Uighurs’ plight has only worsened in the past months.
“Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet.”
In his statement, the Muslim football player, who currently plays for Arsenal, likened Muslims’ silence to a tacit approval of the situation. “They don’t know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself. The honorable Ali, son-i-law of the Prophet Muhammad says that ‘if you cannot prevent persecution, expose it,’” he said tartly.
The football player also expressed support for the Uighur Muslims, calling them warriors who resist persecution.
In a surprising move, Arsenal issued a statement to distance itself from the football player’s statement.
“The content he expressed is entirely Ozil’s personal opinion,” the English club wrote.
Arsenal also said that it is always “apolitical as an organisation.”
China has long denied accusations on Uighur Muslims’ plight. The country calls the detention camps “voluntary” and says they are re-education centers to combat extremism.
Rights groups, however, have maintained that the Muslim community of Uighurs are experiencing systemic, state-sponsored injustice.
Human Rights Watch described the actions taken against the Uighur Muslims as “rampant abuses” that “violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and privacy, and protections from torture and unfair trials.
Meanwhile, recently leaked Communist Party documents have revealed China’s policy on detention camps for Uighur Muslims in its western Xinjiang province.
The leaked documents include a memo from 2017 giving instructions on how to run the detention camps. In the memo, the chief deputy of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, Zhu Hailun, said camp staff must “strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes during class, eating periods, toilet breaks, bath time, medical treatment, family visits, etc.”