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Muslim-American coalition calls for boycott Hilton over planned hotel on Uyghur mosque

29th Oct 2021
Muslim-American coalition calls for boycott Hilton  over planned hotel on Uyghur mosque

Photo: Nihad Awad, executive director of the CAIR and Uyghur human rights organizations hold a news conference at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC, on September. 16 (Photo courtesy of CAIR)

Nadine Osman

Over 40 Muslim-American civil rights NGOs announced their campaign calling for the boycott of Hilton Worldwide over plans to build a hotel on the site of a mosque destroyed by Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

There is a boycott in response to Hilton’s plans to convert the site of a mosque destroyed in 2018 into a Hampton Inn hotel in the Hotan Prefecture.

Chinese authorities are accused of systematically interning, sterilizing, separating children, and destroying religious sites as a way of oppressing Uyghurs and other people. The UN and rights groups estimate that one million Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic minorities are being held in camps where they have been put to work in Xinjiang.

China initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres designed to combat extremism. China has denied accusations it mistreats minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, or that forced labour is carried out there.

At a press conference held in front of Hilton headquarters in Virginia on September 16, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had been indirectly negotiating with the hotel group regarding construction plans, but that talks had fallen through.

“Today, we are announcing a global boycott campaign against Hilton… You and I have the choice to choose where to go on your travel or to do business meetings or to hold events, weddings or banquets,” said the Executive Director of CAIR, Nihad Awad.

In July, a bipartisan US congressional commission called on Hilton Worldwide not to allow its name to be associated with the hotel project.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that 16,000 mosques in 900 Xinjiang communities have been damaged or destroyed between 2017 and 2020. Minarets have been removed from mosques, some demolished altogether in the area that is closely monitored by China. The destruction has been verified by reports on the ground and comparing satellite photos from previous years until now.

Reuters reported Chinese officials told them there had been no forced destruction of religious sites in Xinjiang and that Reuters was welcome to visit.
Reuters reported during Ramadan that most of the mosques it visited in 12 days had been demolished or partially destroyed.

In January, the US announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations that they are made with forced labour by Uyghurs. Several Western brands, including H&M, Burberry and Nike, have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after raising concerns about suspected forced labour in Xinjiang. China holds roughly 20 per cent of the world’s cotton market, and 85 per cent of its cotton comes from Xinjiang.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet said that recent efforts to gain access to China’s Xinjiang region have failed, adding that she was finalising a report on the situation. “In the meantime, my office is finalising its assessment of the information on allegations of serious human rights violations in that region, with a view to making it public,” she said.

Xinjiang forced labour: Retailers face legal action in Germany

In September, a human rights group filed a complaint to German prosecutors alleging that five retailers, including C&A, Lidl, and HUGO BOSS, profited from forced labour in Xinjiang.

Following an investigation, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted a case that also targeted two supermarket chains, Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd. Miriam Saage-Maass of the ECCHR said there was plenty of evidence to suggest forced labour was taking place.

“The question is whether entertaining business relationships is not a way of aiding and abetting those international crimes,” she said.

According to the ECCHR, the companies listed their Xinjiang supply factories “publicly and voluntarily” but may only represent a small sample of similar factories in Xinjiang.

“We do believe that those five are only an example of a much wider and more systematic problem,” she said. Fashion retailer C&A denied purchasing any garments from Xinjiang-based manufacturers. It added that it has not been sourcing yarn or fabric from the region.

Likewise, HUGO BOSS rejected the claims. A spokesman for the luxury fashion house told The Muslim News, “We believe that our values and standards have been adhered to in the manufacture of our goods and that there have been no violations of the law. We, therefore, reject ECCHR’s claims to the contrary. We have, of course, taken the public reports of human rights violations in the region very seriously and initiated measures accordingly.”

The Aldo Group said the ECCHR’s allegations are directed at the supplier Turpan Jinpin Knitting, but it said it had stopped purchasing any items from the company since the end of 2019. A spokesman for the group told The Muslim News, “ALDI does not normally maintain any direct business relationships with production sites. We obtain most of our products from suppliers. That is why, before entering into a relationship with direct business partners, we check whether or not they meet our corporate responsibility standards. We regularly review our business partners to ensure that our requirements are continuously met.”

A spokesman for Lidl told The Muslim News, “We take a zero-tolerance position in regards to forced and child labour, and it is part of our written Code of Conduct. This is communicated to all suppliers to comply with, and they are required to implement social and ecological standards. If we have evidence regarding violations of these provisions, we will investigate and take any appropriate steps, including bans on production sites.”

 

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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