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@muslim: Uyghur Crisis, influence, social media activism

Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh is a Muslim activist and a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He may seem like an average student, but he is most popularly known for his viral campaign to shed light on the Uyghur Muslim persecution in China. 

If you didn’t know, in China, at least a million Muslims are being detained in the country’s self-described “re-education centers,” which are actually torture or internment camps. These “Xinjiang re-education camps” have been run by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government since 2014. The Uyghur Muslim population has been detained without any charges against it or any fair trial in these secretive camps all across China. 

Reports have shown that these detainees are forced to drink alcohol, eat pork (which are forbidden in Islam) and undergo brainwashing such as being forced to study the communist propaganda for hours every day and chant slogans cheering for the long life of Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China. Escapees have also reported upon being tortured, while also being forced to live in cramped and unsanitary living conditions. 

Although there have been attempts by the U.S to shut down these camps, none have been successful and they continue to run even today. Most Americans and the world aren’t even aware of this issue occurring right now due to failure of adequate media coverage and lack of popularity on this issue. This is where Al-Khatahtbeh steps in and decides to post facts, articles and information in order to educate his followers and others on this issue on his Instagram page called @muslim. 

One campaign of his that has been very successful is called #CloseTheCamps. This post has more than 178,000 likes and it's an image of two hands: one red with yellow stars to symbolize China and one blue with a white symbol of Islam being strangled by the hand of China with blood pouring down on the words "#CloseTheCamps." It has gone viral with many people — Muslim or not — posting this image on their Instagram stories and thus letting people know about this issue.

When asked what it takes for information or a post to go viral, Al-Khatahtbeh said, “DM-ing influencers and having them share the post on their story is what made this post go viral.” After the post went viral, @muslim gained more than 15,000 followers.

“This is an issue and it is not talked about and what made it go viral is because people related to it and saw how messed up it was. Making this post go viral was a team effort with the influencers who followed the account and for everyone who shared the post. Through sharing, the post went viral ... The first day it hit 5,000 likes. Then I went to sleep and woke up and the next day there were 11,000 likes. I don’t know what happened, but then it jumped to 25,000, to 50,000 and then eventually 100,000 likes. We thought 'Oh my god, this is crazy!'” he said.

His future plan for this account is to make it into a media site such as Teen Vogue or Muslim Girl. When asked if he believed that he is a Muslim activist, he said, “Definitely, I always stood my ground on issues with the Muslim community. This account is for Muslim people, but we also tie it with human rights. We talk about Black Lives Matter and issues that affect people in general. People may bash us and say we are being very progressive but Islam is all about humanity. We are all about being peaceful and sending that message out there.”

Whether you are Muslim, go ahead and check out Al-Khatahtbeh’s page and see what else he has on there. Not only does he tackle the issue of Uyghur, but he also has many informative and funny posts about climate change, protests and other Islamic issues.   

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