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In Britain, Jews lead fight against oppression of China’s Uighur Muslims

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JTA — As the leader of British Jewry’s main human rights group, Mia Hasenson-Gross regularly hears personal stories of loss, grief and helplessness.

But few encounters have affected Hasenson-Gross as profoundly as the one she had in 2019 with Rahima Mahmut, a UK-based activist for the rights of Uighurs, a Muslim minority that is the target of what the US State Department and many advocates say is an attempted genocide by the Chinese government.

Mahmut said that she has not spoken in over four years with the family she left behind in 1997 following an earlier government crackdown on Uighurs called the Ghulja massacre in which dozens were killed. Mahmut does not know whether her siblings are dead or alive, she told Hasenson-Gross.

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“I found myself thinking back about my own grandfather, Saul Gun, who left his family in Romania in the 1920s and soon thereafter never really knew what exactly happened to them during the Holocaust,” Hasenson-Gross told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The director of the London-based Rene Cassin charity, she decided she had to spread the word about what was happening to the Uighurs. Rahima Mahmut speaks about the Uighur plight in a December 2020 YouTube interview. (Screenshot)

Hasenson-Gross’s efforts added to an unusual mobilization that has turned British Jews — including their chief rabbi, who usually remains aloof from political issues that don’t directly involve Jews or Israel — into some of the most vocal advocates for the Chinese Muslim minority.

“Reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages, I feel compelled to speak out,” Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in a December 15 op-ed in The Guardian titled “As chief rabbi, I can no longer remain silent about the plight of the Uighurs.”

For British Jewry, the effort is akin to the fight by American Jews 15 years ago against the genocide in Darfur: a situation so resonant of the Jews’ historical trauma that entire communities are joining in. Unusually, the push to draw attention to the Uighur cause is captivating not just liberal Jews often involved in issues of social justice but Orthodox Jews, as well.

“People in the rank and file of the community are talking about this issue,” said Herschel Gluck, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who has fostered relationships with British Muslims. “This is something that is felt very deeply by the community. They feel that if ‘Never again’ is a term that needs to be used, this is certainly one of the situations where it applies.” Illustrative: Rabbi Herschel Gluck (C), president of Shomrim in Stamford Hill, visits the scene of an anti-Islamic attack in Finsbury Park, north London on June 19, 2017. (AFP/ Isabel Infantes)

One of the first British Jews to openly join with the Uighurs is an Orthodox Jew named Andrew, who since 2019 has been protesting, mostly on his own, outside the Chinese Embassy in London. At least twice a week, in all kinds of weather conditions, he takes up his position holding a........

© The Times of Israel

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