Footballer Mesut Ozil calls for more awareness on plight of Uigher Muslims

Elias Hubbard
December 15, 2019

"Thank you, Mesut Ozil, on behalf of 35 million oppressed". One showed a shredded Ozil shirt next to a pair of scissors, while another called for the footballer to be expelled from the club.

Instead, it will show a prerecorded game between Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal's local rivals, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"Korans are burned. Mosques are closed".

Those are the alleged human rights abuses Ozil is speaking out on, and they are also what Arsenal is actively avoiding comment on.

Arsenal have distanced the club from midfielder Mesut Ozil's comments on the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.

In October, the National Basketball Association were subject to criticism from the state after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey sent his support to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, prompting Chinese companies to suspended sponsorship and television deals, costing the league "a substantial" amount of money according to Adam Silver, the organisation's chief. "Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet", Ozil, who is a Muslim, said in his posts.

"Regarding the comments made by Mesut Özil on social media, Arsenal must make a clear statement", the club said on Chinese social-networking site Weibo on Friday, per The Guardian. CCTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment. "As a football club, Arsenal always adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics".

Arsenal may have been attempting to protect itself from any bitter response from China, a country with at least 187 million soccer fans, based on Nielsen estimates.

The Premier League club has now moved to limit the damage to its business interests in China, where it has a number of commercial enterprises including a chain of restaurants.

Özil's statement was in relation to the Uighurs, where documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists state that over one million people from China's Muslim minorities have been held in detention camps in recent years. He deleted the message, but China took umbrage and the NBA's sponsors in the country cut ties with the U.S. league.

Arsenal's response mirrors the post by the basketball team's billionaire owner Tilman Fertitta.

More recently, Chinese video-sharing app TikTok suspended, and then later restored, the account of a user after she posted viral videos critical of the Chinese government's actions in Xinjiang.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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