Arsenal distance themselves from Mesut Ozil’s posts criticizing China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims

Arsenal have distanced themselves from comments made by Mesut Özil on Instagram & Twitter, in which he spoke out strongly against China’s persecution of the Uighur population in the north-western region of Xinjiang and criticised Muslims for not doing more to highlight the issue.

Mesut Ozil accused Muslims of staying silent over the mistreatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in China, becoming one of the most prominent public figures to condemn Beijing on the issue. “Korans are burned. Mosques are closed. Their schools are banned,” said the Muslim player, who is often seen praying on the field, “but the Muslim community is silent.”
His Instagram message read: “East Turkistan, the bleeding wound of the Ummah, resisting against the persecutors trying to separate them from their religion. They burn their Qurans. They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men. The women are forced to marry Chinese men.
“But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?”

The club sought to limit any damage caused to its business in China, a country with at least 187 million soccer fans, based on Nielsen estimates. where it has numerous commercial interests including a chain of restaurants, by releasing a statement on Weibo – a leading Chinese social media site – as well as other platforms stressing it is apolitical and does not associate itself with Özil’s views.

The club responded with a post on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo, where it has more than 5 million followers, distancing itself from the player’s comments.

“The content published is all Ozil’s personal opinion,” the team said. “Arsenal, as a football club, has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”

A United Nations assessment said tens of thousands to “upwards of 1 million” Uighurs have been detained in China, although the government says it’s fighting separatism and religious extremism.

Rights groups say about a million people – mostly from the Muslim Uighur community – are thought to have been detained without trial in high-security prison camps.

China says they are being educated in “vocational training centres” to combat violent religious extremism.

China blacked out some National Basketball Association’s games in October after Houston Rockets’s General Manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. 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.