Click here to read this post in Arabic.
We're used to seeing the two major preoccupations of U.S. foreign policy - China and the Islamic world - in relation to ourselves, but this Ramadan offered a stark reminder of how they interact with each other.
Ramadan is the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer, during which Muslims are meant to reach out to the poorer members of their community.
However, Chinese authorities did their best to clamp down on Ramadan celebrations among several of its Muslim minority ethnic groups, particularly the Uighurs, a group of Turkic descent whose members make up the majority of the population of China's northwestern Xinjiang province.
Government employees and members of the Communist party were barred from fasting, wearing veils or growing beards. In some areas the authorities have barred restaurants from opening late at night.
The Chinese government usually implements relatively strict religious controls during Ramadan in Xinjiang province, where there's been a long-standing, low-level Muslim insurgency for decades, but restrictions were unusually broad this year. August saw a dramatic spike in violence on the eve of the Olympics. Sixteen police officers were killed in a spate of suicide bombings and shootings in Xinjiang province.
We're used to seeing extreme reactions across the Islamic world to perceived threats to the Muslim community, so why the relative silence on Chinese oppression? Granted, Xinjiang province isn't exactly on the lips of Muslims in the Islamic heartlands - it's a remote region, and the Chinese authorities are keen to keep it marginalized. But Muslim silence also reflects how many in the Islamic world currently view China, and here there are some salient points of comparison with the U.S.
China doesn't come with the same degree of ideological baggage, such as spreading democracy or fighting terrorism. While China may be repressing Muslims in Xinjiang beyond its boundaries China's politburo is not demanding that the Muslim world change its ideological identity, its government or its treatment of women to suit the country's interests.
China is also foraging in such backwaters of the Islamic world for energy as Yemen, Sudan and Chad. I took a flight to Yemen last year in which the plane was filled with Chinese businessmen looking for oil deals in the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The handful of Americans on the flight were whisked away from the airport under armed escort - the Chinese took local buses and mini-cabs into town.
While Chinese businessmen operate in such countries that are far from the eyes of the mainstream Arab media in the Gulf and the Levant, Muslim attitudes to China are unlikely to change. When they do, inevitably, turn to the oil-rich heartlands like Iraq and Saudi Arabia, China may well be exposed to the same distrust of foreign meddling with which the Americans are charged. Then abuses like the ones that have taken place in Xinjiang over the past month may well garner the full scrutiny that they deserve.