Wellington, MINA – New Zealand professional rugby player Sonny Bill Williams for the first time responded to the matter of China’s treatment tobthe minority Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang.
The athlete, who converted to Islam 10 years ago, while playing for Toulon in France, joined the growing trend of athlete activism.
In December 2019, the 34-year-old player uploaded a picture on social media that showed a hand with a Chinese flag clutching a bloody arm representing East Turkmenistan, the old name of Xinjiang province in China.
Under the picture, Williams wrote, “This is a sad time when we choose to put the economy ahead of humanity.”
Williams’s upload is seen as open criticism of the detention of more than one million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province by the Chinese government. China called the detention a center of anti-extremist reeducation.
In an interview with Sky News, Williams said he had been a longtime supporter and also vocal of what he called brothers in China. He revealed Uighur Muslims were in detention camps and faced injustice. Therefore, he said that what he revealed was only the truth.
“Sometimes you can tell the truth, whether it can make you uncomfortable with others or not. But I’m always a side person, not just for myself, but for what I feel is right, and in that situation, that’s all that happened, “Williams said, quoted from Sky News on Monday, February 3.
However, Williams is not the first sports star to openly denounce China’s actions against Uighur Muslims. Previously, Arsenal footballer who is also Muslim from Turkey, Mesut Oezil, also cast criticism on China. As a result, China removed Arsenal match from television broadcasts in the country and removed Oezil from video games.
Responding to the reaction to Oezil’s criticism, Williams said he would not be deterred by the potential for such retaliatory attacks. He said he and people in other parts of the region could wake up every day and move according to their wishes. However, he said there are people all over the world who can’t even eat and often afraid of bombs being dropped on their heads.
According to him, there are many cruelties in the world that known but cannot be understood. Because of that, he claimed to only try his best,
“When it came to the situation of being able to speak as an athlete, I was almost ashamed to say I didn’t talk enough. That was not only as a Muslim, but also as a human being,” he said.
Williams will spend half the season in Toronto and half in Manchester. He made his super league debut against Castleford Sunday local time. Next, he will rest to return to New Zealand. Because, his wife is expected to give birth to their fourth child. He claimed to miss his children and wife.
“But you know, with difficulties coming easily. Going far, if your mindset is regulated in a way where you see pressure as a challenge, you become excited by them. I’m happy to have my young family here and let them see a bit of bright English,” he said.
Williams recently became the highest-paid rugby star in history after signing a two-year contract for the Toronto Wolfpack translating rugby league team on a deal believed to be worth £ 5 million. One of the best rugby players in history has just started training with the Toronto Wolfpack this month.
He hasn’t played a rugby league match in more than five years. Therefore, its performance will certainly be in the spotlight. (T/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)