China’s efforts for peace and harmony in Xinjiang

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Sultan M HaliCHINA, which believes in peace within and peace outside its borders, for the last decade or so, has witnessed sporadic acts of terrorism in its western province of Xinjiang with the worst attack occurring in the capital city of Urumqi in 2009, followed by assaults in 2014 and the last occurrence in 2017. It is commendable that the Chinese central government decided to tackle the issue by redressing the root cause of the problem. Specialists were assigned the task of analyzing the problem and also learn lessons from other countries that faced similar issues. The collective endeavours bore fruit and a formal White Paper was issued, which declares that China is a unified multi-ethnic country, and the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang have long been part of the Chinese nation.
Throughout its long history, Xinjiang’s development has been closely related to that of China. However, in more recent times, hostile forces in and outside China have tried to split China and break it apart by distorting history and facts. They deny the fact that Xinjiang has been a part of China’s territory where various ethnic groups have lived together, many cultures have communicated with each other, and different religions have coexisted since ancient times. They call Xinjiang “East Turkistan” and clamour for independence. They attempt to separate ethnic groups in Xinjiang from the Chinese nation and ethnic cultures in the region from the diverse but integrated Chinese culture. The causes of discord were identified as a sense of deprivation and imbalance with the more developed Eastern Provinces of China. This disparity was exploited by the disparagers of China who provoked the ethnic Uyghurs into reacting to the apparent deficiency. The harbingers of hate against China also distorted religion to brainwash the unsuspecting Muslim Uyghurs to commit acts of aggression. The Central Government’s actions bore fruit and the bane of terrorism was successfully rooted out and there have been no fresh incidents of terrorism for the last three years. However, this success was not acceptable to the progenitors of extremism and terrorism in China. Various Western Parliaments also added salt to injury by invoking resolutions condemning China for its alleged oppression of the Uyghurs. While the Occident itself used massive force to curb terrorism, it found faults with China’s persecution of terror mongers. Violence begets more violence. Terror peddlers condition the victims of violence to retaliate with renewed force.
It is heartening that China adopted a more prudent course of action. It decided to persecute the offenders of serious violence, while simultaneously it improved the quality of life of all its citizens including the underprivileged sections of the community. More opulent provinces were urged to participate in the development of those lagging behind while mega projects like the Belt and Road Initiative based on the inclusion of the Uyghurs and other ethnic communities were launched. Concurrently, vocational and re-education centres were established to counter terrorism. These centres inculcated a sense of participation to those who were once considered marginalized and gave them a purpose in life, at the same time they were provided the opportunity to adopt a vocation as means of livelihood. They were also given briefings on the Chinese Constitution and Law. Since the terror mongers, under the guise of religion, trumpeted theocracy, religious supremacism, actions against “pagans”, and “holy wars”, concrete steps were taken to train spiritual leaders to inculcate teachings concerning patriotism, peace, solidarity, tolerance and good deeds advocated by Islam and many other religions. It was highlighted that Chinese Constitution fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief. Xinjiang shows zero tolerance to any action that creates disputes between believers and non-believers, between believers of different religions, and between believers of different sects of a religion. This two-pronged strategy has borne fruit as the serious offenders have been dealt with in accordance with the law, while those who were depicting inclinations to be led astray, have been brought back to the mainstream of society and are now fully equipped to undertake their obligations as responsible citizens of China.
In order to eliminate the possibility of extremists exploiting the religious sentiments of the Muslims and coercing them into committing acts of terror, various steps have been adopted. At the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, which was established 28 years ago, renowned Muslim Scholar Adudulrekep Tumniaz who is the President of the Institute runs degree courses to teach young prayer leaders regarding the correct tenets of Islam. Being an erudite academic, his views regarding Islamic as well as the Chinese Communist Party are enlightening, and he passes it on to his students and disciples. A brand-new campus with modern classrooms, an impressive mosque, well equipped library, cozy dormitories and state-of-the-art sports facilities have been built. The new campus of Xinjiang Islamic Institute, which was completed in 2017, can compete with any modern western university. Western critics and detractors of China have been spreading rumours about the practice of Islam being curtailed, which is far removed from the truth. Extremists have been distorting the tenets of Islam, quoting verses out of context and leading the faithful astray with their particular brand of religion to fulfil their heinous designs. Thus, it is refreshing that the Islamic Institute has picked up the cudgel to produce religious teachers who can become Imams in various mosques and University teachers to guide the faithful and protect them from extremism and ensure peace and harmony.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.

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