The United States is no stranger to domestic lone-wolf terror attacks. Just hours ago, a lone-gunman killed eleven people and injured six at a Jewish house of worship in the city of Pittsburgh. The Global Times, one of China’s most influential newspapers has published an opinion piece suggesting that neither harsh punishments nor gun control measures will fully stem the tide of extremist attacks from happening in the United States. Instead, the author advocated for a more holistic approach to educating people about the dangers of extremism and the benefits of a more enlightened thought process and lifestyle.
According to the editorial:
“On Saturday morning, a gunman opened fire at a baby-naming ceremony at the Tree of Life synagogue near Pittsburgh Squirrel Hill in the US, killing at least 11 people and injuring six others. The gunman yelled ‘all Jews must die’. Police called the incident a ‘hate crime’.
President Donald Trump tweeted saying, ‘In our country, frankly, and hatred around the world is happening. This is a terrible and terrible thing. There are still some things to do’. As we all see, this is obviously a terrorist attack with a clear target. What can Trump do next? Promote the death penalty or improve gun control?
Frankly, we doubt that these methods can change the dire situation. What the US needs urgently is to start education that promotes anti-extremist thought.
This incident shows that the US has a certain number of lone-wolf extremists. Such incidents endanger social security and stability and are creating more extreme “identity conflicts”. It is difficult to deter such crimes simply by strengthening legal punishment. There is a need for more effective anti-extremism education in some areas, especially for some group of people.
The world is facing severe challenges from terrorism, and the birth of terrorists is related to education. Many countries are seeking education to improve people’s understanding of different religions and nationalities and to understand the dangers of extremism. China has made efforts in this regard and has achieved results. Despite different conditions, China’s experience in anti-extremism education in Xinjiang provides a solution to the problem for certain countries.
Addressing the challenge of terrorism requires a broader and more open attempt, not a judgment based on a country’s social values. Facts have shown that Western values used to assess ethnic and religious issues have not contributed to decreasing the number of terrorists. In some countries and regions, ethnic and religious divisions have even intensified.
It is necessary to remove the soil that terrorists breed in and start with education. We hope more countries can achieve breakthrough in such anti-extremism education”.
It has been a proven fact that as societies become more collectively educated, incidents of domestic terrorism and related forms of extremism tend to decrease. The same is true in respect of positive economic measures taken to improve the lives of ordinary people. In the Chinese province of Xinjiang, local authorities have taken positive action steps to reverse the tides of existing and potential extremism by implementing a series of educational and vocational training programs designed with bespoke characteristics for individuals susceptible to extremist propaganda.
The programs have thus far seen an increase in social harmony in Xinjiang which has been accompanying by new economic initiatives to improve the fortunes of the people.
The dangers of religious extremism are well known throughout the world and in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has worked to eradicate the dangers of terrorist violence through a balanced combination of investment into Xinjiang as well as empowering social programmes to help teach new vocational skills and positive social values to those who have in the past been tempted to join the ranks of lawless gangs.
Pakistani scholar S M Hali has been a frequent visitor to Xinjiang and a recent report he authored describing the recent changes in the province remains deeply informative to those unfamiliar with recent developmental trends. The following is a substantial excerpt from Hali’s recent report on the realities in Xinjiang:
“In the past, China’s eastern provinces enjoyed greater opulence and a higher rate of development, perhaps because they are closer to the coastal region and ports. However, this disparity caused Xinjiang’s population to face a sense of deprivation, which was manipulated by China’s detractors, who tried to incite the Muslim population, ethnic Uighurs, into insurgency.
President Xi Jinping quelled the insurgency with a two pronged policy. Security forces cracked down on the troublemakers with an iron hand, while development projects with the inclusion of Uighurs ushered an era of prosperity. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the New Silk Road, which promises a new age of affluence, has Xinjiang as its focal point. The flagship BRI project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) terminates at Xinjiang’s ancient city of Kashgar, which was a major city of the ancient Silk Road and has become BRI’s launching pad into Central Asia and beyond.
I have been visiting Xinjiang for the past four decades and am a witness to its various stages of development. From a sleepy backwater of the 1970s, Urumqi has become a sprawling metropolis, with high-rise buildings, busy roads, marketplaces and shopping malls. A network for underground Metro trains and high-speed railways is reaching the final stages of completion.
Currently I am touring Xinjiang as a guest of the BRI to delve deep into its core and feel the pulse of this massive project. A detailed tour of the Xinjiang Islamic Institute and discussions with AdudulrekepTumniaz, President of the Institute and deputy director of Xinjiang Islamic Association was very reassuring. The Institute is 28 years old and has came a long way. My previous visit was in 2011 and since then, a new campus with modern class rooms, an impressive mosque, well equipped library, cosy dormitories and state of the art sports facilities has been completed in 2017, which can compete with any modern western university.
The Bachelor’s Degree being conferred upon the Islamic Scholars from the Institute — which numbers around 1200 per year — is spread over five years. Imbibed with the knowledge of Islam, equipped with the wherewithal to take up the responsibility of guiding others, these graduates have an open mind and are well versed in technology science, social studies and current international affairs to meet the challenge head on.
Facilities for practicing religion are also being enhanced. Modern and well equipped mosques, slaughter houses where halal meat can be procured or the Eid-ul-Azha rituals practiced and support in pilgrimage are paying rich dividends. The government is ensuring that pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah are provided logistic support, while spiritual education and respect for the rights of the faithful is maintained. Medical facilities, which were redundant in Xinjiang once upon a time, have now been established to a level which is unprecedented. Traditional as well as conventional medicine is offered to the urban as well as rural dwellers with the additional advantage of telemedicine, on concessional or gratis basis.
With such a heavy investment, financially, spiritually and morally, there is no way the detractors of China can lead the faithful astray any longer”.
Today, Chinese themselves are voicing their views about the improved social conditions in Xinjiang. While western media outlets have maliciously described Xinjiang’s vocational schools as “re-education camps” those who have attended vocational classes have expressed their contentment with the new skills they have learned.
In an interview conducted by the Global Times, Xinjiang resident Eli Matusun described his vocational classes in the following way:
“I was born in a religious family and was told that I was born to be a Muslims. I had little knowledge of laws before participating in the program. Distorted doctrines spread by religious extremists are against our laws. The program was good timing for me, since we learned that extremism is the root of terrorism and violence and if we go further astray, we would become terrorists”.
Eli has stated that he now seeks to start his own business based on the skills he has learned.
The success stories of Xinjiang residents who have had their lives improved through advanced vocational training represent a model to multiple nations that are grappling with the very serious issue of how to become more inclusive towards minority groups while also maintaining a legal order that is often threatened by extremists who have historically exploited minority groups in order to cause public agitations in the pursuit of illegal material enrichment. China’s solution to these issues, much like China’s economic and foreign policy is one based on balance, respect for local cultural characteristics and an understanding that the downtrodden must be enlightened in order for them to then elevate their own standing in society from a position of self-confidence, valour and intellectual soundness.
By contrast, as more migrants from Islamic backgrounds attempt to build new lives in Europe, both the political class and the populous of many European states have reached the dangerous conclusion that somehow Muslims cannot live in a harmonious relationship with their non-Muslim neighbours. It is consequently supremely hypocritical that these same European leaders and their supporters in the European media continue to espouse black propaganda regarding the status of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
As nations that have brutally colonised much of Asia and Africa in prior centuries, Europeans have exhausted any potential credibility they have when chastising Beijing’s relationship with its Muslim citizens who reside primarily in Xinjiang. The fact of the matter is that China has helped Xinjiang to flourish while pouring in ever more investment into the human development of the province’s people. This internal win-win model that officials continue to expand in Xinjiang must be understood for what it is rather than what exploitative scaremongers might imagine it to be. At its most fundamental level, the Chinese solution to combating extremism in Xinjiang is a people-centred educational drive which elevates rather than punishes individuals, thus insuring people a life of peace and prosperity rather than a life of crime and violence against themselves and others.
But it is not merely tensions between European secularists and Muslim migrants in Europe that require reexamination in light of China’s successful rehabilitation and revitalisation of those in Xinjiang whose lives and society would have otherwise be destroyed by the forces of extremism. In the United States, hateful violent political rallies, school shootings and now an attack on religious Jews has proved that the United States is not at peace with itself across many social divides.
While the pervasiveness of drugs is typically a factor behind the incidents of mass violence in the US, further steps must be taken to eradicate a culture in which the drug use leading to violence is increasingly normalised by negative social forces. One of the reasons that clinical cases of mental illnesses including depression tend to be high in the United States than in other nations is due to the negativity of media coverage regarding politics, social affairs and geopolitical events.
Just as Islamic extremism in places like Pakistan once thrived among anti-patriotic forces that encouraged the violence of the war in Afghanistan to spill across the border into Pakistani territory, so too is the pervasiveness of America’s zero-sum geopolitical militarism now blowing back onto US soil as was witnessed in yesterday’s terrorist attack on American Jews. Pakistan was able to combat extremism both through disciplined security measures as well as through improving the social status of those susceptible to extremism who lived in economically depressed regions that neighbour Afghanistan. But while Pakistan and China have both identified the root problems of extremism and have taken the necessary action steps to stop its spread, the United States has not yet even taken the steps necessary to understand extremism’s root cause.
As recently as 2004, US soldiers whose presence in Iraq was contrary to international law, were videotaped shooting an unarmed civilian inside a mosque. Yesterday’s incident of domestic terrorism that saw unarmed civilians slaughtered in a synagogue was a frightening parallel to what a uniformed American did to a Muslim civilian in Iraq.
China has clearly taken positive measures to prevent the spread of extremism that is made possible by the de-contextualisation of disturbing global events while also working to foster an enlightened domestic society in which people form the basis of their own destiny within a cooperative and positive social framework. According to Xi Jinping Thought:
“The people are the creators of history as well as the fundamental forces that determine the future and destiny of the party and the country. We must adhere to the principal position of the people, adhere to building a party that serves the interests of the public and to governing the country for the people”.
By contrast, the American media’s constant de-humanisation of individuals and populations both domestically and abroad has led to an atmosphere in which social frustrations are feed by the flames of extremism rather than quelled by the waters of a holistic education that is rooted in an understanding of local social characteristics. The following element of Xi Jinping Thought is also an important element when it comes to understanding how social tensions can give way to win-win relationships between diverse individuals throughout the world.
“The dream of the Chinese people is closely connected with the dreams of other peoples of the world. Realising the Chinese dream is inseparable from a peaceful international environment and a stable international order. [We must] always be the builder of world peace, the contributor to global development and the defender of the international order”.
It is these guiding principles which have been moved into action throughout China with the socio-economic rehabilitation of Xinjiang being an important case study. In the United States, by dividing citizens into hostile constituent groups, violence becomes the natural outgrowth of such a sociological phenomenon. The combination of practical education in the pursuit of both intellectual enlightenment and the improvement of material social conditions can help multiple societies including the United States to dramatically reduce tragic instances of violence and terrorist extremism.