United front against terrorism

Updated: 2014-08-07 07:00

By Pan Zhiping(China Daily)

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A growing number of Uygurs are rising up to extend a helping hand in the fight against terror and this will increasingly isolate terrorists

The violent terrorist attack in Shache county, Kashgar prefecture of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on July 28, which killed 37 innocent people, should serve as a warning that the anti-terror challenge is still grave in Xinjiang. But it can be seen from the latest attacks that more ordinary Uygur people are standing up against the terrorists.

The terrorist incident, in which 35 Han and two Uygur people were killed, 13 people were injured and 31 automobiles damaged, shocked the world.

The terrorist attack indicates that the government needs to take firm action. In the attack, the police killed 59 rioters and arrested 215, who were well-equipped with swords and axes, even banners of Jihad.

Shache is a typical rural place far away from the cities; terrorist gangs and religious extremism are still expanding in such places, because in general the residents there receive less education, making it easier for them to be brainwashed.

The rise of terrorism in Xinjiang over the years has both domestic and international reasons. Domestically, relatively slow development caused by the local economic structure, increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth and resources, and insufficient improvement in employment and education opportunities, as well as other social problems have accumulated for decades. These problems will not be solved overnight.

The international community is also experiencing a wave of Islamic conservatism. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which now occupies large parts of Iraq and has massacred a large number of innocent people, is a typical example of religious fundamentalism. Even in more secular Islamic states, conservative parties are gaining the upper hand in politics.

United front against terrorism

Therefore we cannot be too optimistic about the anti-terror fight in Xinjiang. It may take decades rather than years to curb terrorism.

Neither should we be relaxed about the double standards of the West on terrorism. Certain Western governments call terrorist attacks against themselves "terrorism" but those against the Chinese government "resistance against the State".

They have condemned the recent attacks in China that have killed innocent civilians, but their double standards continue and they hold a vague attitude toward the terrorist attacks on police stations and government agencies, which is similar to the stance of the notorious World Uyghur Congress. China must be prepared not to let such double standards get in the way of its efforts to fight terrorism.

However, there is hope of things turning better. Being influenced by extremism, terrorists now find themselves being isolated by ordinary Muslims and Uygur people. Terrorists used to hide under the cover of religion, but the murder of Jume Tahir, the respected Imam of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, on July 30 shows they now view true religion as an obstacle and need to remove it to realize their evil plan.

Such inhuman deeds will doubtlessly turn more ordinary residents, especially those from the Uygur ethnic group, into firm enemies against them. The day after the murder of the Imam, 170 religion followers from across Xinjiang held a conference to condemn the crime and call for firm measures to crack down on terrorism.

Before that on May 11, Uygur students jointly published an open letter expressing their opposition to violent terrorists that "bring shame upon Xinjiang"; over 200 Uygur scholars, poets and writers have also asked their ethnic group not to remain silent anymore. Later, 300 entrepreneurs of minority ethnic groups called for their Uygur compatriots to join hands in maintaining stability and security in Xinjiang.

These efforts have been rewarded. On Friday, when the police took actions to strike against terrorists in Hotan, Xinjiang, 30,000 local residents, mostly Uygur people, volunteered to take part in the operation. Media reports said that even senior citizens over 70 years old extended helping hands.

That's a growing sign that Uygur people from all walks of life are joining the common fight against terrorism. Of the whole Uygur population, both the terrorists and those who fight against them account for small percentages; the majority do not believe in religious extremism but have not made up their minds to stand against the terrorists. It is the terrorists themselves that are pushing ordinary Uygur people to side against them.

With increasingly more Uygur residents standing firmly against them, terrorism will find it hard to survive in Xinjiang because the terrorists will not be able to enlarge their organization and their deeds will quickly be reported.

Terrorism in Xinjiang is rising, but a broad and united front against terrorism is growing, too.

The author is former director of the Institute of Central Asia Studies at Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 08/07/2014 page8)