China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims is a horrible abuse of state power, but there is a real terrorist threat to deal with.
There have been a lot of stories of late covering what is happening in northwest China.
The area known as Xinjiang has essentially come under a state of siege. Officials have rounded up perhaps as many as one million locals (all of them Muslims: the area is historically Islamic) and placed them in concentration camps, euphemistically called ‘re-education centres’.
Round the clock technological surveillance is the norm and hundreds, maybe thousands, of Muslim religious buildings have been razed.
What China is doing is not limited to its national borders
Uyghur Muslims (the name given to the areas residents) around the world are being hassled and threatened by Chinese officials. They are being told to say nothing about the crackdown or their families back home will be harmed. I met a few immigrants in Montreal a few years ago who told me what they had been subjected to, and I do not doubt that this is happening, despite Chinese denials.
It is reasonable to suggest that what is unfolding in Xinjiang is tantamount to genocide. In essence China is doing what it can to eliminate Islam from its country and with it the existence of Uyghur Muslims.
Attack in Xinjiang Province, PRC
What is lost in this is the fact that there is a very real terrorist threat emanating from a small number of Chinese Uyghur Muslims.
As I wrote in my third book The Lesser Jihads, these terrorists have carried out several attacks over the years, the largest one in July 2014 when a knife-wielding gang attacked a police station and government offices in Yarkant, leaving 96 dead.
The Lesser Jihads: Bringing the Islamist Extremist Fight to the World (2017)
The Lesser Jihads examines conflict through the lens of Islamist terrorist groups. Bringing together in one volume different conflicts where terrorist groups are active worldwide, this text introduces the world and thinking of Jihadists while highlighting a number of seldom reported cases.
Less than six months later, on November 29, assailants threw explosives and attacked people with knives at a crowded food market in Shache County, killing four civilians. Fourteen others taken to hospital with injuries.
Shache is known as Yarkant in Uyghur. So yes there is a pattern here.
Terrorism feeds on grievance and injustice
A state has the right, and the obligation, to protect its people from terrorism: of that there should be no argument. But what China is doing is several orders of magnitude beyond what is necessary – or effective. The government may feel that its overwhelming use of force will eliminate terrorism once and for all, but it is mistaken.
Terrorism feeds on grievance and injustice. And China is providing a banquet feast.