The New York Times is reporting on Chinese government efforts to stem the tide of Islamist terrorism in the Xinjiang region, the place where most of China’s ten million Uighurs live. Reports from the region are very rare indeed, so this one is well worth heeding, without any excessive commentary.
After a 2014 terrorist attack, the government began a crackdown:
After 43 people were killed in a pair of attacks in the regional capital, Urumqi, in 2014, Beijing began a “strike hard special operation” that it says has dismantled nearly 200 terrorist groups and resulted in the execution of at least 49 people. The state news media describes those caught in the crackdown as terrorism suspects or separatists seeking an independent Xinjiang, and blames recurring violence in the region on jihadists influenced or directed by agents overseas.
Rather than attack Islamophobia, as the Obama administration does, the Chinese authorities are trying to suppress Islam.
The Times reports:
Families sundered by a wave of detentions. Mosques barred from broadcasting the call to prayer. Restrictions on the movements of laborers that have wreaked havoc on local agriculture. And a battery of ever more intrusive ways to monitor the communications of citizens for possible threats to public security.
Evidently, the local population is severely unhappy with what is going on:
A recent 10-day journey across the Xinjiang region in the far west of China revealed a society seething with anger and trepidation as the government, alarmed by a slow-boil insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives, has introduced unprecedented measures aimed at shaping the behavior and beliefs of China’s 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority that considers this region its homeland.
Here in Kashgar, the fabled Silk Road outpost near China’s border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, officials have banned mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer, forcing muezzins to shout out the invocation five times a day from rooftops across the city. The new rule is an addition to longstanding policies that prohibit after-school religious classes and children under 18 from entering mosques. (The installation of video cameras on mosque doorways in recent months makes such rules hard to ignore.)
Southeast of Kashgar, shopkeepers in the city of Hotan seethed over a government decision to outlaw two dozen names considered too Muslim, forcing parents to rename their children or be unable to register them for school, according to local residents and the police.
And farther north in Ghulja, an ethnically diverse city near the Kazakh border with a history of tensions, a pair of unemployed college graduates fumed about a crackdown prohibiting young men from wearing beards and women from veiling their faces. Those who ignore the rules are sometimes jailed, residents said.
Of course, savvy Westerners believe that the government effort to suppress Islam will produce more radicals and more terrorism.
This remains to be seen. If it does, the policy will be discredited. If it tamps down extremism other nations will be tempted to adopt it.