Editor's Note: Development policies have brought about remarkable, positive changes in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Yet some Western politicians and media outlets have ignored this fact to spread lies about the situation in the region. Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily. Excerpts follow:
Anti-China forces should stop external interference
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially since the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978, the country has been implementing the Communist Party of China's policy of the right to freedom of religion and protecting the rights and interests of Muslims of all ethnic groups.
China has more than 20 million Muslims and 10 State-approved Islamic institutions of higher learning, and the Chinese government has constantly improved the facilities in mosques and taken measures to enhance the education level of Islamic clerics so they can meet the religious needs of the Muslim community.
These are facts that no one can deny.
As part of the nationwide policy, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China has implemented the constitutional principle of guaranteeing citizens the right to freedom of religion. Xinjiang's authorities respect both the freedom of belief and the freedom to not believe in any religion, and have never allowed disputes to arise between believers and non-believers, between believers of one religion and another, and between believers in one sect and another.
The region's government upholds the principle that all religions are equal, treats all religions equally without favoring one or discriminating against another, and protects the legitimate rights and interests of all religious groups in accordance with the law.
Since being introduced to China during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, Islam has undergone Sinicization by absorbing many elements and features of Chinese culture. Similarly, during the process of its propagation in Xinjiang, Islam absorbed distinct regional characteristics and traditions and developed into what can be called "Xinjiang Islam".
Islam coexists harmoniously with other religions in China, and Muslims live in harmony with other religious and ethnic groups, promoting positive and healthy religious and ethnic relations.
Chinese Muslims have published religious texts in accordance with the law to meet the religious needs of their community. The Quran and other Islamic texts have been translated and published in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and other languages. In recent years, Xinjiang has published a series of general information books on religion in ethnic minority languages and launched a website for Muslims. And along with regular supply of water, electricity and gas, installation of radio and TV sets, and setting up of libraries, strengthened management has improved the conditions of mosques.
Praying, fasting and performing other religious rituals are private matters not subject to external interference and protected by law. Besides, more than 10,000 Chinese Muslims go to Saudi Arabia every year to perform the Hajj, and since 1996 the State has been arranging chartered flights for the pilgrims and providing them with quality services including medical treatment, transportation and accommodation. Over 50,000 Muslims from Xinjiang alone have gone on pilgrimage to Mecca.
Also, the China Islamic Institute has helped compile and publish 15 textbooks in three series－foreign language courses, specialized courses, and basic courses－which are a good source of knowledge for religious talents. The institute has also organized special classes for Xinjiang Muslims and trained a number of high-level clerics who have good knowledge of history, culture and Islamic tenets.
The Party and the government have taken a series of measures to help Muslims in Xinjiang to emerge from poverty and lead a better life, including creating more employment channels and improving their material and cultural standards and thus better safeguarded their human rights.
Chinese Muslims have engaged in discussions on Islam with Muslims from other countries and played an important role as China's non-governmental envoys, with Xinjiang's Islamic scholars participating in many international academic exchanges and seminars. Since 2001, Xinjiang has sent more than 70 students and clerics to Egypt's Al-Azhar University and Pakistan's International Islamic University for further studies. It has also built a platform for cultural and people-to-people exchanges with other countries to promote inter-religious exchanges and dialogue.
Yet since the 1990s, the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism from home and abroad have used religion as a guise to incite religious fanaticism, spread extremist thoughts, and misguide people who don't know the truth about Islam to engage in terrorist and separatist activities. Such acts of terrorism, separatism and extremism have undermined the stability of Xinjiang, and violated the basic human rights of the people of all ethnic groups.
The central government launched a severe crackdown to prevent such activities committed in the name of religion, and its policy of combating terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their forms not only conforms to the popular will but is also supported by Muslims of all ethnic groups. Which, needless to say, does not brook any interference from external forces.
China's policy on the right to freedom of religion enjoys the heartfelt support of the majority of Muslims in the country, and under the Party's leadership, Muslims of all ethnic groups have been contributing to the country's economic and social development.
However, for some time now, anti-China elements in the West, led by the United States, have been spreading lies about Xinjiang. They claim, without any evidence, that China has imposed "restrictions on freedom of religion", is "depriving ethnic minorities of their religious rights", "forcibly demolishing mosques", and carrying on "religious persecution". These prejudiced, groundless accusations are politically motivated and are a gross interference in China's internal affairs, and thus have invited strong criticisms from Muslims of all ethnic groups in the country.
Therefore, those Western countries, including the US, should stop using religion as a pretext to interfere in China's internal affairs.
Yang Faming, president of China Islamic Association, and imam of Beijing Dongsi Mosque
All residents working to promote harmony
With the support of the Party and the government, Xinjiang has made unprecedented achievements in economic and social development, enhancing the sense of gain and security of not only Muslims but also people of all ethnic and religious groups in the region.
But some anti-China forces in the West, due to their ideological bias, have turned a blind eye to these achievements and falsely accused China of "restricting the freedom of religion", "depriving ethnic minorities of the right to freedom of belief", "forcibly demolishing mosques", and "persecuting Muslims". Such anti-China rhetoric needs to be resolutely opposed by all people.
Social stability and lasting peace in Xinjiang are in the best interests of the region's more than 25 million people of all ethnic and religious groups, including Muslims.
But since the 1990s, the "three evil forces" have used the garb of religion to lead people who do not know the real facts about Islam astray, and entice them into launching violent attacks. Under the leadership and guidance of the Party, Xinjiang has taken decisive measures for combating terrorism and de-radicalizing such people, dealing a heavy blow to the "three evil forces" and curbing the spread of religious extremism. This has instilled in Xinjiang residents a greater sense of security, harmony and stability, and better protected their basic human rights.
That Xinjiang has not seen any terrorist attacks in the past nearly four years is proof of China's success in curbing terrorist activities. Great achievements have been made in Xinjiang's economic and social development, too, not to mention the remarkable improvement in people's livelihoods. All these show that a united, harmonious, prosperous, culturally advanced, and ecologically healthy Xinjiang is in the making.
Xinjiang is an inalienable part of China. The different ethnic groups that call Xinjiang their home are all part of the wider family of the Chinese nation, and are fighting separatism, resisting foreign aggression, and safeguarding national unity. In particular, people of all ethnic groups have worked together to eliminate absolute poverty, and enhance mutual understanding and trust. In fact, the members of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are united like the proverbial seeds of a pomegranate.
Today, Xinjiang is enjoying its best period of development and prosperity. But, unable to accept that people of ethnic and religious groups in Xinjiang are leading a happy life, the US and some other anti-China forces in the West have been fabricating false stories and spreading lies to fulfill their ulterior motives. Disregarding the fact that Xinjiang residents are leading happy and fruitful lives, those Western countries have been trying to smear Xinjiang's image and give China a bad name. Which is a shame.
We urge such foreign forces to respect facts, stop slandering and smearing Xinjiang, and undermining its stability and prosperity.
Adiljan Haj Kerim, vice-president of China Islamic Association
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.