By Abdurekef Tumuniyaz, President of Xinjiang Islamic Association, and President of Xinjiang Islamic Institute
Recently, I noticed the New York Times’ so-called “exclusive”, which viciously attacked, gave a false account of and wantonly smeared Xinjiang’s vocational education and training centers. It only made me see some western media’s double standards on counterterrorism and deradicalization and their evil intentions. In this regard, as a religious leader born and grew up in Xinjiang, I feel obliged to share my observations on Xinjiang’s vocational education and training centers.
Over period of time, there had been a rising momentum of extremism infiltration and violent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, which seriously endangered the people’s lives and property. At that time, the people lived in tension and fear every day, just like the New Yorkers after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Facing the pressing anti-terrorism desire of the people, Xinjiang government has combated violent terrorist crimes and set up vocational education and training centers according to law. Xinjiang has spared no effort in saving the majority of those who were influenced by religious extremism and committed petty crimes or minor offences, and in protecting the citizens’ basic human rights from the harm of terrorism and extremism. There has been no violent terrorist attack in Xinjiang for three years in a row, and the people of all ethnic groups have got a stronger sense of security, fulfillment and happiness. Since this year, I have received more 40 delegations of foreign visitors, who have spoken highly of the vocational education and training centers and Xinjiang’s economic and social development. They expressed that Xinjiang is not only beautiful, but also very safe.
I have been to vocational education and training centers in Kashgar, Hotan and Turpan for many times. I have seen with my own eyes that the trainees study the country’s language, laws and vocational skills in classrooms, that the centers provide Muslim food for free, that the trainees take part in rich and varied cultural and sports activities as they live, study and entertain freely and happily there. I have seen with my own eyes that the trainees ask for leave whenever there is a need, go home to be with their families, and make phone-calls at any time. I have seen with my own eyes that the trainees take the initiative to expose and criticize fallacies of religious extremism and brutal acts of the three evil forces (terrorism, extremism and separatism), and express their gratitude to the government from the bottom of their hearts for educating and saving them, so that luckily, they did not become cannon fodder of the three evil forces. The majority of the trainees that I know have found suitable jobs after graduation with the skills they learned at the centers, and are living a good life. For example, Abduaini Yismayli, a trainee in Kashgar city, found a job at a cuisine company in Kashgar after graduation from a vocational education and training center. He told me that since he got rid of the shackles of religious extremism, his heart is no longer as tired as before and now he has a much better life. Yidiris Yimar, a trainee in Turpan city, was employed to work at the court of Lukqin Town, Shanshan County after graduation from the center. And now, he feels a strong sense of achievement every day. There are many other such examples.
It is said in the Koran that “when people have regretted deeply and realized that they have indeed made mistakes, they would say, ‘If Allah does not show mercy to us, nor forgive us, we would surely become losers.” There is nothing better than to realize that you have made a mistake and correct it in time. The vocational education and training aims to save those who were influenced by religious extremism. It is the greatest good deed to protect all living beings. Those who were influenced by religious extremism are lost, and they are not only abnormal but also terrible. In the past, many people who were influenced by religious extremism trampled upon and challenged the law. But after a period of education and training at the centers, they have established legal awareness in their hearts as they got to know what is legal and what is illegal, what can be done and what can not, and that religious activities must be carried out within the frame of laws and regulations. What a hard-won change it is! Without the vocational education and training centers, Xinjiang would become a place plagued by terrorist attacks, disasters, sufferings and unrests. Just like the way parents treat their children who have made mistakes, the government educates and rehabilitates those who were influenced by religious extremism with great care and patience by not only offering them spiritual and material assistance, but also tried the best to find jobs for them. The government also helped the trainees’ families solve their problems in production, life, employment, education and medical services, thus effectively addressing the trainees’ concerns at home and enhancing their motivation of jointing the education and training.
The Koran also says, “He who follows the path of integrity, will get peace.” The meaning of the word Islam itself is peace, which is also one of Allah’s good reputations. The more than 10 million Muslims in Xinjiang yearn for peace. Extremism is not Islam. It wantonly distorts and blasphemes Islamic doctrines and tramples the basic spirit of Islam. The extremists have even killed innocent people and seriously endangered social stability. They are enemies of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang including us Muslims. What they have done is totally against the basic Islamic teachings of advocating peace and opposing violence. As the Koran says, “they are deaf, mute and blind, so they are too obstinate to be awakened.”
Xinjiang set up vocational education and training centers according to law, which help the trainees realize the nature and harm of terrorism and religious extremism, get rid of the spiritual fetters of terrorism and extremism and rein in on the brink of the precipice and desist from committing crimes. Thanks to that, the society of Xinjiang today is more stable and harmonious, the people of all ethnic groups are more closely united, and their rights to life, health, and development are fully protected. It is fair to say that there would be no peaceful life in Xinjiang without the vocational education and training centers! As the president of Xinjiang Islamic Association and on behalf of Xinjiang Islamic personages and the massive Muslim people, I earnestly admonish the US and western hostile forces who attempt to contain China’s development, undermine Xinjiang’s stability and blacken the vocational education and training centers in the region not to disregard objective facts, and to no longer smear and slander. We firmly believe that as long as we unswervingly pursue the path of Xinjiang governance with Chinese Characteristics, social stability and lasting peace of Xinjiang will be definitely realized. The future of Xinjiang will be even brighter, and the people of all ethnic groups in the region will surely live an even better life.