Ter­ror­ism is not a clash of civ­i­liza­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande has vowed to fight ter­ror­ism. His pledge came at the re­cently con­cluded World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land, two weeks af­ter the ter­ror­ist attack on the of­fices of satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo in Paris. But is there a fear that Europe’s “war on ter­ror” will turn into a “clash of civ­i­liza­tions”?

For decades, Euro­pean coun­tries have been home to to mil­lions ofMus­lim mi­grants. But de­spite en­joy­ing the so­cial se­cu­rity and other benefits of living in de­vel­oped coun­tries, manyMus­lim mi­grants and their descen­dents have not as­sim­i­lated into West­ern so­ci­eties; some have even fallen prey to ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions look­ing for can­non fod­der to “pro­mote” their cause. While some Is­lamic ex­trem­ists have launched at­tacks on any­body they con­sider “enemies”— Char­lie Hebdo be­ing one— oth­ers have gone to Syria or Iraq to join the Is­lamic State.

In this at­mos­phere, the longterm ef­fects of the Char­lieHebdo attack on French pol­i­tics should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. A few days af­ter the attack, France sent an air­craft car­rier to east­Mediter­ranean to take part in the global fight against ter­ror­ism. That move was nec­es­sary to let peo­ple know the rul­ing party was obliged to pro­tect them and thus pre­vent them from vot­ing for far-right par­ties such as Front Na­tional, which could lead to an­tag­o­nism within the French so­ci­ety.

But the fact that the post-attack is­sue of Char­lie Hebdo car­ried a car­toon of Prophet Muham­mad, stok­ing protests across theMus­lim world, shows that Euro­pean lib­er­al­ism might not help pro­mote unity ei­ther. It seems a last­ing cul­tural cri­sis looms on the hori­zon.

SomeMus­lim schol­ars be­lieve Is­lam is a uni­ver­sal reli­gion with the his­tory of an em­pire, which fits in with the on­go­ing trend of glob­al­iza­tion. But left­ist schol­ars in­sist ev­ery­one living in Europe should have a “Euro­pean iden­tity”, which is not ac­cept­able to many Mus­lims. The ques­tion is: Has the Euro­pean com­mu­nity enough scope forMus­lims to as­sim­i­late into Euro­pean so­ci­eties?

Even to­day the Euro­peanUnion is con­sid­ered more suc­cess­ful in terms of eco­nomics than pol­i­tics, be­cause its mem­ber states still dif­fer on many is­sues. The prob­lem of how es­sen­tially Chris­tian Europe will ac­cep­tMus­lim mi­grants re­mains un­solved.

There is a vi­tal les­son for China in all this. The ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion show that some of them dis­own their na­tional iden­tity as Chi­nese cit­i­zens.

This is danger­ous, for be­ing res­i­dents of the north­west­ern bor­der re­gion, they can mo­bi­lize to attack lo­cal res­i­dents, even join the Ji­had.

True Is­lam, how­ever, is tol­er­ant and plu­ral­is­tic in na­ture. Is­lam is com­pat­i­ble with mod­ern val­ues and there is no rea­son for the two to be sep­a­rated.

The cul­ture in Xin­jiang is spe­cial, a co­he­sive mix of Is­lamic and eth­nic Uygur cul­tures. The au­thor­i­ties, there­fore, have to help lo­cal peo­ple stay away from ex­trem­ism by bet­ter in­te­grat­ing them into so­ci­ety. To treat ter­ror­ism as a kind of “clash of civ­i­liza­tions” will only weaken the fight against ter­ror­ism. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity-Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity Cen­ter for Chi­nese and Amer­i­can Stud­ies.


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