Tsinghua University International Center for Communication and its Pakistan Culture and Communication Studies Centre, have launched a cross culture study tracing history of similarities and cordialities enjoyed by Chinese and the Muslim civilizations in the bygone era, amidst the urgency to revive the spirit in a period that itself is in the cusp of massive change.
Prof. Li Xiguang, Director of the Tsinghua University’s Centers for International Communication and Pakistan Culture and Communication talking to APP in a meeting said the research is focused on the role of think tanks pertaining to Muslim Countries and China in the revival of strong cultural and economic ties between the two holds extreme relevance in the backdrop of rapid geo-political developments currently witnessed on the global scene.
“It enhances need for close contact and linkages between China and Muslim world, who ought to come closer and pave way for the “New World Order” based not on war but on the principles of peaceful co-existence,” he said.
The seasoned scholar of international repute reiterated that significance of Islamic world in strengthening way for a New World Order can not be ignored and China with a key role in the emerging situation must not commit the mistake of ‘otherizing’ them, as done by the west.
This, he feared will compromise the geo-political as well as economic potential of the historic initiative being materialized in the form of One Belt One Road (OBOR). Prof. Li Xiguang, also the Director, UNESCO – UNAOC, UNITWIN’s Global Chair on Media and Information, Literacy and Inter-Cultural Dialogue, mentioned with concern the growing “Islamophobia” and fear of associated terrorism registered among many in China itself who tend to see things from the prism of a biased media.
He said the issue needed to be addressed through close contacts between academics, scholars, researchers, artistes and media personnel representing the Muslim countries and China to initiate dialogue on regular basis regarding misgivings or reservations about one another particularly linked to myths and misconceptions created about Islam and the wave of extremism and terrorism engulfing many of the muslim countries, with their spill over effects in general.
The scholar said there never had been any clash of interests between Muslim and Chinese civilizations nor they ever went to war but on the contrary had traditionally supported each other and benefited from each other. “Despite the fact that Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism were practised in dynastic era of China yet there was no conflict registered among Chinese and the Muslim empires practising Islam and even in the present times also no conflict could be recorded between China or any of the muslim country,” Prof.Li said.
To another query, he said China has historically benefited from the rise of the Islamic world and the same spirit maintained through the Belt and Road initiative will help achieve the Islamic Dream and the Chinese Dream together- bringing these historical and great civilizations partners rather than adversaries. “Although the present day Chinese are largely atheist yet they can be noticed to cherish similar values and ethos as promoted by Islam, the Religion of Peace, hence it is important that these are turned into tools of partnership instead of any hostility,” he said.
These, he said are the facts that must be highlighted and promoted to influence the foreign policies of the concerned countries, particularly that of China. It should be well understood that rise of China as a global leader and its key role in the new world order must be based on Chinese characteristics and understanding about Muslim world by directly learning from the Islamic Culture, rather than looking at the muslim world as an enemy through the Western lens, he elaborated.
Agreeing that cultural differences as well as the discrepancies in terms of “sectarianism” persists in the Islamic world, the scholar said these too could be understood with due realization that basic and core principles are the same among the Muslim Ummah (nation) and that “Differences” must not be exploited. “For better understanding of Muslim culture, we need to read the Quran and as this is not possible to read in Arabic, we can access translations, which may also have their limitations hence leaving us at current point of time to read translations and discuss through round table conferences between Chinese and Muslim scholars,” he said.
The senior scholar and researcher said equal responsibility lies upon the Muslim countries to make Chinese understand that Islam, that denotes to the term Peace, is for promotion of peace in the world and that Islamic “Shariah” (Law) is different from what is being imposed by extremists in the name of Islam and projected by the western media. He suggested that Muslim scholars must also highlight relevance of Halal food and other similar concepts/practices that may be part of lifestyle are needed to be deciphered in their proper context by the Non-Muslims.
Communication, he regretted is a major barrier and recommended that hundreds of muslim students attending different academic institutions in China, alongwith, professionals, businessmen, scholars and so-forth visiting China must take learning of Chinese language as a responsibility to bridge the gap, so very crucial for themselves, their countries and the unfolding new world order.
Prof. Li Xiguang said that China is a strong proponent of developing countries, with vast majority of Islamic world including those located on OBOR route, are as a policy encouraged to use their own path towards development. The policy was said to be reflection of the Chinese concept of “multiculturalism” and the diversity of culture which has been frequently
appreciated as the future of humanity by many Muslims leaders in recent times. In a nut shell “Harmony” comes from the acceptance of differences and to communicate with differences, commented the scholar.
Reminding that underlying principle of the Belt and Road initiative is to integrate and to be tolerant towards the other cultures and civilizations instead of coercing them, he said China and Muslim world need to engage themselves in formation of an environment of mutual respect with underlying principle being that Harmony is unity and diversity, not uniformity.
“We need to make concerted efforts to engage one another by finding grounds of mutual interests where we are on the same parameter to discuss with one another,” said the scholar.
In particular context of Islamic World and the OBOR – Silk Road, he said with the construction of ports in South Asia, China has become an Indian Ocean power, likewise by increasing connectivity in Central Asia and in the Pacific, China has also manifested itself as a Central Asian country and a Pacific region power. “It has therefore become all the more important that alongwith the economic belt a culture belt is also developed enhancing our shared religious values, cultural values and giving people their choice of development models,” the scholar in reply to a question said.
He was also of the opinion that China should play a proactive role to end crisis in countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria. Prof. Li Xiguang in the same breath regretted that local media while does highlight terrorism related incident in Pakistan and Afghanistan but often fail to report crucial developments that are equally important for economic development for the two countries and also for China being a close and trusted friend of the two. Re-emphasizing that China needed to shift its focus towards the Islamic World where its future lies, the scholar said western propaganda about Chinese ambition to seek hegemony must also be dispelled through historical facts as well as current policies of the Chinese government. “China is not a nation state- it is a civilization state and even though it expanded it never occupied nor did it colonize the way as Europeans did,” the scholar said, mentioning that Chinese culture focuses on existence and coexistence coupled with mutual respect and harmony.