Religious, cultural tensions in the West are 'payback' for its colonialism, says China paper

BEIJING (AFP) - The religious and cultural tensions the West faces are "payback" for slavery and colonialism, a Chinese state-run newspaper said on Tuesday in the wake of the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The editorial in the Global Times newspaper - which often takes a nationalistic tone - dismissed the weekend's huge marches in Paris and elsewhere as "painkillers" that cannot halt the intensifying "clash of civilisations".

The article comes amid a global show of support for the satirical French weekly, whose Paris office last week was stormed by Islamist gunmen in an attack that left 12 people dead. "Voices say that what Western-developed societies have gone through is payback as it is their historical acts of slavery and colonialism that led to their current demographic structures," the newspaper, which is close to China's ruling Communist Party, said. "The immigrant issue has bred ultra-extremist right-wingers in Europe, making conflicts largely insolvable."

About 1.5 million people took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to mourn the victims of the magazine attack and support free speech, including several world leaders.

But the Global Times contended that the rallies "can hardly produce significant results". "Despite its impressive scale, the vast solidarity march in Paris on Sunday looked like feeding a seriously ailing person with painkillers," the paper wrote. "When calm is restored, if the magazine holds on to its stance on Islam, it will put the French government in a difficult position and it will become a symbol of a clash of civilisations in Europe."

Beijing strictly controls its own domestic media and has recently launched one of its biggest campaigns to silence critics in years, detaining and jailing dozens of human rights activists, lawyers, academics and journalists.

China has also been engaged in a heavy-handed crackdown on unrest in the far-western, mainly Muslim, Xinjiang region, which has been the scene of bloody clashes that the authorities classify as religiously inspired terrorism.

In the days since the Paris attack, Beijing has both condemned terrorism and argued that Charlie Hebdo's provocative cartoons were an invitation to violence.

In a commentary on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said that the incidents in Paris "should not be simplified as attacks on press freedom, for even the freedom itself has its limits, which does not include insulting, sneering or taunting other people's religion or beliefs".

"It is high time for the Western world to review the root causes of terrorism, as well as the limitation of press freedom, to avoid more violence in the future," Xinhua said.