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  • ජිනීවා මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේදී රටවල් 5කින් ලංකාවට චෝදනා
    පාස්කු ප්‍රහාර සම්බන්ධයෙන් සැකපිට අත්අඩංගුවට ගෙන සිටින නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා රඳවා තබාගැනීම, විශේෂ බළකායේ සැරයන් සුනිල් රත්නායකට ජනාධිපති සමාව ලබාදීම ඇතුළු කරුණු ගණනාවක් පදනම් කරගනිමින් එක්සත් රාජධානිය ඇතුළු රටවල් 5ක කණ්ඩායමක් එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේදී ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට චෝදනා එල්ල කර ඇතැයි ජිනීවා තානාපති...
  • මුස්ලිම් නීතිඥයාට එරෙහිව 'ත්‍රස්ත සාක්කි' ගෙතූ රහස් පොලිසියට විනිසුරු විරෝධය

      පාස්කු බෝම්බ ප්‍රහාරයට සම්බන්ධ යැයි ජනමාධ්‍ය මගින් ප්‍රචාරය කරමින් ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගනු ලැබු මුස්ලිම් ජාතික නීතිඥවරයකුට එරෙහිව ව්‍යාජ සාක්ෂි ගෙතීමට රහස් පොලිසිය විසින් දරණ ලද උත්සාහයක් විනිසුරුවරයකුගේ මැදිහත්වීම නිසා ව්‍යර්ථ වී තිබේ.

    නීතිඥ හිජාස් ඕමර් හිස්බුල්ලාහ් රඳවා...
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    I met Hejaaz during the first-ever debating tournament I participated in. He led the team from S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, and I represented St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. Our teams made it to the finals that year. I recall Hejaaz as a fierce competitor with the rare gift for conveying an argument with charisma and conviction. He also had a great sense of humour, taking friendly banter in good spirit. The Thomians triumphed that year, and deservedly so.

    What strikes me now is...
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    sixty days without “explicit evidence being produced”.

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    “Despite orders from the Magistrate to allow him access to medicine, reliable sources state that his health condition is deteriorating due to lack of access to specific medicines of which he is in dire need. A lawyer attempting to visit Razeek this week, was also denied...
  • அடையாள அணிவகுப்புக்கு முன் ஹிஜாஸின் அடையாளத்தைக் காட்ட சிஐடியினர் முயற்சித்தார்கள்
    இரு சிறுவர்களிடமிருந்தும் வாக்குமூலம் பெறுவதற்கு முன்னர் சிஐடியினர் தனது அறையில் வைத்து ஹிஜாஸ் ஹிஸ்புல்லாஹ்வின் புகைப்படத்தை அவர்களுக்குக் காண்பிப்பதற்கு முயற்சித்தார்கள் என கோட்டை நீதவான் ரங்க திசாநாயக்க தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

    புத்தளம் மத்ரஸாவொன்றின் மாணவர்களுக்கு தீவிரவாதத்தைப் போதித்தார் என சிஐடியினர்...
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Making Sense Of The Bodu Bala Sena - Izeth Hussain


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According to the widely prevalent conventional wisdom of some time ago the Bodu Bala Sena was expected to fade away because of the internal dynamics of all such extremist organizations, and their lack of widespread appeal at the people’s level. Such, according to some reports, was the view of the President himself: don’t give it prominence, ignore it as much as possible, and it will vaporize after some time. That was the conventional wisdom even though it was known that the BBS had the backing of the second most powerful personage in the country, the Defense Secretary, and even though it was obvious that it had very powerful State backing as shown by its exceptionally privileged position in breaking the law with near total impunity. Nevertheless the conventional wisdom focused on the extremism, choosing to ignore the obviously important factor of State backing for it.

Today the BBS is widely seen as being just as virulent as ever, and as continuing to target the Muslims in particular to a very serious extent. The question of State backing for it could move to the forefront of public consciousness. An article written by a foreigner seems to assume that the President is in favour of it, and the question is posed whether the State backing for it is part of a wider political program. This question can be seen as arising, naturally enough, because the Government is seen as essentially Sinhala supremacist, racist, and quasi neo-Fascist while it is still quasi-democratic. We must also take into account the possibility that there could be a powerful nexus of forces working behind the scenes – something like Eisenhower’s military- industrial complex in the US.

In this situation we badly need to try to understand what the BBS is really all about. It is a large subject, and this article is no more than notes towards understanding the BBS. First, we must take note of its external dimension. It has been obviously very well-funded. A trip to Norway by some of its top notables suggested that there was a Norwegian connection. Islamophobes there and elsewhere could have noted the fact while Islamophobia has been rampant in the Christian and Hindu worlds, there has been none or hardly any of it in the Buddhist world. Norwegian Islamophobes could have been interested in using the BBS to fill up what they doubtless regard as a deplorable lacuna. There has been a nexus between Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, an ancient historical one of course, but at present there seems to be an Islamophobic nexus between them. It was noticed that the T-shirts worn by anti-Muslim mobs in both countries looked identical except that the logos were different, and the rhetoric of Rev. Wirathu and others in Myanmar and the BBS had striking similarities. It has been reported that Rev. Wirathu, who seems to be widely regarded as the Buddhist Osama Bin Laden after having been featured on the front cover of Time magazine, has been invited to visit Sri Lanka by the BBS. I must mention also that Israel’s able assistance for the Islamophobic program could have been forthcoming as there is mutual visceral hatred between Muslims and Zionists all over the world. Our Defense Ministry is regarded by many SL Muslims, and others as well, as a pro-Israeli bastion.

I believe that the most important factor in the external dimension is that the Buddhist extremist assault on the Muslims and certain Christian sects now features in the UNHRC Resolution.  The Resolution will make the international community focus on the SL Muslim problem in a way that otherwise could have been avoided. Conclusions might be drawn that could be extremely unfavorable to the Sri Lanka Government because there are hard horrible facts that cannot be ignored. It is difficult to imagine a more submissive,  a more abjectly submissive minority, towards the Sinhalese or any other majority than the Muslims. For decades the Muslim political representatives have refused to speak up for the Muslims as that might displease the Sinhalese Lord and Master – a situation that is now in the process of changing. They always supported the Sinhalese against the Tamils, backing them wholeheartedly in every bit of ethnolunacy that led to the 30-year war. The Muslims had no substantial presence in the armed forces, but they contributed significantly to secret service activity against the LTTE. Their Home Guards got together with the STF and drove out Tamils from more than fifteen Eastern Province villages, which really was the prelude for the genocidal expulsion of Muslims from the North. During the war Pakistan and Iran gave help to the armed forces that was of crucial importance for Sri Lanka. These few details should suffice to show that the Sinhalese Buddhist campaign against the Muslims should be regarded as mind-boggling. True, every country can produce extremists but the anti-Muslim extremists in Sri Lanka have blatant State-backing. We are led ineluctably to one question:: If the Muslims are treated in this way, how can we imagine the Sinhalese racists will ever give fair and equal treatment to the Tamils? The anti-Muslim campaign can be seen as a resounding advertisement for Eelam or a confederal political solution.

I come now to the internal dimension of the BBS problem. Many Buddhists seem to be deeply agitated by the question of what the BBS version of Buddhism portends for Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This is a problem that can be resolved only by the Buddhists themselves. But I have an observation to make of a general order on the relationship between religion and the problem of coping with the pressures of modernity. No great world religion exists only in a single immutable form, and all of them have undergone variations in the course of the centuries. Probably all of them can be adapted to cope with the pressures of modernity, and it is probably wrong to assume that one or the other is better adapted to modernity. It is usually assumed – with might seem to be sound unprejudiced reasons – that Islam is of all the great world religions the most recalcitrant to modernity. But this is what Ernest Gellner – one of the brightest intellects of the last century, with a background of expertise in the sociology of Islam – had to say: “By various criteria – universalism, scripturalism, spiritual egalitarianism, the extension of full participation in the sacred community not one, or some, but to all, and the rational systematization of social life – Islam is, of the three great Western monotheisms, the one closest to modernity”. So we can assume that Buddhism will continue to flourish in Sri Lanka, probably under forms that we cannot envisage at present.

But I wonder whether the problem posed by the BBS and other extremist groups can be understood in terms of religion. Of the four great world religions, it is really only Christianity that had been intolerant through the centuries, while Buddhism has been much reputed for its wide ecumenical tolerance. What the BBS and other extremist groups are objecting to is not Islam but Muslims. In the case of the new Christian sects, what they are objecting to are not the new versions of the Christian belief-system, but unethical methods of conversion that can lead as in South Korea to a serious weakening of Buddhism and Buddhists in this country. In the case of Islam, they allege that there is a threat to Buddhism from Islamic fundamentalists, from the population growth rate of the Sri Lankan Muslims, and so on. These are essentially secular matters which have little or nothing to do with the religion of Islam.

I believe that the BBS and other extremist groups can best be understood in terms of a paradigm of racism. Since the military victory of 2009, a mood of Sinhala Buddhist triumphalism has taken over an important segment of the Buddhists, together with a fierce hierarchical drive to assert Sinhala Buddhist supremacy over all the others. The Tamils have been defeated though not yet subjugated, and now it is necessary to show the Muslims that they shouldn’t become uppity. As I have pointed out above, they have been an abjectly submissive minority, so that there has been no need at all to subjugate them. but the times they are a-changing. Three prominent Muslim politicians, namely Rauf Hakeem, Azad Sally, and Rishad Bathiudeen have been admirably outspoken on the subject of the BBS, which would have been unthinkable some time ago. The Sinhalese racists would regard their behavior as amounting to intolerable uppitiness, and many Muslims as amounting to dangerous foolhardiness.

But their behavior should be seen as symptomatic of the profound socio-economic changes that have been taking place in the Muslim community, catalyzed by their taking to mass secular education in a big way after the Second World War. The Muslim children of the great C.W.W. Kannangara have been coming of age. What I once wrote of as an “invisible minority” has been becoming visible and even audible. The crux of the problem is this: The Muslims who were once competitive only in trade have become competitive in practically every other field, and as they are a very substantial minority they have to be pushed down and kept down. That has to be expected in terms of the racist paradigm, and that is the profound meaning of the sudden eruption of the BBS and other extremist groups.

Making Sense Of Bodu Bala Sena–Part II

By Izeth Hussain -

In my article of April 26 I wrote that that article was meant to be no more than notes towards making sense of the Bodu Bala Sena, a large and complex subject requiring in-depth treatment. In the present article I am continuing those notes because the BBS problem seems to have moved to the forefront of our political consciousness, replacing the position earlier held by what many Sri Lankans believed to be UNHRC diabolism. I believe that the reason why the BBS is moving to the forefront is that many Sri Lankans could be becoming aware of the possible sinister significance of the BBS’ external dimension.

The main reason why I have decided to continue these notes is the feedback I have had from a Sinhalese lady who spent decades in journalism, and though in retirement continues to have an informed interest in Sri Lankan politics. From what she wrote I gathered that she had been aware of the BBS’ Norwegian connection – to which I referred in my last article – but that had apparently been relegated to the background of her consciousness because she had come to assume that the main force behind the BBS was the Tamil diaspora. In other words, the main force behind the BBS consisted of those who are not reconciled to the unity of Sri Lanka. I am sure that that notion must be at least fairly widespread among the Sinhalese, but they dare not speak out. The BBS has blatant State backing and, far more important than that fact, it is above the rule of law. That certainly means that there are mighty forces behind the BBS, which makes it understandable that the mass of the Sinhalese dare not speak out even in favour of the unity of Sri Lanka if it means pointing the finger at the BBS. Sri Lankan politics of today are largely the politics of blue funk

In my last article I gave the broad reasons why the anti-Muslim campaign of the BBS and other extremist groups can be seen as resounding advertisement for Eelam or a confederal political solution, which would come close to the setting up of a separate state: the Muslims have been an abjectly submissive minority, they have wholeheartedly backed the Sinhalese in every bit of egregious ethnolunacy against the Tamils, and they contributed significantly to the war on the Sinhalese side. If such a minority can be treated with such utter contempt by the extremist Sinhala Buddhists and the Government, can anyone in his right mind really believe that the racist Sinhalese power elite will ever give fair and equal treatment to the Tamils? That question leads ineluctably to the conclusion that the Tamils should be given Eelam or a confederal solution. That conclusion will be drawn, not by an insignificant person such as myself, but by the international community a component of which can deploy redoubtable destructive power against Sri Lanka.

The time has come for counter-action against the forces that are working, consciously or otherwise, for the disintegration of Sri Lanka. There are factors, apart from the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraph, which could lead to disintegration. It is many years since I first spoke at a meeting at the N.M.Perera Centre about the possible imposition of a Cyprus-style solution in Sri Lanka. I could see that my speech made no impact at all on the audience, who very probably thought that I was being highly fanciful. Later I wrote two articles on the subject, which apparently also made no impact at all. Subsequently, the late Silva declared in an article that he had thought that my views were fanciful, but some statement by the Indian authorities made him change his mind. Probably most readers thought that he too was being fanciful. The situation has changed radically since then. The shadow BJP Foreign Minister declared in the course of his election campaign that Eelam is a distinct possibility, and there were very threatening noises from Tamil Nadu. Very probably the BJP Government will initially be moderate and responsible towards Sri Lanka, but we can’t be sure about what may happen later. Since then the specter of Ukraine is stalking the world, making us think of eerie parallels. The idea of a Cyprus-style solution is no longer fanciful.

I would give importance to Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s recent charge that there is a foreign conspiracy to alienate the Sinhalese and the Muslims so that the latter will turn to the Tamils and their fellow Muslims, with all of whom they share the commonality of being Tamil-speaking – a point to which our Tamils have given much importance over many decades. The idea of such a conspiracy may seem fanciful, but as I have shown above what seems fanciful today can turn out to be very realistic tomorrow. I don’t see any reason to preclude such a conspiracy. Anyway, I am deeply concerned about another possibility: there may be no conspiracy, but a July ’83 can take place against the Muslims.

I don’t think that our Government and the people as a whole, just like the peoples of the third world unlike the Westerners, really understand all that is entailed in racism. What is relevant to my present purpose is that it entails, among other things, a total annihilating hatred of the Other. The Sinhalese racist would believe that it is not only some Tamils who want Eelam but all of them without exception, some openly and the others secretly. The Tamil racist would believe that the Mahawamsa mentality, which precludes fair and equal treatment of the minorities, imbues every single Sinhalese without exception. And so on. It is an outlook that could lead to genocidal attacks on the minorities, because all their members, without exception, are regarded as guilty. Up to now the protracted anti-Muslim hate campaign of the BBS and other extremist groups has failed to ignite Sinhalese mass action against the Muslims. But it could happen due to an unforeseeable concatenation of circumstances. All human beings subjected to lethal attacks will either fight back or run. The Muslims can run, not to the Arab world or Indonesia, but only to the North East. That will have fateful consequences, including a coming together of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-speaking peoples. Conspiracies to promote that outcome – to which Minister Weerawamsa is pointing – cannot be ruled out.

It is time, surely, for counter-action against the forces that could lead to the disintegration of Sri Lanka. What should be done? I do not believe that the BBS and other extremist groups should be banned because that could well lead to an aggravation of the extremism. Rather, they should be countered within a democratic framework. In regard to the BBS, I believe that two-fold action is required. Firstly, there should be a thorough investigation of its foreign links. At this point I must make a crucial clarification. I don’t believe for an instant that the BBS leaders will lend themselves to an anti-national program. The point is that they could be used for such a program, without their being aware of it, by sinister foreign forces.

Secondly, the rule of law must be made to prevail over the BBS. Most countries produce their extremists – usually called “the lunatic fringe” – but a peculiarity of Sri Lankan politics is that the Buddhist extremists have been close to the center ever since 1956. The situation today is in reality worse: the State is seen as actually backing the BBS extremists. This situation surely needs correction, if only for the reason that UNHRC action is impending on the treatment of our Muslim and Christian minorities. The Government should therefore take immediate action to distance itself from the BBS. I believe that the best way of doing this would be, not through rhetorical duck-like quacking, but to assert the rule of law over the BBS monks. Since the Government could be wary about taking such action, I suggest that the President proceed to Kandy on a well-publicized visit to seek the guidance of the Mahanayakes on whether or not Buddhist monks should be subject to the rule of law. I cannot doubt the reply. My understanding of Buddhism is that it places the Dharma over the Gods, and from that central doctrinal fact some principles about the rule of law can be derived.

Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross-Roads – Part 1

By Izeth Hussain -

My last two articles in the Island were under the title Making sense of the Bodu Bala Sena, focusing in both of them on the anti-Muslim campaign of the BBS. There is now a view, still at the incipient stage but which can soon gain wide currency, that the BBS is on the way out. The argument is that extremist movements such as the BBS have no staying power in Sri Lanka, and that the forces of Buddhist moderation are now working to bring about the quick demise of the BBS and related extremist groups. But I began the first of my last two articles by pointing out that the conventional wisdom for well over a year – shared by the President himself – had it that if the BBS were ignored it would evaporate after some time. It did not, and in recent times it showed a renewed virulence.

It is possible that now the BBS – as expected by some analysts – will go into a period of hibernation, for which there could be several reasons. The Government has to prepare its counter-thrust to the UNHRC Resolution, which focuses among other things on the maltreatment of the religious minorities including the Muslims. There cannot be the least doubt that the international community as a whole – with the possible singular exception of Myanmar whose anti-Muslim racism has been absolutely revolting – has utter contempt for our Government over the maltreatment of Muslims. The Muslim Governments may vote for us at the UNHRC, but that is only because they share with our Government a despotic disregard for human rights. What they really think was indicated some weeks ago by that Arab Princess – the Foreign Minister of one of the Gulf States – who asked our President in public a deliberately embarrassing question about the maltreatment of Muslims. The crucial point, of course, is the self-incriminating latitude allowed to the BBS and other extremist groups to break the law with near-total impunity. In addition to that external dimension there is also the internal one: the Government probably asks itself whether it is wise electoral strategy to alienate the Muslims and all the other ethnic and religious minorities to the extent that it has done.

So, it is possible that the BBS may fade away, as some expect, or it may be a temporary demise, a period of tactical hibernation for the reasons that I have given above. In either case I expect the Muslim problem to continue because there are reasons of a structural order behind it. First of all we must note that the Muslim problem did not arise because the BBS suddenly erupted. There were anti-Muslim ructions practically every year from 1976 to around 2002. Later there were the rousing anti-Muslim tirades of the late Rev. Soma Thera on State-owned television. That was stopped by the Government, but after that he availed of a Sunday weekly column in a leading newspaper. Over the last two years we have had the anti-Muslim action of the BBS and other extremist groups. In addition, there have been over the decades several irritants spoiling Sinhalese-Muslim relations: the mosque calls to prayer over loud-speakers, the proliferation of mosques, cattle-slaughter, and so on.

The striking thing about the negative developments that I have outlined in the preceding paragraph is that successive Governments did little or nothing by way of corrective or deterrent action. There was a failure, or rather a refusal, to take such action. I will not go into details about that refusal as it will take too much space, and instead I will put forward the possible reason for it. The reason is that there has been no serious attempt at nation-building in Sri Lanka, no attempt at all to establish stable ethnic harmony, apart of course from hollow verbiage about it, and the reason for that is that the nation is conceived of, particularly by the Sinhalese power elite, as already existing. This has been the land of the Sinhalese people from ancient times, with a special position for the Buddhists because they are the guardians of Buddhism in all its pristine purity. The minorities are no more than “visitors” to this island who should not make “undue demands”, in the felicitous phraseology of Sarath Fonseka. There was no punitive action of a deterrent order taken against anti-Muslim violence from 1976 to 2002, nor an assertion of the rule of law over the BBS monks, probably because all that serves to show to the Muslims who’s boss in this island.

The fact that there is no drive, and there never has been a drive, to build a multi-ethnic nation in Sri Lanka is the fundamental reason why we can expect the Muslim problem to continue: as long as there no such drive there will be a resistance on the part of the Sinhalese power elite to give fair and equal treatment to the minorities, including the Muslims. We must also take into account the fact that the Sinhalese power elite has shown a fierce hierarchical drive – for cultural reasons that cannot be explored here – which leads to a resistance to giving fair and equal treatment even to the Sinhalese. It is not accidental that for the greater part of the period since 1977 Sri Lankan democracy has been deeply flawed, unlike in India where democracy broke down only for a brief period after Indira’s Emergency. Nor is it accidental that in recent years the Government has clearly shown a racist and neo-Fascist drive, which some think could lead to an anti-democratic Buddhist theocracy.

We have to face up to the fact that the BBS may go away but the Muslim problem won’t. The Muslims have now to think of what they should do to secure and promote their best interests. Before proceeding further I want to refer to the two concluding paragraphs of my article Making sense of Bodu Bala Sena in the Island of April 26. I noted that three prominent Muslim politicians, Rauf Hakeem, Azath Salley, and Rishad Bathiudin had become admirably outspoken on the BBS, which would have been unthinkable some time ago. I took that as symptomatic of the profound socio-economic changes that have been taking place in the Muslim community, catalyzed by their taking to mass secular education in a big way after the Second World War. The result is that whereas they were traditionally competitive only in the field of trade, they have become competitive in other fields as well. Kumar David has pointed out to me, quite correctly, that their knowledge of English confers a very special advantage over the other ethnic groups. Therefore, in terms of the racist paradigm to which I referred in that article, they have to be pushed down and kept down, and that is the profound meaning of the sudden eruption of the BBS and other extremist groups.

What should the Muslims do to secure and promote their legitimate interests? It is not difficult to work out the answer to that question. Obviously all the irritants that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations for decades should be addressed by both sides and removed as far as might be possible. But if that is obvious, why on earth has that not been done over several decades? Part of the answer has been suggested earlier in this article. The Sinhalese power elite has never been interested in forging a multi-ethnic nation with a deep sense of unity, and therefore it has had no interest in establishing  harmonious Sinhalese-Muslim relations. Besides, anti-Muslim violence and the anti-Muslim campaign of Buddhist extremists serve to show the Muslims who’s boss in this island.

But why is it that the Muslims have not been agitating over all these decades for effective action to remove those irritants? After all it is they, not the Sinhalese, who have been the victims. There are several reasons for their adopting what might be called a strategy of political quietism. First of all there is a continuing fear psychosis that was initially set off by the anti-Muslim riots of 1915, and there is a sense of deep vulnerability because they know that they cannot depend on the support of the Opposition or the civil society should the Muslims challenge the powers-that-be. They believe that challenging the Government of the day over Muslim interests would only make their plight worse. But their keeping quiet about anti-Muslim violence over a quarter century has led to the State-backed anti-Muslim extremism of the last two years. The strategy of political quietism has proved to be a total failure and it is time to jettison it. That is why the speaking out by Rauf Hakeem and others is to be welcomed.

To be Continued…

Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross-Roads – Part II

I concluded the first part of this article by stating that the Muslim strategy of political quietism had several reasons behind it, one of which was the fear psychosis set off initially by the anti-Muslim riots of 1915. I had intended to begin this part of my article by going into the other reasons, but I have since then come across excellent material to substantiate my point about the Muslim fear psychosis. M.S.M.Fouzer, writing in the web site Halal SL, states that there are disturbing signs at present that theanti-Muslim campaign is catching on with the Buddhist masses. He gives importance as a causative factor to the spread of a video which had been shown by the BBS to the heads of the Sangha in Kandy. He pointed to the destruction of a shop in Aluthgama and other ominous incidents, and advocated, among other things, that Muslims should avoid clothing that identifies them as Muslims while mingling with the Vesak crowds.

Are people like Fouzer being alarmist? I think they are being courageous in being outspoken in spite of a pervasive climate of fear in Sri Lanka, which – with good reason – afflicts our Muslims in particular. Fouzer is also being realistic: I myself will eschew ethnic markers declaring myself a Muslim if I go into a Vesak crowd. I think we need some clarity about Muslim fears on what could happen to them as a result of the State-backed anti-Muslim campaign. The very fact that it is indisputably State-backed justifies some amount of a fear psychosis. It seems to be now generally believed that the Government will not allow a July ’83 against the Muslims, not because of moral scruples but because of the probable adverse international repercussions. But much that is horrible can be perpetrated against the Muslims short of a July ’83. For instance the torching of a Muslim shop in Aluthgama a few days ago, under the most absurd of pretexts, has not apparently so far led to any police action to apprehend the culprits – see the excellent and outspoken article by Hameed Karim in the Colombo Telegraph of May 14. It is the sort of thing that can multiply until the Muslims are degraded to the status of a lesser breed that is not entitled to any protection under the rule of law. The State racists may be able to bring that off without provoking international punitive action.

The traditional fear psychosis of the Muslims is today enhanced by the obvious external dimension of the BBS. It appears that it really got going consequent to a visit of its leaders to Norway, after which hitherto unheard of monks suddenly shot to national prominence with their anti-Muslim campaign. The political analyst Chandraprema, who has been emphasizing these facts, believes that the BBS is part of a program aimed at destroying Buddhism and Buddhists in Sri Lanka. I myself thought that Norwegian Islamophobes may have wanted to encourage Islamophobia in the Buddhist world, and hence the nexus established between the BBS and anti-Muslim Buddhist extremists in Myanmar. Later, it seemed to me that the BBS’ anti-Muslim campaign amounted to an advertisement for Eelam, for reasons that I don’t want to repeat here. In the absence of hard evidence, I would emphasize just two points that we should bear in mind. One is that while the Islamic fundamentalists are nutty, the Islamophobes are equally nutty, and any kind of lunacy can be expected of both of them. The second is that sinister foreign forces could be working towards the destabilization of Sri Lanka.

It is in the context of the external dimension of the BBS that I would view the video that is said to contain material that is outrageous to Buddhists, so outrageous that it could easily ignite anti-Muslim violence on a nation-wide scale if the State racists organize it. Before dealing with that video, I must make some clarifications about the story that has apparently gained wide currency that Wahabi Muslims have been attacking Buddhism. As I have stated above, I regard Islamic fundamentalists as essentially nutty and therefore I thought it just possible, not probable but just possible, that some Wahabis made irate by the ignorant denigration of Islam have retaliated on some occasions with ignorant denigration of Buddhism. But I am assured by knowledgeable Muslim contacts that the story is utterly false and that not a single Sri Lankan Wahabi has ever attacked Buddhism in public. There is a Sinhalese convert to Islam who has attacked Buddhism, but his behavior is atypical of the SL Muslims and is typical of converts who tend to become ultra. The story of SL Wahabis attacking Buddhism does not accord with the deep fear psychosis that is built into the SL Muslim psyche.

I come now to the video which I have not seen, and therefore depend on the account given about it in the Hemantha Warnakulasuriya Island column of May 13. I quote: “A person called Razeek Rafideen, alias Abdul Razeek, Secretary of a Muslim religious organization was addressing a crowd in very fine Sinhala. His objective was to commit the worst kind of blasphemy by castigating the image of Buddha and Buddhism. He said that the Buddhists were worshipping and praying and asking for protection from the ‘Triple Gem’ (theruwan) which were three gems. Therefore they prayed to three stones and that was nothing but a false  belief.Can stones help you in difficulties?”Then he went on to say that ‘in the Majima Nikaya Buddha refers to a person who is unborn (nupan) and that person is none other than Allah.; The he referred to a book written by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda, claiming that according to it and the sutras, he claimed that Buddhism encouraged Cannibalism,”

HW also wrote: “Up to the time of writing this letter, not a single Muslim organization or the Moslem Council of Ulamas (All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama) and Minister and other persons of importance had not condemned that blasphemous and sacrilegious statement.” He is clearly faulting Muslim institutions and individuals in important positions for not speaking out against those sacrilegious statements. Some would draw the conclusion that the Muslims as a whole either approve of those statements or attach no importance to them.

Let me try to explain what I would regard as the Muslim position on this matter. First of all there is the Muslim fear psychosis which dictates a strategy of political quietism. Most Muslims if confronted with the shocking statements attributed to a possibly non-existent Rafideen would want to keep quiet about it and hope that the problem will simply go away. That, in fact, seems to be the position of the President himself in regard to the Muslim problem. Secondly most Muslims, including the ones in important positions, may not even have heard of those sacrilegious statements. I myself, as well as some of my well-informed Muslim contacts, have come to hear of the famous video only very recently. So, the question of a self-incriminating silence on the part of Muslim notables does not arise. Thirdly, most Muslims viewing the video would almost certainly regard it as no more than anti-Muslim propagandist garbage.  They would find it impossible to believe that any Muslim who is not a certifiable lunatic would make that statement about Buddhism encouraging cannibalism. A significant fact about the video is that it has been in circulation since June 2013, almost a year, and thousands have seen it, but it seems to have caused a stir only very recently. The probable reason is that most Sinhalese viewers have also regarded it as not much more than propagandist garbage.

But unfortunately the matter cannot be allowed to rest at that.  Mr. Warnakulasuriya  is a successful lawyer with much experience behind him – whose column I usually read with much interest. He has shown in his article that he is by no means anti-Muslim by several statements against the BBS and other extremist groups. He has been clearly outraged by the video, and his Buddhist sentiments have to be respected. Furthermore, the video has reportedly been shown to the Maha Sangha by the BBS to show that it has come into action only because the Government has been failing to protect Buddhist interests. These facts point to one conclusion: the Government must hold an inquiry into the authenticity or otherwise of the video. This is desirable also for the reason – as I have argued above – that there could be sinister foreign forces working towards the destabilization of Sri Lanka. If proved authentic, punitive action must be taken against the culprit, and nothing should be held against the totality of the Muslims who will most certainly unanimously support such punitive action. Alternatively, the BBS must show that it was not complicit in the production of anti-Muslim propagandist garbage.

In my present series of articles on Muslims at the cross-roads, I will be emphasizing two points for positive action. One is that the rule of law must be relentlessly applied. Our Government seems to be bent on showing that our Muslims will be treated as one of the lesser breeds who are not entitled to the protection of the rule of law as a matter of course. The other is that problems that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations, sometimes for decades, must all be addressed and solved. In my view there is none that is really intractable. Successive Governments have failed, or rather refused to do this, and that is why in addition to the horrendous Tamil ethnic problem we now have a Muslim ethnic problem that can also become horrendous.

Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross-Roads – Part III

Izeth Hussain

In the second part of this series of articles on SL Muslims at the cross-roads I dealt with the bizarre case of a Muslim who reportedly made outrageous statements against Buddhism at a public meeting. He had reportedly stated that in worshipping the Triple Gem the Buddhists are worshipping stones, that Buddhism encourages cannibalism, that the Buddha himself had once eaten human flesh, and that the Buddha had spoken about Allah. His statements were reportedly recorded in a video which has been in circulation since June 2013. My initial reaction, as well as those of my Muslim contacts, was one of total incredulity because it seemed to us impossible that any Muslim in his right mind would have made such statements. It seemed to us further that the video was probably inauthentic, just a piece of anti-Muslim propagandist garbage.

But it turns out to be authentic, and had been put across on MTV about a couple of weeks earlier. According to my informants, the person who made those statements was the President of a group that calls itself the Tawheed Jamaat, about which I must make a very important clarification. It is quite unlike the Tawheed Jamaat of South India which is very powerful with a huge membership, and boasts in Zainul-Abdeen a theologian of high caliber, according to a friend who is capable of making informed judgments on Islamic theology. The local Tawheed Jamaat, on the other hand, is small and relatively insignificant. It cannot be regarded as representative of mainstream Sunni Islam in Sri Lanka, nor for that matter of Wahabi Islam. Undue importance should not therefore be given to the utterances of its leader.

It appears that the members of the Tawheed Jamaat had been irked, just like many other Muslims, by the ignorant denigration of Islam that has been going on in Sri Lanka, inspired partly by the Islamophobic idiocies of the West. That had led to the issue of a challenge to the BBS for a public debate on religion – there is an authentic video on that challenge also. It was in that context that the Tawheed Jamaat representative had made absurd observations on Buddhism based on wrong interpretations of obscure Buddhist texts – or so I am told. The upshot was that he was arrested, brought to trial, apologized, and released. Evidently the apology meant that he repudiated his absurd charges against Buddhism.

What importance should be given to this episode? I think none whatever because it is just too ridiculous to be taken seriously. As I have pointed out above the Tawheed Jamaat has no representative capacity worth speaking about. How many of the more than one and a half million SL Muslims share the views about Buddhism expressed by the TJ representative – that Buddhism encourages cannibalism, that the Buddha ate human flesh and so on? I believe that none, none whatever, share those views because the TJ representative himself, by his apology, repudiated those views. It would therefore be totally absurd for anyone to draw any conclusions from those statements about Muslim extremists and Islamic fundamentalism. I am making this point because there seems to be something sinister about the revival of that offensive video. It was originally issued in June 2013, it was seen by thousands, but it evidently failed to make much of an impact. It is possible that it has been revived – shown on MTV and so on – with the objective of rousing mass anti-Muslim hatred.

One point about this episode cannot be ignored. Those absurdly offensive statements hurt the Buddhists, and therefore it was meet and proper that the perpetrator was subjected to action under the law. But what about all the offensive statements about Islam that hurt the Muslims deeply? Why were the perpetrators not subjected to action under the law? I refer to the most outrageous of all the insults to Islam in Sri Lanka: the demonstration in which Allah was imaged as a pig and burnt in effigy. The police performed their accustomed role of passive spectators. I believe they did a little more than that by restraining horrified Muslims who could have got out of hand – and perhaps that was wise. But why was there no legal action thereafter?

That leads to a crucially important question: what really is the strategy of the Sinhalese Buddhist State towards the SL Muslims? It was earlier expected that the anti-Muslim campaign would culminate in another gory July ’83 holocaust, this time against the Muslims. That is not the general expectation today, not because it is thought that the Government has developed moral scruples but because it fears the possible international repercussions. But other horrors can be perpetrated against the Muslims that are just as horrible as July ’83, possibly in the long run even more horrible. I have in mind the fact that the Sinhalese State seems to be in the grip of a fierce hierarchical drive aimed at establishing the Sinhalese Buddhists firmly and securely at the apex and relegating the Muslims to the position of outcastes. That seems to be the significance of the double standards to which I pointed above: punitive legal action against the Muslim but none against the Sinhalese. It is true that the culture of impunity applies to the Sinhalese as well, but not so consistently as against the Muslims, as shown during the anti-Muslim campaign of the last two years.

It should be beyond dispute that the Muslim strategy of political quietism has proved to be utterly disastrous: polishing the boot of Sinhala power has only earned good hard kicks on the backside. Just as well maybe, because the strategy of political quietism was essentially self-seeking, not aimed at the national good inclusive of the good of the Muslims. I have advocated a two-pronged strategy: struggle for the impartial application of the rule of law to all, and dialogue on the issues that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations for decades. The first, the struggle for the rule of law has a very particular importance. It has been a besetting vice of Muslims in the decadent phases of Islamic civilization to withdraw into themselves, to go into a self-imposed ghetto and limit their interaction with the others to the bare minimum. That goes against the greatest Sri Lankan need of the present hour: the need for national integration. In struggling for the rule of law our Muslims will be making common cause with the Sinhalese and the Tamils in a common struggle for the national good.

There is one point in particular that our Muslims must bear in mind. Under the brutal and stupid rule of the 1977 Jay Gang the SL civil society was practically dead, not much more animate than a door-mat. In recent years it has been becoming vibrant in unexpected ways. It is not so vibrant, not so vital, as in India and the West but it certainly counts in the affairs of the nation. The SL Muslims can therefore make their struggle to live in peace and dignity part of the national struggle for a better Sri Lanka. I have in mind the splendid statement of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka against the BBS and in support of the Muslims (Island of May 22). Let the Muslims invoke the blessings of Allah on the heads of the BASL members, and let their names be inscribed in gold in the memories of the Muslims.

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