27 October, 2020

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Anti-BBS Vigil: A Critique Of The Critique

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

I wasn’t at the vigil because I don’t do vigils and if I were to make an exception it would be for an anti-BBS/SR demonstration spearheaded by the Left (in our case that would be the JVP and FSP), as are most anti-racist demonstrations all over the world. That is in fact the friendly advice I’d give the organizers of the laudable demonstration. As a founder member, as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, of the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE) that took on the Sinhala racists in the ’80s or tried to, I recall that we always reached out to and networked the trade unions, peasant unions, political parties, progressive clergy, student organizations, women’s associations, university teachers and the Left. That said I was aghast, but not really surprised to read Malinda Seneviratne’s critical account of the vigil (‘The BBS ‘Buddhists’, ‘Nightclub Buddhists’ and The ‘Vigil’ That I Saw’ April 12, 2013, Colombo Telegraph). He writes:

“But there were non-Buddhists in proportions that were a fair distance away from national ratios.” Two issues arise: Firstly, how on earth could Malinda tell? Is it a visual impression? If so, isn’t this the religious stereotyping, the equivalent of ethnic stereotyping, of the worst sort? Do the non-Buddhists have longer noses than the Buddhists, as the Jews were deemed to have in Nazi Germany? Where does this lead and where does it stop? Secondly, what does it matter? Should demonstrations accord with national ethnic or religious ratios? Are class, caste, provincial and gender ratios relevant too?

Malinda go onto say : “I was disappointed that there was little to tell me that the group was made up of people outside of the ‘facebooking’, English-speaking middle and upper-middle class.  I was less disappointed than perturbed when I noticed that in that group there were individuals who have been violently anti-Buddhist and anti-Sinhala…”

Here again, what is the implication? That Buddhists (or good Buddhists) don’t use Facebook or do not belong to or come from the English speaking middle and upper middle class? Or is that they are Buddhists only if they use Facebook to abuse Muslims? How would this class criterion fit Prince Siddhartha?

It is perfectly possible, even likely, that my own views are diametrically opposite to those of some of the crowd, especially on the war, the CFA and the current and long-standing leadership of the UNP, but I do not know the basis on which one can state as Malinda has, that in the group “there were individuals who have been violently anti-Buddhist and anti-Sinhala…” Were they/are they really ‘violently anti Buddhist and anti-Sinhala’, or simply anti-Sinhala Buddhism as an ideology? Could it be that Malinda is conflating the two? And by the way how ‘violently’ anti-Buddhist and anti-Sinhala were they? As violent as the mobs of July ’83 or those who threw a grenade at the Shah Rukh Khan show, or even those who stormed the Fashion Bug or verbally abused minorities (‘hambaya’ goni billa’, un-mun-arun’), and threw rotten eggs at shoppers?

Malinda writes that “My Muslim friend wrote, ‘What’s the ugliest thing in uniform? – a biased cop. I saw one today declaring pompously that everyone gathered at the vigil was either Muslim, Catholic or Tamil…’ I heard that too. The Police Officer can’t be faulted if he wondered how a ‘Buddhists against BBS’ event had so many non-Buddhists.”

Why pray can’t he be faulted? What business is it of a police officer to query the religious composition of a demonstration? Shouldn’t he be faulted precisely for having posed such a question? How did he come to that conclusion anyway— which by pure coincidence is the same one Malinda came to? Where in the world, outside of an Islamic theocracy would the police pose such a question and where in the world would a Chief Editor of an English language mainstream newspaper think it ok?

Malinda outdoes himself with the following paragraph: “…someone referred to the anti-BBS ‘Buddhists’ as ‘Nightclub Buddhists’. Strange juxtaposition and descriptive, yes, but it also raised questions of social status, class, lifestyle etc.  A Buddhist is a Buddhist, whether he/she wears white or black, a sil redda or jeans, but clothes mark and they mark well.  This was no Buddhist Cross-section, that much was apparent to me.”

Quite apart from the question of whether ‘Nightclub Buddhists’ who aren’t guilty of hit and run drunken driving of a lorry (a greater vehicle?) are somehow less Buddhist than the “Bay-badu Bala Sena” ones, what precisely does Malinda mean by ‘raises questions of social status, class lifestyle’? What questions? Of course clothes do mark but how do “clothes mark and [they] mark well”, in relation to Buddhism and the issues at hand? When once again Malinda says ‘this was no Buddhist cross section, that much was apparent to me’, how was it apparent, why is what is apparent (the result of sense impressions) taken to be the truth – which doesn’t sound much like the Dhamma—and what does any of it has to do with Buddhism, still less the legitimacy of a protest against religious fanaticism?

This hardly seems a fair or rational critique.

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Latest comments

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    Many of these comments do not seem to be frank expressions, though they were made in the name of Buddhism. Hate or subtly defending it cannot be a Buddhist value. One may argue as to what about others. Yes, they too are not following their religions. But two wrongs do not make a right. Again one may argue as to what about others. Yes, that applies to all

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    BBS and other racist movements are product of Bad policy and Economic hardship of country.Why is the hell this team are destroying co.exitence and peace between community.
    We need tolerance and not difference.
    We need peace not fight.
    We need businesses to grow and black moneys out and tax being collected and corruption being eradicated.
    why we have miss great opportunity of reconciliation missed and preparing for another confrontation.

    It is duty of all Srilankan to eradicate this cancerous element from our society. We had enough issues in the last 4 decades.
    We need our curren and next generation live in peace.
    Our enemy number one is RACISM.
    I am humble to ask All Srilankan to raise up, Please forget differences and clean up our society from this cancer.
    dr faizal

  • 0
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    Good piece, Dayan. You have caught Malinda with his pants down.This young journo has talent but unfortunatley he isn’t honest

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    Native Vedda, You ask a difficult question – to define wogs and yakkos.

    I would define it his way. Yakkos and Wogs are multi ethnic. All those who are not yakkos are wogs. In the Colonial times the Yakkos were in the service of Wogs and unfortunately now it is the other way around. The Wogs are in the service of the Yakkos.

    The other big differences between them is that the yakkos do not think that they are yakkos (but they know it , due to the international media) whereas the Wogs have two ID’s one for the white people (they show the Wog ID) then another for the Yakkos (I am one of yours ID) so they suffer an identity crisis.

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    Hi everyone. A couple of friends told me about Dayan’s piece and some of the comments. I was off internet during ‘Avurudu’. I guess a lot of people here don’t give a hoot about such things. Anyway, those who attended or supported the vigil among those who have commented, i am amused by the invective, esp since it was about teaching people to be better Buddhists. You’ve revealed yourself. The pro-BBS people who have quoted me (selectively, as have many anti-BBS people)…you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I don’t support the BBS. The BBS does not represent me. I object to its politics (which is why I planned to attend the vigil and invited friends to attend as well)and see nothing ‘Buddhist’ in its methods, including the way it responded on Friday. As for Dayan, he warrants separate treatment and I shall deliver shortly. A Subha Aluth Avurudda to all! :) Cheers. Malinda

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    Dayan: slight problem with your egotistical pronouncements. Most academics in the West will NOT say I am DOCTOR so and so. They may add their PhD at the end but yo seem to have this terrible desire to always pitch and sell your PhD. I pray you tell us where you got it an what was your dissertation topic. I pray you tell us if you purport to be an Academic HOW MANY people reviewed A-1 Journal articles done on research quantitive or qualitative have you published in SL, regional and international journals. It does not take away some of your points but sometimes you get so hysterical self indignant and angry as if you have something still to prove to your father (the legendary journalist). It seems to be always the work of an angry person who insists I am always right. Malinda has written a rebuttal and has questioned your violent past in SL politics too; so you might want to account for your pseudo-working class militant days.. It seems like you never ever seem to accept that others can be right.. I do not care about BBS. Those jokers are a bunch of hooligans; I also do not care for pedophile Catholic pervert child molesters hiding behind the doctrine to rape children and how Benedict and others covered up for all. I do not think the Temple of the Tooth has special powers nor does the tooth. I do not believe in God or Gods. But Dayan you have this sad desire to always throw your credentials to claim street credence. No that is wrong. It reminded me of the foreign western funded buddy of yours NGO peacenik who predicted Tigers cannot be beaten: Jehan Perera who also tried to say DOCTOR but what he has is a JD from the US. JD is NOT the same as a PhD but the terminal secondary degree and not tertiary as in a PhD. but speaking of Doctor you and Dr. Pubilis and Dr. Mervyn all have Doctorates no? Cheers old chap.

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    I meant to say PEER REVIEWED journal publications in A quality or even B Quality journals have you had since getting your PhD. Was yours a qualitative or quantitative disseration? for example did you use SPSS, PLS or SAS to do regression analysis and conclusions or was it more based on globally accepted standards of doing qualtative interpretive dissertations and what was your original hypotheses and conclusions? Dr Pubilis and Dr Mervyn Silva are both Doctors.

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    Heart of DJ’s issue is reconciliation and trying to make amends with his childhood and issues. The constant need to hurl invectives and make grand claims is part of that problem. Perhaps a “lie down on the couch and tell me about your mother or father” session with a shrink is needed?

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    JVP patriotic? These jokers waged class envious war in 1971 and got their just desserts. Wijeweera had a fair trial after being charged with waging war against Her Majesty’s government(we were still Ceylon) and the only reason JRJ released him was to divide and block the SLFP and his arch enemy Mrs. B. When Wijeweera the class envious pathetic Che Guevara wanna be was released JR knew what he was doing and look at what happened. JVP with people with useless degrees and some who are still rich with all the gold they stole and all the other riches they plundered and the blood on their hands have got their just desserts in democratic elections. I will like to see Comrade Somawansa explaining his assets to us or even Comrade Tilvin along with their erstwhile comrade the “I hate the west but I wil go to Disney; I hate the US but I will go there” Wimal the other Che Guevera with perfect Ramzi Rahman hair styles and manicures explain their wealth and credentials to be managers.

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