By Izeth Hussain –
There are some very odd features about the recent attack on Ambassador Ansar at the Kuala Lumpur airport. It took place in a secured area of the airport, probably the result of a bona fide lapse on the part of the Malaysian authorities to which no particular significance should be attached. What is odd is that the attack took place at all. We can safely assume that for twenty five years and more our Embassy officials have been countering LTTE propaganda in all capitals where there is a heavy Tamil presence. There have been demonstrations galore against successive Sri Lankan Governments but – as far as I am aware – no Sri Lankan Ambassador or his officers have been beaten up by the LTTE or other Tamils. It appears therefore that the attack on Ambassador Ansar was odd, uniquely odd.
Had that got something to do with the fact that he is a Muslim? I believe that there have been very few Muslim Ambassadors in Sri Lankan Embassies in capitals where there is a heavy Tamil presence. There was Faiz Mustapha as a politically appointed Ambassador in London for a brief period, and there was Jawad – a career officer I believe – in Norway. Therefore, it is arguable, that one out of three Muslim Ambassadors was assaulted whereas with the Sinhalese Ambassadors it was none out of a great many. Of course it is quite possible that the assault at KL Airport was entirely fortuitous, something that occurred in the heat of the moment after angry words were exchanged. Let us bear in mind however that the assault was carried out not by a single irate Tamil: several Tamils joined in the assault enthusiastically. The assault therefore could have been the outcome of fortuitous circumstances or it could have been the expression of the intense Islamophobic hatred that prevails among a segment of the Tamils.
Another odd feature of the assault is the context in which it took place. The assailants were looking not for Ambassador Ansar but for former President Rajapaksa who had gone to Malaysia to attend a conference of political parties. It was an unimportant conference which was being attended by the former President – it is believed – only because he thought it politic to be out of Sri Lanka at that time. That conference apparently had no particular relevance to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Furthermore the former President is at present a has-been who has no realistic prospect of returning to power in the foreseeable future. We must bear in mind also that the present Sri Lanka Government is widely seen as seriously wanting to move towards a political solution and ethnic reconciliation in contrast to the previous one. We must note above all that it has established excellent rapport with the Global Tamil Forum which is regarded as the most representative of all the Tamil diaspora organizations. For all these reasons it does seem odd that a group of Tamils should have wanted to hold demonstrations against Rajapaksa. According to our Government those Tamils belonged to the Naam Tamilar Katchi, an extremist group based in South India and known for its steadfast support for the LTTE. My guess is that it is a lunatic fringe group, probably racist and Islamophobic.
Why do I think that the attack on Ambassador Ansar could have been the expression of the intense Islamophobic hatred that prevails among a segment of the Tamils? The evidence for that is to be found in ample measure in the “hysterical hatred and mad dog rage” – a formula that I have been using for quite some time – provoked by my weekly articles that have been appearing in the Island and the Colombo Telegraph. The attacks have been appearing only in the Colombo Telegraph as it provides ample space for readers’ replies. When my articles started appearing in the Island I had enthusiastic responses, particularly from Tamil readers including one from the head of the Global Tamil Forum. An expatriate Tamil paper in Canada published a couple of my articles in translation. According to a Muslim friend enthusiastic Tamil responses to my articles were far more than just that. It was something easily comprehensible because in my writings on the ethnic problem over several decades I had adopted positions distinctly favorable to the Tamils, and I had even acquired notoriety for inveighing against the grotesque Sinhalese racism of which I had been the victim.
Suddenly, and to practically everyone’s surprise, attacks on my articles started appearing in the Colombo Telegraph. It was not that one or other of my articles was found wanting over factual errors or fallacious arguments. Every one of them was treated as beneath contempt, tenth rate stuff that should never have been published. I noted after a little while that the attacks were predominantly from readers using nom-de-plumes that declared a Tamil identity. I asked the question why the hatred, and I referred to a “total annihilating hatred” because there seemed to be something like genocidal fury behind the attacks. Suddenly the attacks subsided for a while, but they were resumed until they stopped altogether. Obviously the attacks were co-ordinated. By whom? The obvious candidate for the role was the expatriate rump LTTE which could be expected to include many lunatic fringe racists. The reasonable surmise is that their idiocy was checked by sane expatriate Tamils.
But attacks in the Colombo Telegraph persisted with attacks by one to three Tamils each week, not by as many as seven to ten as happened earlier. One of them blurted out in an unguarded moment that he regretted having to read me at all – divulging thereby that he was acting as the agent of a group. Another used to describe every one of my articles as “verbal diarrhea”, meaning that they are no better than verbal excreta, but he showed a familiarity with my writings going back to a quarter century, even correcting me on details long forgotten by me. He too is obviously the agent of a group. It is known that apart from the Naam Tamilar Katchi – which carried out the attack on Ambassador Ansar – there are other Tamil groups affiliated to the LTTE, virtual clones except that they seem to be even more extremist. Some, not all, of the Tamil attacks on me are by devotees of such groups.
I must emphasize before concluding that the Tamil attacks on me are not purely personal: they betray hatred and contemptuousness towards the Muslims as a whole. That was very apparent by Tamil responses to a series of articles I wrote clearing up misconceptions about Islam and the Muslims, particularly about Wahabism and Islamic fundamentalism. There was a notable Tamil refusal to accept that the IS is an aberration. One Tamil has been yelling in the CT columns that the SL Muslims are the consequence of inter-marriage with low-caste Tamils, particularly the Sakkilis. Clearly for him the Muslims as a whole are an utterly degraded lot. I have asked him whether the offspring of Westerners who married low-caste Tamils are also a degraded lot. No reply. I have also asked him how did it happen that in traditionally caste conscious Sri Lanka the Sinhalese kings appointed Muslims to high office. No reply. It is not surprising that with such notions about the Muslims some Tamil racists have directed against me a burning murderous hatred. The explanation is this: I, a Muslim, have acquired a certain kind of positive reputation, and the Tamil racists, even more than the Sinhalese racists, find that unbearable.
Some time ago I wrote an article refuting the preposterous charge that I have long been notoriously anti-Tamil. I won’t repeat any of that material. Instead I will deal with a charge that has perplexed me and others, the charge that I have always been notoriously anti-Indian. As far as I am aware that charge was originally made by one K.Arvind in 2006. But I have always held, among other things, that there was no imperialist intent behind the Indian intervention in 1987. I have held that position even when the political culture of the white van prevailed in Sri Lanka. The only sense I can make of that charge would be along the following lines. The Tamil racists want Eelam, which they know would be possible only with Indian intervention. They have to offer a solid pro-Indian enclave in the North East, and that would require the total elimination of the Muslim presence in the Eastern Province. The Indians have to be persuaded therefore to drive the Muslims away on the ground that all Muslims are always anti-Indian. They should not be fooled by the pretensions of an IH.
I am open to other interpretations, including the one that it’s just that the Tamil racists are quite mad. Anyway I think it is time for the LTTE and its clones to be extirpated from off the face of the earth. The decent Tamil majority, who are not racist, must see to that. Alternatively they cannot blame our armed forces for wanting to maintain a substantial presence in the North on a permanent basis. If the tiger won’t change its stripes, you can’t expect the lion to shed its mane.