29 May, 2022


Beyond The Black And White Of Vilification

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Ask anyone the question ‘Are you a racist?’ and the answer would be ‘no’.  You can replace racist with communalist, fundamentalist, extremist, chauvinist or any other derogatory term and you’ll get the same answer.  ‘No’.  You can ask ‘Are you arrogant, jealous, wicked, deceitful etc etc’ and you will still get ‘no’.  No one ever does anything wrong.  Act and word are generally justified to self beforehand.  Arrogance tends to trump humility.  And the world stays as it is apart from appearances and frills of the times.

Right here in Sri Lanka, we had what are called ethnic-tensions.  That should be in the present tense.  There are also tensions between followers of different faiths. There is apprehension, fear and distrust.  And there is response to these; response to the real and imagined, histories and extrapolations.  And it’s mostly of the ‘Us vs Them’ kind.  More precisely it’s mostly ‘We are the victims, they are the aggressors’.

A few weeks ago, when ‘Aluthgama’ happened, there was not just condemnation of the Bodu Bala Sena but a tagging of all Buddhists to exercises of censure.  There was absolutely no mention of Welipenna where Muslims attacked a Buddha statue and houses and establishments owned by Buddhists.  There was footage of Buddhists ‘on the rampage’ but carefully edited out was footage of Muslim youth throwing stones from the roof of a building.  No one asked the question, ‘how did stones get there?’  The fact is that there was premeditation on both sides, perhaps out of fear, but that’s a different story.  The story is that there were stories and people chose what to pick and what to ignore.

The Buddhist response, if you want to call it that, was similar.  Pick and choose is the name of the game.  Footage of Welipenna and weeping Buddhist women but none of the Muslim shops and houses attacked or the associated lamentations; footage of stone-throwing Muslim youth but not of attack-mode Buddhists.

It was all overshadowed by ‘Gaza’.  The condemnation of Israel was absolute.  Very few Muslims criticized Hamas.  There’s no question about it, the Israeli ‘response’ (bad word because it presumes innocence and victimhood and edits out known aggression on the part of Israel) is genocidal in intent and product.  What’s interesting is that even those who footnoted Hamas remained absolutely silent on Muslim-Muslim violence.

Ali A Rizvi, in an article published in www.huffingtonpost.com titled ‘7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict,’ gives us some sobering facts.

‘Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim, in two years — more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades. Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban. Half a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The list goes on.  But Gaza makes Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia, speak up in a way they never do otherwise. Up-to-date death counts and horrific pictures of the mangled corpses of Gazan children flood their social media timelines every day.’

Ali asks some pertinent questions: ‘If it was just about the numbers, wouldn’t the other conflicts take precedence? What is it about then?’

The anger of Muslims regarding Israeli aggression is understandable.  That anger and solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza even prompted some people to commend the unity of Muslims.  Ali’s piece shows that underneath anti-Israeli sentiment are deep fissures.  If the harm done to others in the community prompts umbrage, though, what can explain the near total silence on Muslim aggression against Muslims?  Is it something on the following lines: ‘outsiders need not worry about mattes within the family’?  But is there any debate within ‘the family’?

On the other side, we see Israel’s allies, especially the USA and Britain showing utter disregard for the atrocities committed by Israel.  The support has been absolute.  Scandalous would be a kind word in this context especially since these countries are self-proclaimed champions of human rights.

What is the logic of this black-white logic?  It is an inevitable outcome of a preference for Cartesian logic?  Well, from that point to sweeping statement and castigating of collectives for the perceived crimes of a few is a very short distance.

Not too long ago, Prageeth Ekneligoda (‘disappeared’ they say), came up with a powerful cartoon.  Now Prageeth is powerful when he uses lines, although his commentary borders on pornography and his political practice (sending human ash to perceived enemies) even laughable.  But take a look at the caricature he offers. There’s a Buddhist bikkhu being ‘creative’ with the dharmachakra, subtly turning it into the Swastika, the sign that has come to represent fascism.  So all of a sudden we are not talking of some fringe group but the entire Buddhist order.  That’s offensive.  Avantha Attygalle, another brilliant cartoonist also does himself much disservice by playing with iconography in similarly careless, crass and sweeping manner.

When an entire collective is thus vilified, one has to expect the majority to be offended.  But strangely, in Sri Lanka, Buddhists are supposed to ‘grin and bear’ because Buddhism after all is about non-attachment.  Non-Buddhists regularly preach Buddhism to Buddhists even as Buddhists are vilified.  They do not, likewise, ask Christians to turn the other cheek or direct Muslims to non-violent, compassionate and change-cheek type of content in the Quran.

Those who share and even use Prageeth’s caricature as Facebook profile pictures do not see anything wrong in it.  Would they feel offended if their faiths are subjected to similar caricature?  History, after all, is full of blood-letting by Christians and Muslims, in the name of God, Allah, Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammed.  US President’s bless troops thus: ‘May god bless the United States of America’.  That’s just before they are sent to kill people.  Non-Christians.  How many Christians have the United States of America killed in the past 10 years and how many non-Christians?  The ratio will tell a story.  Is it correct to paint all Muslims with ISIS colors?  Are all Muslims supporters of Hamas?  Is objection of Zionism qualification enough for the label ‘Jihadist’?  Is objection to the hate speech of Bodu Bala Sena by a Muslims good enough reason to call him/her a Jihadist?

But would it be right to paint all Christians and Muslims as fascists?  Would Christians and Muslims be offended?

There are questions we don’t like to hear and are very reluctant to answer, aren’t there?  But if we looked deep enough within and in the doctrines we’ve chosen to guide us, there’s ample content to provoke self-appraisal, inculcate patience and too see self in enemy and vice versa.  The problem is that it’s hard work.   Caricature is far easier.  Mobs are attractive.  Safety in numbers, unfortunately, also amounts to offering blank checks to the movers and shakers of number-aggregates and they typically are black-white creatures who perceive any self-criticism as ill-affordable weakness.

These are mob days.  Collective days. Days of arrogance.  These are days of treating Cartesian frames of logic to be superior to anything else, never mind the fact that they are full of holes and have functioned as justifiers and approvers of all kinds of crimes against humanity.

Debating is easy because debating points are cheap.  It gives ego a fillip.  Neither cause nor the greater good of humanity gets a boost, in the long run.  If we stop to think about it, that is.

‘Hate speech’ is an easily tossed around term these days.  It’s something ‘others’ do, everyone thinks.  There’s a reason why there’s at least that kind of ‘agreement’.  Human sloth.  Identity-fascination.  Chauvinism, disguised and undisguised.  We could do better but have not.  And that’s something to worry about.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Malinda Seneviratne –

    “Ask anyone the question ‘Are you a racist?’ and the answer would be ‘no’. You can replace racist with communalist, fundamentalist, extremist, chauvinist or any other derogatory term and you’ll get the same answer. ‘No’. You can ask ‘Are you arrogant, jealous, wicked, deceitful etc etc’ and you will still get ‘no’. “

    Malinda are you a whitewashes for the current MaRa regime? Yes/No?’

    Malinda are you a Shill for the current MaRa regime? Yes/No?

  • 2

    ‘There are questions we don’t like to hear and are very reluctant to answer, aren’t there?’

    Those who don’t like the questions and don’t want to answer them will hurl abuse at you ….

  • 4

    Mr Malinda, your bana preaching is not bad. But it is only too transparent that the purpose is to say that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s thinking, is no different from everyone else who is suspicious of the “other”, which therefore is no disqualification for continuing as the President of Sri Lanka.

    You forgot to mention of course that Mahinda Rajapaksa, the idol worshipper, a person who prays to personal jewellery and golden artifacts, to the moon and large trees, seeking favours, the person who charts the course for the entire country based on the “seeings” of a charlatan fortune teller, uses the state machinery, the thugs, the goons, the Mahana Yakas, the Press – you included Malinda, to create “human rights phobias”, “patriotic” feelings against anything outside our shores, to rubbish the rule of law, demonize non-Buddhist communities, promote chaos and mayhem, in order to get the votes of the Sinhala Buddhists at election time, in order to amass wealth for his personal family by remaining undisputed dictator of Sri Lanka forever.

    Is there any chance that one day your laptop will tap out the truth, a truth that is relevant for the time and place?

  • 7

    As usual the way Malinda wants to make a tit-for-tat with Aluthgama incident and the rest shows how racist he is if not he is having a small brain as of Gota and Gnanasara that unable to capture anything beyond those who feed him from his younder days ie, JHU monks.

    Firstly Malinda’s comparison in a way to justify the Aluthgama incident with the rest is going no where. The way Malinda want to paint Aluthgama as of “throwing Stones” are the root cause is proving how he is comfortable with his small brain. The Aluthgama event which is fully Gota backed Gnanasara implemented looting and then burning of Muslims properties while muting the Police and STF if not directed them to guard the looters.

    Extreme Muslims or Christians of this country do not have such backing to commit this kind of well planed looting with the support of Power and the small brains like of Malinda.

    I think Malinda need to be parked in to a re-rehabilitation center together with his pay masters.

  • 2

    Casting pearls before swine ?????

    • 0

      You can cast anything before this swine. He will only see the bonhomie of MR and Gota, because he is a Pig Shit eater.

  • 0

    Beyond The Black And White Of Vilification


    In your heading, did you mean the Black as ‘Kaluriya’ and the White as ‘Sudu Riya’.

  • 0

    Are you writing because you got laptop?

  • 1

    In brief Malinda’s argument is : since every one is doing it, its ok for the others also to do it and why get worried about it!

    Well Malinda it is sad to note that people like you are the reason why Sri Lanka has gone to dogs. You as a media person, first of all should be “honest to yourself”, secondly should have the “guts” to speak and write the “truth”. Unfortunately when we read your news paper or your articles in Colombo Telegraph we note that you are blinded by accepting a “laptop” from the Government.

  • 0

    Modern democracies of the west are entirely majority christians. Yet, others live are living making a bug fuss.

    Why only in Sri Lanka majority Sinhala buddhists have no voice while Tamils, muslims and christians are the politically active and vociferous ?

    • 1

      Jimmy Shito,

      Because, just like you, the majority of Sinhala Buddhists are idiots, easily manipulated to cast their vote at election, by the crookest of the crooked. To be active and articulate (vociferous is for the Sinhala Buddhist) one needs to have a certain minimum level of intelligence.

      Got it?

    • 2

      Jim softy

      “Why only in Sri Lanka majority Sinhala buddhists have no voice”

      The Sinhala/Buddhists lost voice because they lie all the time.

      Lets begin with story of your origin, big lie.

      All your politicians are liars.

      Your history teachers are liars.

      Your bureaucrats lie all the time.

      Your policemen are liars.

      Your Chief justices are liars.

      Most saffron clad thugs are liars.

      You think Sinhala/Buddhists are the victims, it is another big lie.

      When you lie all the time no one is going to listen to you even if you have real concerns.

      The best course of action is to have therapy for your mind.

      Try Buddhist meditation or Tantric sex, both do not involve physical movement which suit you best.

  • 0

    These so called scholars who trying to show us that they have figured out everything better than rest of the educated people is insulting the general intelligence. For having a perhaps political science degree, or law degree wouldn’t make you guys know- it- alls. All these years your clan(Rajiv, DJ, Jehan et al)useless articles filled with innuendos, expert(gon) analysis. They went unanswered boosting your ego into believe that you guys are experts only because you all were getting writing spaces from equally boot-licking editors of gov papers where we can’t comment.
    I think the readership has outgrown your intelligence, and they are far better eloquent and well read than you scholarly frogs in the well who cant think outside the box. And you quote Huffpost(biased media on war coverage) and numbers given by western media to support your failed theory. (which are parading cooperate interests, and carry biased coverage of any conflict in the world). So all these numbers are skewed.
    If you stopped carrying water to the government and think like a humanitarian, scholar or a true thinker, you will see what is wrong about the picture. Just because everyone else does it is okay for us to do something wrong. If you are unaware, most of the decent Sri Lankan Buddhists are the ones who are objecting to this vile reaction by BBS and government. No one expect us to behave that way because we are Buddhists. We are against it because it is wrong. If the other-side did something wrong doesn’t justifies us to do wrong. Bring them to in front of the law and punish them accordingly through the existing law of the land without interfering. Not ” Kala neethiya” It has nothing to do with Buddhism. That is what people who lives in Civilized society must do. Look after the other human beings. My god if you guys are the ones who shape the views of society (in English), to the kids in SL all the help from every existing GODs would be not enough for a better future. Democratic society is where everyone is equal numbers has nothing to do with it.

  • 0

    If you are asking this question, then you are an arrogant or foolish person.

    First,for not recognizing your own failures and second, for being in the company of bigots.

    There is no holier than thou version for this conundrum. Every group of people feel either superior or inferior to others. That is a weakness of human nature itself. If no tangible differences exist, they will manufacture them!

    Still, that is a tolerable weakness. It is when one acts on that feeling of superiority or weakness against another; then laws that exist to protect must be fully enforced.

    That is where we have all failed rather miserably.

  • 0

    You have no right to ask why Muslims kill Muslims. Don’t you understand, Mujahids (Muslims) kill who ever they want because Allah ask them to do so.
    “The Believers are but a single Brotherhood” (49:10)
    “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah”(4:76)

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