By Rifai Naleemi –
It is obvious that in many parts of Western world people suffer from Islamophobia. Since 9/11 attacks on innocent Muslims increased dramatically in these countries. Muslim properties are vandalised, mosques are attacked, Muslim cultural heritages are mocked and damaged, Muslim religious symbols are destroyed in some places and ladies with Islamic attires are attacked. All these happened in post and pre-9/11 periods in some western countries. This new social phenomenon originated and developed out of fear of Islam and Muslims. Sometimes this emerged out of hatred towards Islam and Muslim.
One could say that there are some historical, theological and political reasons for this growing hatred campaign between Muslim and Christian communities and yet, how does this phobia creep into the minds of some BBS members today and why do they fear Islam and Muslims in Sri Lanka? Is such fear justifiable? Do they need to fear Islam and Muslims in this Buddhist country? Do they need to create this deliberate and unnecessary phobia in the minds and hearts of innocent Sinhalese people? Can such fear rationally, logically, psychologically, morally justifiable at all? Let us now look into the real meaning and context of this Islamophobia
Definition of Islamophobia
Like many other terms such as terrorism, fundamentalism, radicalism, fanaticism and extremism, the term Islamophobia has not been yet, defined with definite terms or concepts. Even UN nation has not defined the expression of terrorism strictly in any definite term. The Term Islamophobia has been used loosely in recent time by journalist and academics in their writings. Yet, this term has been used to refer to the fear and phobia of Muslim and Islam in recent writing. It could be said that this term is relatively new term and yet, the content of this term had been used in Muslim-Christian relationship since the time of crusades: This fear has its historical origin in the history of Islam and Christianity but yet, this term was not a familiar term in Sri Lankan history. Because, both Muslim and Sinhalese communities have been living as one family in Sri Lanka. Muslims did not have the fear of Sinhalese neither Sinhalese had the fear of Muslims and Islam in Sri Lanka. This is a new terminology in Sri Lankan history itself.
Christians had feared Muslims since the time of crusade and Muslim have feared Christian missionaries since the time of crusades. Hence it can be said that conceptual meaning of this term had been in practice since the crusade and it continued for more than 8 hundreds years in Muslim and Christian history. Yet, this historical fear and enmity has been reappeared and manifested in the modern term Islamophobia. Psychologically speaking the term phobia refers to fear of some of something or some one.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, Phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. For example, those suffering from acrophobia fear being trapped in an inescapable place or situation. This could be likeness of someone being trapped in mines or lifts. Hence it could be said that Islamophobia is unfounded or irrational fear of Muslims and Islam: This is similar to the term as anti-Semitism that referred to fear of Jewish communities. Still anti-Semitism is regarded as a form of racism. The British Runnymede trust defines it as “The term Islamophobia refers to unfounded hostility towards Islam. It refers also to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities and to the exclusion of Muslims from the mainstream political and asocial affair. (Islamophobia. P. 1).
This is exactly what is happening in Srilanka. BBS has been creating unnecessary fear about Islam and Muslims. This fear is not a real one rather it is an illusive fear that was created with false propaganda machinery. This fear is not based on any logical or rational foundation rather it is based on emotional and immoral foundation. This is what has been going on in Srilanka for the last one year or more. It is well known fact that the majority of Singhalese do not have such fear or such Islamophobia panic at all. They have been interacting peacefully and happily with Muslims. It is handful BBS members have been creating this fear and yet, today Singhalese people are clever enough to know the truth from falsehood.
It is argued that after the dawn falls of communism Islam will be a threat for the Western capitalistic domination in the world and some predicated that there would be a clash of civilizations and such clash will be between Islam and West. This theory of was predicted by Samuel Huntington. Since this false prophecy was made by Huntington some politicians, journalist and writers created a fearful atmosphere by their writing: The former advisor to Jacques Chirac Pierre Lelouche one remarked that; “We run the risk of becoming like the Roman people, invaded by barbarian people such as the Arabs, Moroccans, Yugoslavs and Turks ( Keane: 1993). This was further exaggerated by George Bush after 9/11 by his war on terror and wars of crusades. Since these incidents the fear of Muslim and Islam increased dramatically in the western countries and public heard Islam and Muslims as hundred of anti-Muslim incidents are reported in the western countries and in some case some Muslim people were killed because of this fear. Yet, the most of innocent people in the world know that these are political slogans. We Sri Lankans do not need to follow these political philosophies in our country and we have been living peacefully and we have a history of more than one thousand year of co-existence. We do not have to get guidelines from any other nations how to live in Sri Lanka. We all communities could live peacefully and we could resolve our problems within ourselves without any external intrusion.
Manifestation of Islamophobia in Western nations
This phobia about Islam and Muslim is manifested in different ways in private and public life in many countries in Europe. It was exposed by individuals and by institutions as well those countries openly. The hundred of incidents of hatred towards Islam and Muslims are reported in these countries since 9/11.
The visual summary of this Islamophobia was illustrated by The Runnymede trust in the following diagram: This fear is manifested and exposed in four ways in public and private life. The following diagram illustrates how Islamophobia explodes in different ways.
Discrimination + Islamophobia + violence
This show how this islamophobia is reflected in mindsets and behaviour of people. It manifested in racial discrimination and racial prejudice, in some cases in physical abuse and attacks. According to this research report as a result of this phobia Muslims are excluded from employment, management and responsibilities in some case and in some places in some Eurocent countries. Even they are excluded in some cases, from politics and government according to the Runnemede commission. Moreover, Muslim people have been discriminated in employment, and provision of service such as health and education. It further notes that prejudice against Muslims is exposed in the media and every conversation. This fear led to some physical violence and aggression against Muslim in physical assault, vandalising properties and verbal abuse ;( Islamophobia. P. 11)
This fear of Islam and Muslim manifested in numerous attacks on mosques, Islamic centres, Muslim schools, Muslim houses and business places. It was reported that seven pig heads were impaled on spikes outside of a mosques and big blood was smeared over its outside and entrance (Christopher Allen, P.4). Physical attacks on vulnerable Muslim people increased 18 years of old Muslim woman in Slough was beaten by men wielding baseball bats for no reason other than being known as a Muslim lady. Isamophobic incidents were reported in many countries in Europe soon after 9/11. In Denmark a Muslim woman was thrown from a moving taxi, in Germany a bus driver repeatedly shut the bus doors on a Muslim woman and many incidents occurred like this in many part of Europe.
Why all these happened. It is mere fear of Islam and Muslims. This fear is exaggerated in the media and in some political circles. The bias and subjective reporting and portrayal of Muslims and Islam created this fear in the minds and hearts of some these people. It should be noted here that not each and every European has got this fear of Islam and Muslims. It is a handful of people have this fear and yet, it is exposed in the media.
This theory of Islamophobic manifestation has been vividly illustrated in the mentality, mindsets, philosophy, ideologies, behaviours, psycho, activities, actions and missionary works of Budu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka. It is pathetic that BBS members do not show any remorse or sympathy towards minorities in their campaign and show pone hatred to minorities’ people. They openly encourage hatred towards all minorities in the country and they argue that they have begun with Muslims now and it will be extended to all other communities. This is what happened to Jewish communities in Europe before holocaust. BBS in its hundreds of speech and demonstration have called upon public to boycott Muslim business and yet, Sinhalese public are cleverer than these monks and more sympathetic towards minorities and for that reason BBS hatred campaign beyond the two Poya days as predicted by one of venerable professors of Sri-Jayewardene University.
It appears that BBS is copying all these tactics against Muslims in Srilanka from their masters and agents in Europe: They may have learned all these tactics from sheikh Google and its cohorts. or from YouTube clips. BBS is not only defaming peace loving Buddhist communities all over the world by these tactics they also defame the good name of Lord Buddha who proclaimed openly communal harmony.
Muslims have been living peacefully in Sri Lanka with Sinhalese for many centuries and indeed, it was Sinhalese people and Sinhalese kings sheltered and protected Muslims in Sri Lankan in the past. Why do they have to fear Islam and Muslims today for no apparent reasons? Is it because BBS thinks that Sri Lanka will become a Muslim country in 2050? Such a wrong assumption is an illogical mystery. No sound person will believe in that nonsense. If someone believes in that such nonsense, such conjecture can not creep into minds of people except through psychological fear and panic.
Or is it because of communal jealousy that BBS has got this Isamophobia in their minds. There is no need to have any communal jealously over Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Today, Muslim community is one of the poorest of all other communities today. More than 60% Muslim today live below poverty line today and less than 2% of Muslims are employed in public sectors proportionately. Ironically it is generally believed that Muslim community is a business community and it may have been true in the past and not any more. Or is it because of religious hatred that BBS has got this phobia against Islam and Muslims in Srilanka. If they have such hatred in their minds and hearts it is against very teaching of Buddhism. Buddhism never taught hared and will ever and never teach hatred and resentment among people.