24 October, 2019

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Fight Against Extremism Should Not Be Confused With Islamophobia

By Lakmal Harischandra

Lakmal Harischandra

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. 

By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.” –Dhammapada

What happened on Easter Sunday is unforgivable and our rage and condemnation is beyond imagination. The nation should be complimented for their patience and maturity and the civilized way, they conducted themselves without allowing their baser instincts to take control over their rational thinking. Both Cardinal and Army Commander spoke in a balanced manner looking beyond the terror movement of the barbarians who carried out these dastardly attacks, while the politicians and social media warriors have been as usual in competition, to spread hatred and anti-Muslim venom using this massacre as a pretext. For the hate lobbies, the maturity of the people to observe constraint in the face of provocations was seen as a weakness. We have seen in this massacre, the worst that human beings are capable of doing. But, we’ve seen in the past, what happens when leaders are allowed to abandon common decency in favour of rage and hate. Through the lens of history, we saw how the Holocaust happened and how many genocides happened and even in our backyard how hate led to 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, Aluthgama/Digana anti-Muslim violence. In this background, when will our people learn the lessons of history that hate cannot be dispelled by hate? 

It is sad to witness that in the aftermath of this tragedy, another tragedy is in the process of becoming a reality. The monster of anti-Muslim hate appears to be rising again from the backwoods. This volatile situation where a group of terrorists bearing Muslim names carried out these monstrous attacks on churches and hotels, became an ideal breeding ground and a playfield for the hate lobbies who inflicted much damage and destruction in the Post-war era in Sri Lanka to re-enact their dramas. While the terrorists attacked physically, the hate groups used social media, ably supported by rogue sections of the Sinhala media like Hiru. Ada Derana, to begin their own brand of ‘war of terror’. They began to attack the Muslims psychologically and mentally, making the entire Muslim community guilty by association. They began once again to brainwash the average moderate Sinhala mind (both Buddhist and Christian) about the inherent danger posed by the entire Muslim community. This included fake news, photo-shops and cherry picking Islamic quotes to show that Muslims are with the terrorists. A parallel anti-Muslim campaign is also happening in the Tamil media as well. This disastrous campaign is already attaining victory when we see Christian and Buddhist people appearing to be consuming this hate propaganda. This is a tragedy worse than the Easter attacks. Perhaps, this is what the Muslim extremist group want to achieve – to divide communities and make Muslims alienated so that their youths will be ready recruits to their radical groups.  As a Sinhalese, I am feeling worried about how our past friendships and comradeship with the Muslim friends have given way to mutual mistrust and suspicion . This is another national tragedy indeed.

Our post-Independence history was full of racism and communalism. Barely we attained Independence with all political leaders of all communities coming together in 1948, when under a decade we had the election of SWRD, who fought his election platform on a racist agenda. This led to Sinhala only bill which divided Sinhala and Tamil communities. Two years later, in 1958, Ceylon (then) witnessed the first ever anti-Tamil riots. An year later, SWRD Bandaranaike fell to a bullet by a Saffron clad Buddhist monk. This did not make the people to suspect every member of the Maha Sangha who wore a Siwura and ask the government to ban the Siwura. (quite rightly). Today, people are different and they are asking many cultural and religious symbols of Muslims to be banned including the Burqa. Burqa of course had a legitimate reason to be banned in this situation; but the hate peddlers are calling for more- even the Abhaya, madrasas etc. Well! the governments allowed this Sinhala Buddhist fever to take hold in the body public, renegading on various pacts signed with the Tamil parties and marginalizing the Tamil people through colonisation in the N& E. What happened in 1983 and how the JR Jayewardene government acted was really unacceptable which led to the internationalization of this ethnic conflict and the subsequent Tiger led period of terror. With the end of war in 2009, sense of triumphalism was witnessed with the Rajapaksa government posing off as the champion of the Sinhala Buddhists. 

The religion I follow – Buddhism is widely accepted as a pacifistic and tolerant religion. Yet political ‘Sinhala Buddhism’ has been linked to ethnic violence in both Sri Lanka’s pre and post-independence history. The end of the war in May 2009 saw the resurgence of Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism as a prominent force, the most patent instance of its link to violence being manifested in the June 2014 anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama, in culmination of the well-orchestrated hate campaign by hate groups like BBS, Sihala Ravaya etc with State patronage then. Later, the patent popularity of the ‘Sinha-Le’ campaign and other grassroot level hate movements, which appears to be politically-backed and well-organised, also provided convincing evidence of the power of ethno-nationalism as a tool to mobilise insecure masses. The involvement of Buddhist monks in politics following independence in 1948, in effect, also transformed Buddhism into a highly politicised religion. In Buddhism Betrayed, StanleyJ.Tambiah draws attention to the paradox between Buddhism’s non-violent philosophy and the high degree of political violence in Sri Lanka. In fact, the first ethno-nationalist violence was directed against the Muslims and not the Tamils in 1915. Thus, religious extremism is not limited to Muslim extremism, but both Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil extremism too existed as well, as history in Post-Independence Sri Lanka has clearly proved. 

Having said that, it is a reality that extremism has been growing among the Muslim community specially since 1980s due to globalisation and opening of ME doors to Sri Lankans both for employment and pilgrimage. Even the social media has enabled Muslim youth to get radicalize online. I spoke to many Muslim friends and asked how these barbarians were not spotted earlier. They were crestfallen with a sense of shame in their faces because these animals bore Muslim names. But they  maintained , many prior information about these deviants were made available to the government and the Intelligence by their religious leaders and even by the local community to which the main mastermind belonged – Kattankudy. They were enraged why these warnings were ignored. But, they also told me that although there were many sects (Jamaths) which cropped up among them in recent history with some with extremist inclinations and at times violence being seen among these groups , they did not expect these groups to be this violent and massacre the way these ‘Satans’ did.  This NTJ activities were not within community’s public view. But, it should be accepted that Muslim mainstream did not speak up loudly against the growing trend of religious extremism and ghetto-isation including Arabisation. It is at least heartening to see the leaders and the community realizing this folly and saying ‘Mea-Culpa; even now. All they now need is a leader of the Cardinal calibre and a supporting mainstream society.  

This awakening among the Muslim community, is a positive development and hope the Sinhalese too think in terms of  Sri Lanka being the home to all and not through the lens of majoritarianism. If this awakening can start off a process of  healing and building a common Sri Lankan identity in the country  among Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims,  then those innocent souls would not have died in vain. However, unfortunately the growing anti-Muslim hate and hate peddlers pushing the Muslims against a wall, may hamper this process of  realising the dream of building an inclusive Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a multi- ethnic and multi-cultural nation and not a Sinhala Buddhist State although the latter is the dominant community. Former Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who appears on TV now lobbying for Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero’s release has forgotten that he also made a clear statement to the press when he was a Minister that Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist State. It is on the basis of an inclusivity that all communities can be brought to together and not revisiting Sinhala Buddhist supremacy. Our public discourses should be on this unifying themes and not on divisive themes as propounded by hate peddlers. Those who dream for an inclusive Sri Lanka should  NOT allow the hate peddlers to hijack the public narrative and spread hate venom and make a section of our people feel alienated and forlorn. Instead, the mainstream Muslim community should be supported to fight against the common enemy of extremism and radicalism among them- while still a fringe element. If the Sinhala community adopt a domineering approach, then this fringe element may grow in all probability. This is the danger we should all avoid at all costs.

Christian brethren should realize that Sinhala Buddhist extremist groups who are appearing as friends to them in their hour of grief, in fact attacked them too in the post-war era. Few weeks before the Easter Sunday attack, the Methodist church was attacked is Anuraphapura while many evangelic places of worship were attacked in many parts of the country initiated by rogue Buddhist monks. Thus, the Christian brethren should not fall prey into the game played by these hate peddlers that Muslims are their enemy hell-bent on killing them. It is not true. Sri Lanka suffered much from the brunt of extremist groups from all communities- Sinhala, Tamil and now Muslims. Marginalizing Tamils during Tiger rule had disastrous impact on Sri Lanka. Therefore, extremism and radicalism is a common enemy and we should all unite as one to fight these evils. Muslims has a pivotal role to play to fight religious extremism them. They have realized that it is in their own interests too. Helping them to do it and getting all communities onto the same page is paramount in fighting this cancer which seeks to destroy our common destiny. Walking together is the need of the hour,. There is no other way.          

Further, Islamophobia is a powerful industry in the West. If we care to study what happened after 09/11, it is clear that demonising Islam and the Muslims became a cottage industry with the Media taking the lead. ISIS was a Western construct and part of the military adventurism of the West in the ME. They used Islam and Quran to find justification for their ill deeds. Did anyone realise that ISIS has killed more Muslims than others. Did anyone also realize that they have not lifted their finger against the Israelis.  Thus, connecting ISIS atrocities to Muslims has ulterior intentions. Further, as Cardinal pointed out, these terror groups like ISIS who responsibility two days later for the acts of their local partners NTJ , do not operate many thousands of miles from their country of origin, on their own. There are international dimensions to this terror attack and already the patron of ISIS – US particularly is preparing to anchor their war ships to ‘help’ Sri Lanka’ to fight terror. Weapon manufacturers have a stake in this game. We should not be fodder for them to achieve their evil ends at our expense.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Thank Lakmal Harichanra.
    Thank very much for your clarification. End of the day, Sri Lankan economy is going to suffer. Tourism will soon go down. I heard many people from UK, who say that they do not want to visit Sri Lanka this years. I will be a great lost. Neither these idiot nor politicians realise this danger at all. It is so bad to create fear and phobia like this. No one will benefit from this.. Please note Buddhist temples, churches , Hindu temples and mosques could play a greater role, to bring this country into stability. This is unwanted trouble. Peace and stability is must. do not play politics with this..

  • 3
    11

    Best approach is to get rid of this Islamophobia from your mind, resign to your fate and let Muslims continue murdering others. Then those who are lucky to survive the genocide can get circumcised, wear a cap and say Allahu Akbar instead of Buddham Saranam Gachchami.

    • 3
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      Lakmal Harischsndra,

      Yes. Fighting terrorism should not be confused with Islamophobia.

      What is Islam? Submission
      Muslims claim that for them, Islam means submit soon to God.

      For the Wahhabi Salafies and their clones, ISIS, Tauheed Jamat, that means, submission to the Devil, Satan, Iblis.

      So, a better term is Satanophobia or Iblis phobia, that it becomes clear that it is against those who follow SataN, the Wahhabi Salafies and clones.

      This also prevents ordinary Muslims being recruited by the Satan following Wahhabies and clones.

      Ref. Hadith of Najd. Just Google.

    • 3
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      Lakmal Harischandra,

      Of course, the extremism is based on the ideology, theology.Just look at the Catholic Theology and the excesses of the Catholic Church. While there were extremists in Islam, those following God, called Muslims, they followed the rules of the religion and generally followed consensus. The result no extremists.

      That all changed with Wahhabism Salafism and clones. They redefined Islam in the Wahhabi interpretation. They called themselves true Muslims, and called the Muslims Kuffar, unbelievers, attacked and killed them. This Ideology gutted well for the British to destabilize the Ottoman Empire.

      Now Britain is replaced by the USA.

      You should NOT refer to Wahhabis as Muslims. Please read up on the Hadith of Najd. Wahhabis are Satanis, Iblisis, Horners, Najdis per The Hadith.

      Why not call a spade a spade, when the Islamic Sources refer to them as spades

    • 4
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      Let buddhist kill tamils and muslims

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 0
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    Lakmal, excellent capture of the nuances that are associated with anti-Muslim propaganda of the day. I was thinking to write the very information, but the job well-done.
    Indraka

  • 0
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    The masterminds behind the Easter bombings, the CIA which owns and operates ISIS, are using social media to de-stablize the county and distract the people this WEEK.
    This is an important WEEK and the fake threats to create fear psychosis and distract Lankan have been ramped up — so the SOFA and the MCC compact could be signed in Washington DC. Bondscam Ranil’s Avant Guard scam, Foreign Minister is off to Washington tomorrow to sign a bogus Compact agreement with Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) for a paltry 480$ to turn Sri Lanka into a military colony of the U.
    The Easter bombing were organized to pulverize Lanka with the so called IS threat into accepting to be a US colony by creating fear psychosis. This is so that Trumpland which is a the biggest ROGUE STATE in the world and violator of Human Rights, can pursue its Cold War against Asia Rising, China and the BRI.
    BRI is a sort of Marshal plan for the Global South.
    MCC which is its US counter to the BRI is paltry and MCC officials should be told to take a deep dive with their ID buddy Al Bagdadhi and their 480$ in the Indian Ocean and GET LOST.
    Sri Lanka does not need MCC funds or war ships from Washington!

    • 0
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    • 1
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      Lacmi,

      I was talking to a Pakistani guy, and asked his opinion on the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. His take was that the West want to destabilize Sri Lanka, make it more expensive for the Chinese to get a foot hold, disrupt their belt road initiatives, with their partners India.

      Then I read in Lanka e news an article by a former Sri Lankan intelligence officer, about the Wahhabi Salafis , and ISIS, and how the British and USA were in bed with Saudis. It became clear who were the partners of the great Satan.

      Now Lanka has become a theater in the latest geopolitical conflict.

      A sad situation, for the Land of Native Veddah Aethho occupied by the Paras of various hues, following different ideologies and beliefs.

      Ref. Hadith of Najd

  • 0
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    Dear Lakaml

    Thank you for the writing on behalf of us all the non partisan Sri Lankans………we shall never walk alone.

    The Infidels who did this to their fellow men/women and children are not Muslims/Sri Lankans nor Humans.

    I am from Jaffna and the consequence of people/local communities not speaking out what is happening to their children and their minds being poisoned/misled by ‘international’ and ‘local’ criminals is what led to the situation we had in Jaffna since early 70’s. I am sure is no different from the insurgencies in other communities too. We need to find a way to ensure we protect each community/security net working such we nip things in the Budd before things get out of hand. It is hard with the internet now days……………even in the western countries children being taken away for all kinds of activities by the same……………security services are struggling to keep a tap.

    Then we are only left with one thing that is for families/friends/communities/community leaders/religious leaders/members of parliment (this was a bad idea in Jaffna)to act as the ears and eyes for their communities and report to the security services immidiately?

    • 0
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      ……….it is also time we remove Ghetto politics/Identity politics and separate ghetto landscapes for any communities through separation………through devolution of power….through federalism etc.

      Mix up the communities/stop building temples/mosques/vihara/churches and put speakers up and aggravate each other in the name of praying/serving god.

      Pray god through taking care of each other/getting married to each other/Nation build through inter marriages.

      We got ourselves into this catch 22 situation sadly…we will be exploited by everyone for a long time to come unless otherwise we think out of the box………we can not fail the next generation.

      I am sure some will be relieved the North and East is not merged?? thank the JVP.

  • 0
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    Thank you Lakmal Harischndra for maintaining an even-handed journalism in the article.
    Extremism is the bane of humans.
    Extremism caused for example the Holocaust, created Bangladesh, the ongoing genocide of Rohingyas. Lakmal has briefed us on our own anti-Tamil pogroms.
    Islamophobia (hate/mistrust of Muslims) always lurked in the background. The tragedy that was 2019 Lankan Easter Sunday has intensified it.
    The silver lining is the acceptance by Muslims on their role in the tragedy. This must be recognised and used to avoid repeats.
    The tragedy appears to be a show of dissent as misguided as the 1971 JVP unrest. Use of excessive force must be avoided.
    .
    There are reasons to believe that the recent Aluthgama/Digana anti-Muslim violence might have influenced the Muslim minds. It is also known that Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) had a hand in it. Much worse, BBS had political patronage/protection and finance.
    .
    There is a case to bridle extreme nationalist right wing outfits like BBS.

  • 1
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    Lakmal Harischandra,

    I appreciate your point of view.

    I have a simple solution to the problems Sri Lanka is facing:

    The state must apply the rule of law strictly, completely and impartially to all communities.

    Even today it is not happening; I read reports of police and the security forces standing as spectators not taking adequate action against anti-Muslim rioters in the last few days. The same happened in the past and Tamils lost confidence in the State to protect them – the result was LTTE.

    Rule of law, the rule of law, and the rule of law – that is the urgent need of the day.

    Everything else is secondary; Muslims are seeing their properties and businesses destroyed with the security forces taking no action. Will it make Muslims confident of the State and the community that dominates the State?

  • 0
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    Muslims must go back to Islam of 1980s rather than practising wahabism and salafism. Otherwise, the majority will see it differently if they continue to practise unsrilankan, unsubcontinent values in order to maintain solidarity with people of Arabian Penninsula.

    Muslim society must start self criticism and correct themselves rather than asking separate clothes like ghost, separate food and trying to go away from Sri Lankan identity.

    Truth is bitter, but it is truth and accept it.

  • 1
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    Nimal Tissass Wijethunga

    “Muslims must go back to Islam of 1980s rather than practising wahabism and salafism. “

    I agree, so should the Sinhala/Buddhists, who must go back to Buddhism of the 1900, rather than practising Anagarika Aryan Sinhala/Buddhist fascism.

    • 1
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      Angoda Veddah/Kala Veddah/Native Veddah,

      We practise buddhism more than 2500 years in the same manner. You must accept the fact that because of the values of the Buddhism allowed the other religions to survive unlike many other places where other religions are the overwhelming majority.

      However, that does not mean that we shall condone or tolerate something started against those values such as full body covering using black hich is considered as ghost colour , separate food and forcing on others as well, separate clothes, considering their religion is the only religion and all others infidels, showing solidarity with the people of Arabian peninsula and not with their on Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka.
      FYI, Tamils masses also did this because of deceiving of Vellalas and looked for solutions to India rather than Sri Lanka and consider them as alienated with India rather than Sri Lanka and now they have recognised after so much of destruction and annihilation of sun god i.e. Prabhakaran and LTTE Terrorism. Hope that others will learn from those experiences rather trying to experiance themselves for another round of destruction and annihilation as prescribed by fanatics like you.

    • 0
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      Should Srilanka adopt Saudi policies?

  • 1
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    These incidents are direct result of the Government failure to initiate counter terrorism in right direction as they have bailed out some terrorist suspects, media blackout on successes on containing terrorism, failure to issue gazzett notifications on banning islamic terror organisations, niqab, burkha, ghost like black body cover as this gives the indications to the people that the government is half hearted in approach with rotten political governance for minority votes rather than professional approach to National Security as a policy. In my experience, only two occasions the Security policy operated professionally e managed to annihilate terrorism in 88/89/90 and 2006/2009 periods.
    Moulavis have identified all the terrorist producing factories and given those information to authorities where they shall bulldoze those buildings whatever it may be as part of the National Security policy with a professional approach.
    Whenever you discuss about terrorism , you shall not bias because the terrorism has roots in his or her race and rather they shall have the wisdom of accepting it and counter terrorist operations.

  • 0
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  • 1
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    A religion that was founded by a man who married ten women, that approves “eye for eye. Tooth for tooth” violence should not be afforded democrtic recognition. as a religion. It is merely a cult.

  • 1
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    This was a peaceful Sinhala Buddhist country where Tamil speaking (Hindu/ Christian, Muslims and Sinhala speaking (Buddhists, Christians) coexisted. Tamil political leaders propagated separatism and Muslim extremists with the help of some Muslim politicians wanted their own type of religious beliefs propagated. There is a foreign hand behind each of this. This naturally was the cause of anxiety among the Sinhala Buddhists which spawned extremists among them. This together with international geopolitics in the region made it easy for major countries to interfere in the internal affairs of this country and to destabilise and capitalize on the situation for their benefit.

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