By Mohamed Harees –
Listening to the video recording of Galagoda Atte Gnanasara (Thero)’s anti Muslim hate speech in South Korea, I began to realize how well he fits into the title of a ‘Modern Devadatta’. Devadatta tried to assassinate his cousin Buddha . However this modern Devadatta version in saffron robes has already killed the spirit of the message of peace enunciated by the Buddha. This racist bigot and lunatic suffers from a delusion of putting an end to the rise of Islam and the Muslims, even by being a Prabakaran and with political support. A wishful thinking indeed! Islam and Muslims have been part and parcel of the history of Sri Lanka for well over 1000 years and they will remain so despite the dubious attempts of these hate groups to make them aliens. However, the hate he spits out is indicative more of the looming danger of another religious based War rather than his evil character.
Gnanasara – Photo courtesy Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page
Islam has been spreading fast particularly in the West, at a crucial time, despite a well-orchestrated Islamophobic campaign to demonise Islam spreading globally , not because of the efforts of the Muslims as such, but because of the vibrancy, pragmatism and dynamism embedded in the message of Islam itself, as the Quran says : ‘They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it’. It is therefore important for Muslims in Sri Lanka to show by example to other communities that Islam indeed is a religion which stresses on peaceful co-existence , respect for life, spiritual integrity, social justice and economic probity, which has promoted great flowerings of human civilization in many parts of the world.
One of the biggest challenges for Sri Lanka in the Post-Independence era in general and Post-War period in particular has been the imperative need to defeat the majoritarian and racist hate groups led by rogue Pseudo Buddhist monks and to promote national reconciliation , as bedrock for national progress. It was unfortunate that the MR tried to assume a Macho Dutugemunu Maharajanoo image for short term benefits rather than using the Post War gains to build up an all-inclusive multi-ethnic Sri Lanka. These hate groups thus acted without fear or sanction with State patronage. After the Yahapalana government was voted to office in 2015 by the people of Sri Lanka, BBS and the sister groups however avoided being so vocal and visible on the streets as they were during the previous regime, as prominent Media coverage and State patronage which were oxygen to their hate campaigns was mostly denied to them. One of the main themes of the Yahapalana election campaign was incidentally national reconciliation. Precisely why Gnanassara has been seeking political support to put an end to the rise of Muslims!
Although, much need to be done to promote national reconciliation and to ban hate speech, this ‘Yahapalana Sirisena-Ranil’ Alliance still offers the best hope and the best bet to build an all-inclusive Sri Lanka for two major reasons: There is visible commitment and belief on the part of this two- party alliance to keep away from these hate groups and to promote national reconciliation as THE bedrock for national progress. Secondly, the alternative being the Joint Opposition with MR as their ‘Spiritual and Temporal’ Head will be the much worse option , as they still seek to regain their lost political clout by appealing to the tribalism and racial instincts of the majority community.
No doubt the BJP (the political arm of the BBS) suffered a dismal defeat at the August 2015 elections. However, this majoritarian/racist trend has not ceased to exist and continues unabated. Hate groups in many other forms of metamorphosis and new memes are creating fresh ‘inner’ fears among the majority Sinhala Buddhist community that the minorities are hell-bent on destroying their heritage and culture. Their special focus has been on the Muslims whose global image has been systematically tarnished by the Islamophobic Western Media . One of the most prominent post -2015 political developments has been the emergence of the ‘Sinhaley’ and Sinhala Balamuluwa – Alt-right groups which emerged out of the ashes of electoral defeat of the BBS having lost their credibility , which has sought to carry on the baton in demonizing Muslims as the prime cause of all problems in Sri Lanka- political, social and cultural. Their modus operandi has been however more subtler, underhand and high tech using the much powerful social networking Media aimed at Sinhala Buddhist Youth and Teens , being led by more youthful monks than those in BBS leadership. Their hate language is more akin to the Trumpian lobby in the US.
This discourse about Alt-Right lobby is alive and kicking right now in US. In a recent speech , Hillary Clinton lambasted Trump for his ties to what she called the “emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right”. According to experts, the movement’s factions, including “intellectuals”, “natural conservatives” and “the meme team”, mostly young activists with a penchant for trolling. Oliver Lee Bateman is a freelance journalist developed a rough profile of alt-right activists. “They’re college students who might be bright but don’t feel like they fit in or they feel like they’ve been put upon,” he says. “If they’re in their 30s, they feel like the country is changing or they’re losing their country. They’re often people who work completely boring bureaucratic or programming jobs. They don’t want to put their names or faces out there. But there’s a level below them, they’re running these gross hate group pages,” “And when Trump came along and began saying things like I’m going to build a wall, or that Saddam Hussein was a good guy, he killed terrorists, they liked that.”. Sounds similar to the messages used by the ‘Sinhaley’ activists in the Facebook! Sinhaley has also been promoting in the social media to bring back MR as both are appealing to the base tribal instincts as such groups yearn for political patronage for uninterrupted action. Thus, supported by a racist prone re-emerging MR Lobby and their lackeys, these hate Alt-Right type groups have been seen to re-group and re-emerge under new Memes and name-boards , popular one being ‘The Sinhaley’ –‘improved’ version of BBS .
A cursory glance of the Face book hate pages of Sinhaley, Sinhala Malamuluwa and their proponents such as Ven. Medille Pagngnaloka Thero and Terence Peiris for example, will prove to any objective reader how the dangerous Post-War hate campaign then spearheaded by the Trio – BBS, Sihala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya is being remarketed in much more palatable doses as Sinhaley to suit the grass-root level Sinhala Buddhist masses specially the youth and school kids . This lobby is wooing them to elect a Sinhala Buddhist King who will keep the Sinhala race and the Buddhism at heart , by appealing to the support of the armed forces ,which indirectly means MR-‘Maharajanoo’( unlike the present rulers whom they are trying to brand as traitors). As much as the Alt-Right movement in US has found their streak of renaissance in the emergence of Trump, these Alt-Right type groups like Sinhaley and BBS and Co. are also yearning and lobbying to bring back MR who is their best bet as he, as said, seeks his glory in portraying himself as the champion of Sinhala Buddhism . In fact, one of the hidden strategies of the Joint Opposition to wrest political power again was also to further promote the image of MR as the Sinhala Buddhist Saviour- the modern Dutugemunu.
In this subtle campaign, Muslims have once again become the punching bag bringing back bitter memories of the hateful Halal , Niqab and so-called ‘anti-Islamization of ‘Sinhala’ lands’ campaigns which created a sense of fear and insecurity among Muslims during the MR regime. They have also re-started their campaign to ask the Sinhala people to boycott going to Muslim shops and businesses. The Sinhaley also is in the process of misleading the Sinhala Buddhist public too, through fear mongering for example by conveying incorrect news such as LTTE Courts still being in existence and also providing a racial interpretation to all incidents involving a Muslim or a Tamil. One of their most evil strategies to promote Anti-Muslim hate has been to spread lies and deception like how they maliciously attempted to involve Muslims in the breaking of Buddhist statues incident in Thirappane. (as per Police reports, there were no Muslim involvements). Thus, as per the undercurrents created by these alt-Right type racist groups, ‘the whole Muslim community is ISIS, and is conspiring together to ‘invade’ Sri Lanka’- an evil intention they have not harboured in their entire history of more than 1000 years! In fact, their main subtle focus has been to subdue the minorities to subservient position, in keeping with the traditions of the Post-Independence Sinhala Buddhist majoritarian movements from which they draw inspiration.