22 April, 2021

Blog

Guard Against Rousing Extremism Though Immoderate Laws 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The draft resolution on Sri Lanka sponsored by a group of countries led by the United Kingdom is to be put to the vote in Geneva. Key members of the government have been working very hard to ensure that the majority of countries in the 47 member UN Human Rights Council in Geneva will give their support to Sri Lanka when the resolution comes to a vote. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa defied fears of the Covid pandemic to take the flight to Bangladesh. This despite the fact that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive showing the dangers of international travel. The prime minister would have felt impelled to make the journey to secure that country’s support at the forthcoming vote. In the meantime, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a telephone call to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation who praised the president for his willingness to reach out to international organisations and permitting Muslims who die of Covid to be buried.

However, a series of poorly timed government proposals that have targeted the Muslim community appear to have alienated long standing allies of Sri Lanka, whose wholehearted support would be decisive in changing the direction of the vote. The three proposals to ban the wearing of the burqa, to close down over a thousand Muslim madrasas and to supplement the Prevention of Terrorism Act with a regulation that would enable government authorities to take actions to de-radicalise those who are considered to be veering to the path of extremism will likely be seen in a negative light internationally. The 57 member strong Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Pakistan in particular put out strongly worded statements that should serve as a wake-up call to the government that it is risking its relations with long standing allies and also the hope of obtaining their support in times of crisis.

The organization of Islamic Cooperation said that it “condemns Sri Lankan ministers’ statement to ban burqas and madrasas being violative of Art. 18 and 27 of ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) which guarantees minorities the right to freely profess, practise and manifest their religion.” During his conversation with President Rajapaksa the Secretary General of the OIC, Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen reaffirmed the OIC’s determination to defend the rights of Muslims in all parts of the world. An even stronger statement was put out by Pakistan which said, “The likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. At today’s economically difficult time due to pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wild apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country.”

Repeating  Mistakes 

It is unfortunate that the present government appears to be repeating the mistakes of previous governments in terms of an inability to take a consistent approach to governance. The government has been giving an impression of moving in fits and starts, with one step forward and another backwards on several occasions. In the aftermath of the international furor over its proposed laws, Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella referring to the burqa and madrasa ban said that it was a decision that required “consensus and consultations” and “It will be implemented with a consensus and consultations with Muslim organizations and leaders. We won’t rush through the proposal, since it is a serious issue.” The Foreign Ministry Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage has also voiced similar sentiments.

The fallout of lack of harmonization between different sections of the previous government led to the failure to prevent the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that had tragic consequences to hundreds of people who lost their lives or were maimed and to millions of people who suffered due to the collapse of the tourism industry. The massive majorities secured by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the present government at the last presidential and general elections was due to the desire of the electorate to vest power in a unified and coherent government.

The Easter bombings which generated a tidal wave of antipathy against the previous government also made the Muslim community become a target of suspicion. The three fold proposal for national security that a section of the government has put forward in the form of the burqa ban, closing down of a thousand madrasas and the new de-radicalisation law are targeted on the Muslim community. The de-radicalisation law is particularly pernicious as it will enable public officials to detain persons they suspect of preparing for violence or spreading of disaffection between communities and have them sent off to rehabilitation centres without a trial. Such a law could be misused heavily.

National Leaders 

Today members of the Muslim community live in considerable fear of being taken into custody on charges of fomenting extremism. According to the government, a total of 676 persons were arrested in connection with the Easter attacks, of them 202 remain in remand custody, 66 have been detained for questioning and 408 released on bail, yet investigations on them are continuing. Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, who headed the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation for 24 years until last September 2019, was arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) recently. He was also arrested after the Easter bombing and released after being questioned for several weeks. The social service worker was arrested for allegedly promoting extremism in the country. According to the police he was publishing articles in a magazine published by the Jamaat-e-Islami organisation to promote Wahhabism and Jihadist ideology in Sri Lanka.

Jamaat-e-Islami is organised on lines such as the YMCA or Sarvodaya and with a similar social mission of uplifting the lives of those who are its members both in terms of morality and in social empowerment. It was established in 1954 and works on promoting values, peace and harmony, alleviating poverty and protecting environment. It is not affiliated to international organisations by the same name or to other international organisations as it seeks to be Sri Lankan. Organisations such as this are part of the mainstream of Sri Lankan society and should not be driven to the margins. Immoderate laws such as the proposed burqa ban, closing of a thousand madrasas and the de-radicalisation law are likely to generate resentment which is the breeding ground of extremism. The government needs to reconsider all three proposed laws as overbroad and not in keeping with the ethos of a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society that Sri Lanka truly is, or for that matter any democratic country.

In addition, those government spokespersons proposing legislative changes or making public statements need to take care not to add to the polarization of communities at political and religious levels. They need to also permit public discussion on concepts such as Wahabism, Thowheed and Jihad, and the different interpretations of them as befits a modern society. It is extremism and violence in particular that need to be countered and not the plurality of ideas. Those who wish to be true national leaders need to empathise with the feelings and aspirations of minority communities in addition to that of the majority. It is empathy that comes from moderation and mindfulness that will protect the country from extremism rather than set in motion a vicious cycle that can only benefit the extremists on all sides to the detriment of the country’s development and unity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    The warning that the government is risking its relations with long standing allies is vaguely worded.
    Who are those long standing allies? When did any of those countries come to ‘save’ Sri Lanka?
    .
    Their alignment is based on Islam. The country has alienated followers of Islam, inside and outside.
    .
    ‘The fallout of lack of harmonization between different sections of the previous government led to the failure to prevent the Easter Sunday suicide bombings’, is a verdict made in a rush.
    Have you read the report on what caused the Easter Sunday suicide bombings. Are you certain that no one of the present Government is implicated in it.
    .
    ‘sent off to rehabilitation centres without a trial’.
    What a surprise. Isn’t Sri Lanka famous for rehabilitating without even a semblance of a trial!
    .
    The Government(s) shoot itself on the foot regularly, with no regrets!

    • 2
      1

      Well, the UNHRC resolution has been passed, with India abstaining, along with many Muslim countries. Will the Professor Grand Admiral resign even now?
      I am sure Nande Aiya will surface soon with dire threats against Ms. Bachelet . Thugs learn very slowly.

  • 9
    1

    Sinhalese Buddhist fascist government is implementing the following:

    The Israeli model of dismantling the Tamil homeland in the North-East by erasing the cultural, religious and historical artifacts and replacing with Buddhist things. They are also changing the demography and depriving the livelihood of Tamils there by settling Sinhalese from the South in the Tamil homeland. Tamil Homeland is an open prison occupied by the Sinhalese military.

    The Chinese model of “reeducating” the Muslims out of Islam. They may even intern the Muslims like what China is doing to Ughers. Rajapakse clan in power is well known to favor the Chinese model of governance – authoritarianism and all implemented in the island.

    If the international community keeps an eye closed Sinhalese establishment will achieve their long cherished goal from independence onward to make Sri Lanka an exclusively Sinhalese Buddhist country. In fact top government leaders are pronouncing that Sri Lanka is Sinhalese Buddhist country for some time now.

  • 1
    10

    SL has a choice – Tamil terrorism or Muslim terrorism.

    From 1948 to 1989 SL chose Sinhala terrorism.

    From 1975 to 2009 SL chose Tamil terrorism.

    From 2009 onwards SL has chosen Muslim terrorism.

    How the hell can all 3 live in one country! This is insane. Just divide the island equitably. Enforce a division. India was divided, Pakistan was divided, Nepal was divided. Why not SL? Unless divided what happened to Tibet and Sikhim will happen to SL.

    Divide now!

  • 10
    1

    Jehan,
    “The fallout of lack of harmonization between different sections of the previous government led to the failure to prevent the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that had tragic consequences to hundreds of people who lost their lives or were maimed and to millions of people who suffered due to the collapse of the tourism industry. “.

    Why do leave out the anti-Muslims riots that followed causing death and destruction to thousands of Muslims? The anti-Muslim riots were aided and abetted by the Sinhalese security forces – as they always did in anti-Tamil riots.

    After all you are biased too!

  • 6
    2

    Jehan PhD should not misguide decent Buddhist Sinhalese. He consulted Yahapalanaya to go with Lord Nesaby’s statistics. Now he is telling to the Royals to bring the Muslims bashing laws only after UNHRC’s 46th sitting, otherwise “you guys are going to prove that you are Modayas “. The Ministers repeatedly said they don’t care about UNHRC. But Jehan PhD is bothered about it is bringing a resolution that average Sinhala Buddhists may not like, even if the Aanduwa ignores it. Jehan PhD went with Tilak to have Lankawe pulled out of there. Then, when the communist buffoon Denesh retracted on the Resolution 30/1, Jehan PhD invited that move. Now he is telling to Royals not to drop off Muslims so prematurely because Tamils’ UNHRC is not defeated yet, so you needs them, like you need China in UN. Where do you think Lankawe will be ending up soon, if it keep listening to PhD like Sinhala Buddhist Intellectual?

  • 7
    4

    If any country especially those in the OIC, the west and India give support to this extremist sinhala buddhist government and its extremist ministers like that racist sarath weera or that wild mongrel booruwansa; then let the leadership of those countries be replaced with better leadership that won’t support extremist sinhala buddhist.
    .
    Every international agency/country should know if they vote in favour (God forbid) these extremist sinhala buddhist racists will not waste one minute in returning to terrorising minorities. Look at how they treated the Muslim mps who gave them 2/3 in Parliament, not only did they tell them to get lost but went on to forcefully cremate 350 Muslim corpses. The OIC should understand these are the bodies of their brothers and sisters these extremist sinhala buddhists cremated by force.
    .
    Let these extremist sinhala buddhist be sanctioned to the maximum extent possible. No mercy should be shown to these extremist sinhala buddhist as they didn’t show any to journalists they kidnapped/tortured/killed, the 300K tamil civilians who were killed, 350 corpses of Muslims that were forcefully cremated and the countless other rights abuses that have in their mind become their right to do.

  • 9
    2

    To those Muslim Brothers /Sisters who frequently write here in CT, apparently certain Muslim groups claiming to be from North/East are holding a protest in front of U.N office against proposal. I am aware it may well be organized by Rajapaksa brothers, which they stage every year during this time. (Tamils included). I guess you as jouralists need to clarify your position clearly on these matters, for the benefit of your community. The community seems to have given their message by participating in recent
    P 2 P protest.

  • 5
    10

    “Those who wish to be true national leaders need to empathise with the feelings and aspirations of minority communities in addition to that of the majority.”
    —-
    Same goes for leaders of minorities. They too have to empathize with the feelings and aspirations of majority community in addition to that of their community if they want to live with the majority community in peace and harmony. But they failed to do that.

    It was the arrogant behavior of racist separatist Vellala Tamil leaders to ignore the feelings and aspirations of majority community that led to the ethnic conflict in Sinhale/Sri Lanka between native Sinhalayo and Tamils who came from Hindusthan and settled down in this country. They simply ignored the fact that Sinhale is the land of Sinhalayo, they were the people who lived under colonial rulers that oppressed them for about 450 years and they have their aspirations to live as a free nation. Instead of joining hands with the Sinhala Community to develop the country these selfish Tamil leaders wanted to push their aspirations through the throats of Sinhalayo e.g. demanding a Federal system by forming the Federal Party in 1949 by racist Chelvanayakam who came to Sinhale from Malaya.
    These narrow minded racist Tamil leaders had no problem when:
    • English was the official language
    • Car number plates carried English letters
    • Union Jack was the national flag
    • God Save the King was the national anthem

  • 6
    2

    There is lots of talks/ discussions about communal harmony during the EARLY part of the year[January to March] just to hoodwink the international community and take the UNHCR on a ride. The GoSL had been successful in doing so since the end of the civil war in 2009. Since then, the country has been under extreme vigilance by having beefed up security that takes up most of the Government Expenditure, at the expense of good health care and education. For an event like 21/4/2019 to happen in such a massive scale without the eyes of the defence is highly improbable.
    The current GoSL came to power solely supported by the Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalists like Taliban. It is hard to trust that this Government will be a minority friendly one. The way it threatens the media and those who took part in recent P2P protest march points to impending disasters to freedom in the country.
    It will be very much preferred to have a unifed coherent government as mentioned by the Author from now on. Can we trust the Rajapakshas to bring this about????

  • 6
    1

    Do the majority not know that the ones who are pretending to uphold the safety of the country are directly responsible for its problems ?
    .
    When I was growing up this place was a more peaceful place to live even with the threat of some ltte suicide bomber going off somewhere. If the majority support such invasive oppressive laws towards Muslims, then I hope you’ll find yourselves faced with a similar fate. And I hope on that day humanity forgets you as you forgot humanity in your treatment towards minorities.

  • 5
    7

    ‘Immoderate laws such as the proposed burqa ban, closing of a thousand madrasas and the de-radicalisation law are likely to generate resentment which is the breeding ground of extremism.’

    It seems to me that the writer has put the cart before the horse. Extremism already exists. It didn’t come about through immoderate laws etc, it came about through the majority bending over backwards to accommodate alien ideas, and a minority being influenced by Saudi fundamentalism. Add to that the incompetence and corruption of our politicians and you have the situation we have today.

    Basically, the majority are completely fed up with unreasonable demands and want something done about it. Why do you think so many voted SLPP, a party that was barely a year old? They were not voting SLPP, they were voting for GR, seeing in him a man who would get things done. (I am not claiming that he has succeeded, nor that his methods are good).

  • 4
    6

    Jehan,

    Could you please provide us the scientific basis that confirms that the so called immoderate laws rouses extreamism?

    If some one coveres the whole body and face in puplic it is immoderate according to my view.

    And if a woman goes about topless with only a G string that is also immoderate.

    If a hairy man goes to a supermarket in a mankini that is also not acceptable unless it is some sort of prank just for a laugh.

    On the contrary a moderate dress code fror Sri Lankans will promote integration amongst the various communities.

  • 2
    0

    Thiru,

    I agree that the Average Sri Lankan politician has no idea about human rights and the fundermental rights of its citizens.
    Even western educated Sinhala leaders like JR Jayawardena resorted to 3 rd class thuggery by aiding and abetting the 1983 riots aginst the Tamils. The security forces and the police had no idea that the mob violence against the Tamils was a crime that should have been prevented by the police and the security forces with the full force of the law.

    Simply because 13 soldiers were amushed and killed in Jaffan resorting to tribal retaliatory mob violence in Colombo and other Sinhala majority areas was deplorable. As a democratic country commited to the UN charter on human rights, the 1983 riots was a Black July indeed.

    Still we have not seen a leader committed to putting things right in Sri Lanka.

    We lost many Tamil , Muslim citizens who loved the country and serverd the mother land as a result of communal violence.

    The LTTE terrorism and the resulting conflict took many lives of all communities.
    Not to mention the thousands of lives lost during the 2 – JVP uprisings.

    It is apparent that still we have not learnt a lesson.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.