By Izeth Hussain –
This is a very wicked animal. / It defends itself when attacked. – La Fontaine
There was of course an Islamophobic hate campaign, that of the BBS, under the last Government, but is there one now? The BBS campaign subsided after the present Government came to power, but the BBS itself has not been dismantled, it is dormant and can be reactivated to hot things up against the Muslims. In the meanwhile forces other than the BBS could be engaged in an Islamophobic hate campaign. Many Muslims, including this writer, are convinced that such a campaign has been going on, but according to reactions provoked by this writer’s recent articles many non-Muslims discount that.
The question is of national importance, not of importance to the Muslim minority alone. Before explaining the reasons for that the writer will pose another question: Was the last Government unique in the way it behaved towards the BBS? It was widely believed that the BBS had massive foreign funding, supposedly from Norwegian Christian fundamentalist groups. There were other indications that the BBS had an international dimension. Wirathu the Myanmar monk, who was internationally notorious after figuring on the front cover of Time magazine as the world’s worst racist hate monger, came to Sri Lanka as the honoured guest of the BBS. It was known that the Wirathu gang backed genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, which has brought for Myanmar world-wide contempt. It was noted that the T-shirts worn by anti-Muslim demonstrators in Myanmar and Sri Lanka were identical, except that the logos were different. We now have the anonymous Backlash declaring his dog-like devotion to apartheid Israel and writing that Israel backed the BBS, and actually justifying that as a riposte to Muslim anti-Israeli demos in Colombo.
There is reason to believe that the reactions of the last Government to the BBS was unique, unparalleled by anything comparable in the wide wide world. Usually Governments attach great importance to forging a sense of national unity and will counter hate campaigns against any of its minorities, unless it has very special reasons for encouraging that. In this case the Muslims have been pre-eminently a loyal minority, siding steadfastly with the Sinhalese against the Tamils over the separatist problem. The remittances made by our maids working in the Middle East are crucially important for the Sri Lankan economy. The Islamic world has been steadfastly supportive of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC and other fora. Pakistan’s weapons support preventing a catastrophic debacle at Elephant Pass in 2000 was of crucial importance. In the context set out in the preceding sentences, any Government trying to forge some sense of national unity would have tried to sort out the problems between the majority and such a minority. Furthermore all Governments are fiercely resistant to foreign interference in their internal affairs, and usually would not tolerate foreign-backed hate campaigns against any of its minorities. There was no doubt about foreign backing for the BBS.
How exactly did the last Government react to the BBS hate campaign? Some very powerful personages in that Government were seen as obviously supportive of the BBS and the Government as a whole acquiesced. It refused to take legal action against the BBS leaders, in effect placing them above the law. That failure to counter the BBS, which is quite possibly unique in the world, seems to betoken something deeply defective about Sri Lankan nationalism. The writer has in mind not just the divisions between the Sinhalese and the minorities, not just the divisions of caste and religion among the Sinhalese, but a deep divisiveness among the Sinhalese that militates against the national interest to a serious extent. For instance, every attempt at a solution of the ethnic problem has been aborted by the Opposition, even if the solution was advocated by the Opposition itself while it was in the Government. This writer might seem to be ignoring the powerful nationalism manifested in the military victory against the LTTE. The truth is that the Rajapakse Government, just like its predecessors, swallowed the myth of the LTTE’s military invincibility and fought the war to a conclusion only or mainly because the closure of the Marvilaru anicut left it with no alternative.
Anyway, whatever might be the reasons, there has been a failure to build an inclusive nation in Sri Lanka, in fact to forge any sense of national unity, which was seen clearly in the failure to stop the BBS hate campaign. The failure to forge even a modicum of national unity could have adverse, even lethal, consequences in the future. In the new geopolitical configuration in South Asia, with a heavy Chinese presence, India could conceivably come to want to impose a Cyprus-style “solution” to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. That is only a very remote contingency, but we should never lose sight of it.
Another possibility is that the lack of a sense of national unity could lead to a loss of independence in all but name. Sri Lankans, just like the rest of humanity, want a better life, a better material life which requires economic development at a fast pace. That means that some inescapable facts have to be faced. It is a fact that Tamil Nadu and other Dravidian states are among the dynamic performers of India, and that means that our economic development can be greatly facilitated by linkages with those states. But fears will arise, among the Sinhalese and also among the Muslims, that those close linkages will lead to dominance by India, and a virtual loss of independence might ensue. Why? The underlying reason is the total absence of a sense of national unity in Sri Lanka. After all, most Sri Lankans believe that a substantial proportion of our politicians can be bought and sold like potatoes. A house divided cannot stand.
The above are, surely, powerful arguments to persuade the Government to take counter-action against the Islamophobic hate campaign that has been going on. But what evidence is there to show that there is such a campaign after the subsidence of the BBS? Part of the evidence is to be found, persuasively enough, in the attacks against this writer provoked by his articles in the Colombo Telegraph, attacks which have been going on for years. It was manifest that the attacks had two objectives: one was to stop this writer being published and the other was to spread Islamophobic hatred.
The Tamil dimension of the attacks requires careful analysis. The attacks have been predominantly, almost exclusively, by persons using nom de plumes that declared a Tamil identity. But how are Tamil interests served by their attacks? Certainly, as a result of the war there has been an increase, a steep increase, in anti-Muslim sentiment among the Tamils, but such Tamils are most certainly in a minority. Besides, the Tamil leaders of today are moderate, pragmatic, experienced men who can be expected to understand that no purpose useful for the Tamils will be promoted by fomenting Islamophobic hatred. They would certainly want a coming together of Tamils and Muslims on the basis of a commonality of interest as minorities.
The cases of the two Tamils, Backlash and Kettikaran, who have been persistently attacking this writer over the years, can be very instructive. They regard this writer as an abysmally low fellow, and his articles as not much better than verbal excrement, yet they read him week after week, month after month, and year after year, experiencing disgust, hatred, rage, to which they give frequent expression. But they have not been able to stop this writer being published: now four editors are publishing him every week. So, what purpose and whose purpose are they serving? Kettikaran gave a clear indication some time ago that he is the servitor of a fundamentalist Christian group, and Backlash that he is the servitor of the Zionists.
Even a cursory reading of the comments in the Colombo Telegraph provoked by this writer’s recent articles will show that a high intensity Islamophobic hate campaign is going on in Sri Lanka. A new propagandist, Lester, writes the prose of an educated man but what he writes is uneducated drivel: there is no such thing as an Arab civilisation because there is something primitive in the Arabs that makes them incapable of civilisation, and so on. The attacks against this writer can be best understood in terms of a world-wide Islamophobic hate campaign that is being promoted by fundamentalist Christian groups and the Zionists. The Government should look into the charges made in this article.