By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“A key lesson is that civic passivity and willed blindness were the preconditions for the triumph of National Socialism….” Fritz Stern (Leo Baeck Lecture)
Fanatics hate facts. Therefore the fact that the Sinhala population has actually increased between 1982 and 2011 would be of no interest to those who are trying to ignite a new – religious – inferno.
According to census figures, in 1982, Sinhalese constituted 74% of the population; by 2011, this has increased to 74.9%. The Muslims constituted 7% in 1982 and 9.2% in 2011. If any community is in danger of depletion it’s the Tamils. Indu Bandara, Director, Population Census and Demography Division of the Department of Census and Statistics, “disputed a claim being propagated in the country that the Muslim population is likely exceed that of the majority community” (The Island – 18.3.2013).
But the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and others of their ilk are unlikely to allow this reality to intrude into their psychotic universe. Having ‘defeated’ the ‘Halal threat’, the BBS is ready to forge ahead to do battle against other ‘dangers’. Their demonising rhetoric against the ‘Abaya’ has already caused several incidents, according to DBS Jeyaraj[i]. Advertently or not, the BBS monks are enabling uncouth and criminal elements to perpetrate violence against women in the name of religious-patriotism. Currently the threat is limited to Muslim women; gradually it will encompass all women who dress/act in a manner unacceptable to these Talibanisque Sinhala-Buddhists.
Obsessing about female purity is a classic sign of racial/religious fundamentalism. The threat to one’s own womankind from the ‘Lascivious Other’ has been a perennial concern for every fanatic throughout ages. This miscegenation-bogey is currently bedevilling the minds of the BBS. At the organisation’s Kandy meeting, BBS’ arch rabble-rouser, Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero, talked about a plan by Muslims businesses to hire Sinhala girls and convert them to Islam through marriage or promotions[ii]. He demanded an end to Sinhala girls being employed in Muslim businesses.
According to official reports, in Sri Lanka, rape in general and child rape in particular reached an all time high in 2012. Last year, there were four child rapes per day, including of very young children. But this plague of rape/child rape does not seem to concern the BBS, even though many of the victims are Sinhala/Buddhists. Is it because most of the perpetrators too are Sinhala/Buddhist men and therefore the BBS cannot use it to incite religious/ethnic hatred? Is the BBS silent about this real danger to the physical and psychological wellbeing of Sinhala society because the threat comes from within its own bowels?
In the BBS universe, a consenting relationship between a Sinhala woman and a Muslim man is a far greater danger than the rape of Sinhala children by Sinhala men.
The ‘pollution’ of Aryan women by Jewish men was a major concern of Nazi zealots: “Racial purity, they claimed, could only be attained through total physical apartheid…. ‘Defilement’ of German girls through predatory Jews….(became) a central theme of the anti-Jewish agitation” (Hitler:Hubris – Ian Kershaw). Der Stürmer, edited by arch anti-Semitic Julius Streitcher, specialised in publishing incendiary stories/cartoons about ‘Aryan maidens’ and ‘Jewish seducers’[iii]. The ban on White-Black marriages/cohabitation survived in the US state of Alabama till 2001. Saudi Arabian women are still not allowed to marry men outside the Gulf Corporation Council countries[iv]. The Jewish fundamentalist Lehava organisation ordered Bar Refaeli, an Israeli model, not to marry Leonardo DiCaprio, the American actor, because he is a gentile.
Until now,Sri Lankawas not affected by this particular madness. Thanks to the BBS, we might succumb to that bacillus as well.
What the BBS has failed to realise is that by making Sri Lanka an unsafe place for her minorities, it is turning the world into an unsafe place for the Sinhalese.
Gotabhaya/BBS Way to an Unsafe World
Last week, two Buddhist monks were attacked by mobs in Tamil Nadu.
Sinhala/Buddhists could visit Tamil Nadu in perfect safety throughout the long Eelam War – and did so, on religious or shopping pilgrimages, in transit or for medical treatment. The spate of attacks on Lankan people and institutions is a very recent phenomenon.
These attacks – especially the last two targeting Buddhist monks – presage the world the BBS and their Rajapaksa-masters will create for all Sinhala-Buddhists, if the anti-Muslim campaign reaches its logical end.
Currently Sinhalese are unsafe only in Tamil Nadu. If the hate campaign against Muslims does not come to a stop, no place in the world will be perfectly safe for a Sinhalese. The most vulnerable would be Lankan workers in theMiddle Eastand Buddhist monks whose robes render them easily identifiable.
Already the first formal protest has been made, by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is an umbrella organisation with 57 member states. Islam, like every other religion, consists of many sects. This variety within Islam is incomprehensible to the BBS, just as the variety within the Christian-fold was lost on the JHU. In the ‘Api’ vs. ‘Un’ (US vs Them) world of the BBS, ‘Un’ (them) is any man/woman who follows any form of Islam. Consequently the BBS will antagonise Sunnis and Shias, as well as every single sub-sect within this major divide.
Theirs is the Tiger-way.
What if Vellupillai Pirapaharan did not choose to treat all Muslims as enemies? What if he was genuinely committed to a Tamil-Speaking Elam and tried to win over Muslims to his cause?
He may not have met an inglorious death; he may be presiding over his own state, now.
From a rational Tamil nationalist point of view, winning Muslims to the Eelam cause made sense. But Mr. Pirapaharan wanted a state not for all Tamils speaking people, not even for all Tamils, but for himself and his cohorts. And in that dystopian land there was no room for those who were not ready to abase themselves before the altar of the Sun God. That visceral inability to avoid extremes and to tolerate difference played a major role in the ultimate downfall of the LTTE.
Today, the Rajapaksas and their BBS shock-troops are demonstrating a similar incapacity to avoid extremes and accept/tolerate difference.
At the Kandy BBS-Rabble-Rouser-in-Chief, Rev. Gnanasara Thero concluded his speech (in which he warned Buddhist maidens not to become ensnared into harems) by thanking the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. A cogitational and behavioural similarity between the Thero and the Presidential Sibling is quite discernible. Both gravitate towards the extremes; both prefer dictatorial solutions. For instance, in a stance which almost echoed that of the BBS, Mr. Rajapaksa told Divaina that “there will be no further dealings with Tamil Nadu…… henceforth all Tamils coming from Tamil Nadu will face maximum legal consequences and punishment” (Sri Lanka Mirror – 21.3.2013)[v].
Anyone with an iota of sense would realise that in a tit-for-tat game with Tamil Nadu, Lanka and Lankans will be the greater losers. But for those blinded by megalomania and consumed with fury, sense is in short supply. They will push this country into another internal conflict and antagonise most of our remaining international friends. They will endanger all Lankans, at home and in the world.
They are the real Sinhala-Tigers.
[iii] These included such ‘gems’ as ‘A dangerous race polluter. He regards German women as fair game for himself’ and ‘Castration for Race Polluters. Only heavy penalties will preserve our womenfolk from a tighter grip from ghastly Jewish claws’