18 November, 2017

Racism Still Haunts Humanity Despite International & Constitutional Guarantees

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Racism is a scourge affecting every element of conflict with dramatic, often uncontrollable consequences. Only together and fighting relentlessly on all fronts can we destroy these seeds of hatred sown in the minds of men, seeds which flourish in times of economic unease, social exclusion and psychological despair.”- Koïchiro Matsuura(former Director-General of UNESCO) -Message of 21 March 2003 (extract)

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination falls on March 21. The General Assembly of the UN on that day calls on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

A focal point in history in this regard has been what made March 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which is being observed annually. On that day in 1960, police shot and killed 69 people (including eight women and ten children) and injured 180 at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. More than 80% of those killed had been shot in the back. 7,000 individuals had gathered to rally against apartheid and its “pass laws,” which required all Africans to carry a Pass Book, enabling the South African government to restrict and monitor their whereabouts. Anyone found without a passbook could be arrested and detained for up to thirty days. It was this day which rekindled the conscience of the global community to fight this ugly menace.

Wirathu – Gnanasara

Throughout its history the United Nations has worked to eliminate racial discrimination. The UN Charter adopted in 1945 proclaimed equality among the Member States. Three years later the Universal Declaration of Human Rights –UDHR, adopted by the General Assembly (GA) raised a new consciousness around the world about the human equality and the rights possessed by individuals. This new consciousness about the protection of human dignity reached full expression in 1963 when the GA adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The follow-up to this important, but not legally binding, Declaration was the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1965(ICERD).ICERD supports achievement of one of the main purposes of the United Nations: promoting and encouraging universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all global citizens, regardless of race, sex, language, or religion.

It has been a fact that there has been notable progress in making real many human rights enshrined in the UDHR – but racial discrimination and hatred, including hate-motivated actions and crimes, remain far too prevalent across the world we live in. These threats are compounded by deepening inequalities, and rising exclusion and marginalisation, which weaken the fabric of societies. Racial discrimination violates the inherent rights and dignity of women and men. It holds back entire societies from lasting peace, and it sets obstacles before inclusive, sustainable development. Emerging trends, racism and a lack of accountability for racist acts continue however to occur worldwide despite protection guarantees rooted in international laws. We are living at a point in history when bigotry has been impoverishing  the world, seeking to divide humanity against itself and undermine the inexhaustible strength that lies in our diversity.

Sadly even just close to seven decades after UDHR adoption, racism is thus still a global reality. Racism has gone way beyond being a mere ideological construct and has grown into a wave of populism in the recent past. The world has been watching in shock and awe, as many populist movements began to unravel in the West: the meteoric rise of alt-right racist small parties in Europe, with the much divisive Brexit campaign taking centre-piece, while Trump made it to the White House, despite his obnoxious racist inclinations. “I think we have an environment where people feel comfortable with stereotypes,” says Lee, the author of Multicultural Issues in Counseling: New Approaches to Diversity. “People feel they have a license to act and speak out in very intolerant ways”.

In the 10 days following the 2016 US presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit legal organization that uses legal action, education and advocacy to fight racism and bigotry, received almost 900 reports of bias-related incidents of harassment and intimidation as part of what it termed a “national outbreak of hate.” Ethnic and religious minorities in Europe continue to suffer from discrimination and prejudice and face disadvantages in a whole host of areas, from employment and education to housing and policing, a report published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) revealed.

It may be comforting to think of it as confined to the West and as reflecting colonialism and the slave trade. But forms of racism with equally sorry histories are to be found also in other regions of the world; in fact in all regions. Therefore, racism should be understood as a worldwide phenomenon that requires a worldwide response. All societies, and all of us within must address racism in the forms that it manifests itself in our lives and cultures. There has also been a disturbing increase in intolerance and hate speech in many parts of the world, which has made a mockery of the laudable aspirations of the UN and UDHR, under which it is essential that governments stand against hate and genuinely demonstrate their commitment to protect the human rights of everyone in all communities.

In Sri Lanka, the Constitution clearly guarantees all citizens the right to equality, non-discrimination and freedom of religion and religious worship. However, despite such guarantees, both political leadership and law enforcement  authorities have consistently  ignored the imperative need to take racist offenders to book and maintain fair-play. Thus, scourges of racism raised its’ head once again specially in the Post War period, spreading fear and insecurity among specially the minorities in the country and raising concerns among civil society and human rights groups. This hate and racism virus has spread to all corners catalysed by a fringe but powerful Sinhala Buddhist lobby led by rogue sections of the Maha Sangha. Sri Lankan government, through the Geneva resolution, has committed itself to accountability and reconciliation, and has  an obligation to make clear that inflammatory hate speeches and racist /religious attacks and campaigns such as those we have heard in recent times  have no place in a culture committed to these principles.

It was unfortunate that Tamil community still feels alienated even after many years of the end to the bloody war while the Muslim community has become the next-in-line target of the extremists. The number of attacks against religious and ethnic numerical minorities across Sri Lanka specially Muslims, by ethno-nationalist majoritarian groups, typically led by one or more Buddhist monks, remains unchecked. Civil society groups have consistently documented and reported such attacks to relevant authorities. However, charges have never been brought against the perpetrators, despite the conduct of these monks being in clear violation of hate-speech and anti-discrimination protections under Sri Lankan law. BBS led Aluthgama communal violence for example stills remains un-investigated and culprits are still at large.

It is matter of regret and disappointment that even after this Yahapalana government came to office , this racist epidemic still runs riot, although in a bit subdued scale. Even in  Myanmar, the leading Buddhist clergy body has banned the hate monk Ven Wirathu from delivering sermons for an year. It is timely that Mayanayakas too take this stand against the rogue elements preaching hatred. Equally, it is important that ACJU too take a firm stand against any rogue elements among Ulemas preaching extremist/ hate  views which will harm the process of peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Government too should take a firm stand against any forms of hatred against other communities and take all steps to remove racial discrimination. Specially, at a time when Islamophobia has become a global industry, it is important that the government has a close tab on the use of social media by the hate mongers to spread malicious, false and misleading stories and news to incite inter faith tensions and act firmly against them.      

All of us have difficulty with the idea that although we are all different, we all should be treated the same. It seems ‘natural’ to ascribe negative meanings to differences, to associate difference with the supposedly inferior or superior or the dangerous. It is not, however, natural. It is something we learn and is therefore something we can unlearn. The fight against racism therefore begins with being informed. Further, for reconciliation to become a reality, mere constitutional changes and laws respecting and protecting the rights of all will not suffice; it is also important to initiate a deep change of understanding, vision and mentality. This monumental challenge cannot be faced only by the  leaders. For a change of mentality especially in the south, the engagement of the religious leadership specially the Buddhist clergy is specially crucial.   

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated. The Holocaust illustrated the consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on a society. It forces us to examine the responsibilities of citizenship and confront the powerful ramifications of indifference and inaction. The challenge for all of us is therefore not to be passive in accepting the hand history has played, but to work for positive change that can leave behind what has been negative about the past. It is important the we ensue an era in which gives us the necessary values and means to work to end such inequalities and the prejudices and attitudes that sustain them. We don’t fight racism with racism; the best way to fight racism is with solidarity as it affects all communities in one way or another.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    If you want to bring down the Buddhist fundamentalist racism in Srilanka, the minorities should join hand in hand. This is only possible when the North east administraion come under one force where Tamil speaking people have the power to make decisions on law & order and justice in the North east provincial council. The police and land powers should come under N_E Province. The Sinhalese have to feel the same that was felt by Tamils and Muslims in this land.

  • 4
    0

    Much as WE must all work towards eradicating racism, we also should recognise it as an inherent human trait. It is much a part of us as bad breath and head lice. We can eliminate much by education and good practice, and by laws, but the truth is that like love and hate it will remain embedded within each of us.

    The fact is WE ALL should remain perpetually vigilant and stand up each every time we meet it. It should be zero tolerance, nothing less. The forces of this evil trait should be given no quarter.

  • 4
    1

    Race is simply the biological difference between human beings. Claiming superiority over this difference is what divides us. As a result of this division we spill blood and honour in vain, The ignorance of Divine guidance leads human beings astray.

    O mankind! Lo! We have created you from male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (The Noble Quran 49:13)

  • 3
    4

    Lukman Haree

    As a pious Muslim you should be a man who believe koran as holiest document on earth. can you confirm that your holiest document propagate universal brother hood. and explain why Saudi and other middle east countries do not allow people of other faiths or infidels to practice their religion in their countries. in that case I think you are like prawn that carry excreta on its head but laugh at others saying they carry excreta in back. what a funny !!!!!!!

    Can you explain your holiest book verses 8;55 . and confirm it has nothing to do with racism. but you here trying to defame Buddhism posting picture of venerable virathu and gnanasara but did not post picture of ISIS leader bagdadi or Alquida Leader Osama. . that means you yourself is a racist do thing like prawns do.

    • 3
      0

      ranjith (sprrw)
      March 21, 2017 at 10:13 am

      You are confused Racism with Religious Faith. They are poles apart. There is plenty of places of worship for non Muslims in the MidEast, unfortunately most don’t visit it regularly. They have become a liability to maintain it.

      Before you pick and chose a single verse in a scripture, try to comprehend the chapter from a scholar.

      • 0
        2

        if any thing can mean anything it is bullshit. I do not want to go through all. one is enough to asses it.

  • 1
    0

    Ranjith
    I have noticed you are always on one track focussing only on Muslim hatred and Quran bashing.
    Firstly, this article is about racism affecting all humanity and not just SL. YOu should read it in that context.
    Secondly, you keep on mentioning Saudi and other Arab countries. Arabs are only a minority among the Muslim nation. i also agree Saudis are nuts as they follow a distorted fundamentalist version of Islam which ISIS follows as well. But there are many other Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia . Even India has Mn Muslims. Why dont you mention them

    As regards 8.55 Surah verse, as you always do, you quote out of context. it is important to study the whole context before jumping the gun.

    8:55 (Asad) Verily, the vilest creatures in the sight of God are those who are bent on denying the truth and therefore do not believe.
    Asad (8,58)
    [58]

    Note 58 (Quran Ref: 8:55 )
    Cf. verse 22 of this surah chapter, where the same epithet is applied to human beings “who do not use their reason”. In the present instance, it should be noted, the Arabic particle ‘fa’ at the beginning of the phrase ‘fa-hum Ia yu’minun has the meaning of “and therefore” (“and therefore they do not believe”): thus showing that lack of belief in spiritual verities is a consequence of one’s being “bent on denying the truth”. Expressed in positive terms, this amounts to the statement that belief in any ethical proposition depends on one’s readiness to consider it on its merits and to admit the truth of whatever one’s mind judges to be in conformity with other-empirically or intuitively established-truths.
    As regards to the photo in the article. as far as I know , the writer has no say in choice of the photo.

    But more you deny that there are hate groups among the Buddhists who have made it a hell for other communities to exist in a united SL, you will be an ostrich

    • 0
      2

      if it covers wider spectrum, why only two buddhist monks pictures appear here. writer’s intention is clear. he meant to humiliate buddhism under cover of anti racism. monks working against you all as your religion destroying buddhist heritages since inception of your religion.

      • 0
        2

        Ranjith (SPRW).

        This gentleman represents Shitte group of muslims which comes from countries like Iran. They are not Wahabis as in Saudi Arabia.

        Saudi arabian practice their culture. google and see how Saudi arabians treat their women, they treat their thrash better.

        Anyway, everybody follows the same quran and hadiths.

  • 4
    0

    Rajitha sparrow

    Can you explain why buddists have been at the forefront of killings, rapes and mega thefts in this country? Am sure Buddha must have made it halal for the sinhalese to do all that somewhere in his teachings.. Because all these people have ‘pirith nool’ on their hands and appear to be devout buddists on tv. So as a devout buddist can you explain why Gnanasara and people with his mindset are so violent and bloodthirsty?

    Also do explain to us what authorizes the buddists to kill, rape and steal at will. Am sure your mahawamsa and your buddah taught you that. Surely these people must have had a conversation with a Buddha statue which must have spoken back and allowed them to do so.

    There is no need to defame buddism because people like yourself and that thakkadi Gnanasara are doing a marvelous job at it! Keep it up and destroy yourselves for good. Good luck trying to wipe us out ;)

    • 1
      2

      do you know why buddhist monks in tibet developed martial art called kun fu. if not read history.after destroying nalanda muslims target was destroying buddhism in tibet. as such monks developed martial art based on evasive action of the body without erroneous thoughts.to depend buddhism as well as buddhist heritages. ultimately they depended it. forcing muslims to retire. likewise our monks do same here and myanmar against islamic extremism.

  • 0
    4

    Harees can preach human rights and blame Sangha since he lives in SL,
    Try doing it in Saudi or any Arab country, He will have his head cut off!

    Trying to make a mountain out of mole hole,

    It is like an organized campaign now to attack Buddhism and Sinhalese,
    Enjoy!

    • 4
      0

      When the sinhalese organize and attack, rape, burn and kill it is patriotism… When the victims of their brutality fight back in defence they cry foul. First stop attacking people based on race and religious lines, then no one will have the need to blame the sangha or buddism. Who started the anti tamil pogroms in 83? Who started the bbs and attacked muslims in 2012? So your rouge sanga can lie and instigate violence but the victims have no right to fight back even with mere words? You are the instigator. Not the victim.

  • 3
    0

    racism is ok as long as it is in the name of Budha.

    • 2
      2

      AJ

      That’s a cheap shot. Shame on you. What Buddha has got to do with racists?

      • 1
        0

        AJ is a christian Tamil. They want to win Asia, Defeats buddhists and muslims. It is christians spread all the lies in Asia.

  • 3
    0

    Thank you Lukman Harees for the article.

    The Lankan suffocation is not race based but is language/religion based. At the start of the quicksand trap (set up by ambitious politicians), an attempt to draw an Aryan/Dravidian divide was successful but the advent of the science of DNA has proved this totally wrong.

    In the mid-thirties it was taken for granted that whites were superior to “others”. Nazis went one more step and theorized that Aryan-whites were a master race. It took a world war to bust this myth.

    In Myanmar the charlatan monk Wirathu incites the Burman Buddhists to massacre Rohingyas – directed by the Burmese Junta who are still in charge. This is race based.

    In SL, the BBS capitalizes on the language/religion divide.

  • 1
    2

    Monks are the guardians of Sri Lanka, if not for them Sri Lanka would have been another Jihadists PIGSTY.

    There are thousands of SL Muslim youths who have joined with various jihadists terrorists groups across the world but they could not be bothered to fight LTTE terrorists.

    Aluthgama riot was started by local Muslim 1s1s supporters by assaulting a Buddhist monk. 1915 Muslim riot in Kandy was also started by Muslims throwing stones at the parade.

    Kuragala, Dewanagala, Digawapiya, Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Dabulla Buddhist City, Anuradapura Buddhist City, etc are all under Muslim invasion. Soon there will be a Caliphate in Willpattuwa jungle.

    Now stop stupidly playing the ” Racist Card”, protecting your faith, culture, customs, values, country ,etc is NOT racism.

  • 1
    0

    I am sick of Tamils blaming ‘Singhala’ Buddhists for all their problems. If you want to see racism in action in Sri Lanka take an up-country Tamil to Jaffna and see how he is treated.

    • 0
      0

      Atticus

      I am sick of Tamils blaming ‘Singhala’ Buddhists for all their problems.

      It is Brain washing.

      another way is they say become good buddhists.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.