By Kumar David –
Sinhala-Buddhist Extremism Is The Gravest Threat At This Moment But Thankfully, ‘Another-1983’ Seems Unlikely
The resignation of Muslim ministers is a consequence of inaction of the Sinhalese public against Sinhala-Buddhist (SB) extremism and a declaration of Muslim no-confidence in opportunist MPS, a spineless government that funks monks and punks, and a President whose pardon of a perfidious monk amounts to incitement. Still it seems that both jihadists and street mobs have been contained and those who remember 1983 can breathe a sigh of relief that nation-wide carnage on that scale seems unlikely. I circulated a survey to a few friends who reckon that another 1983 is unlikely and asked:
For what reasons is another 1983 is unlikely?
a) Consciousness has advanced and there is less hatred all round.
b) People have learnt a lesson from the damage suffered last time.
c) There is more common sense among ordinary people. (a + b)
d) There is anti-Muslim feeling, but not as serious as what had built up against Tamils by 1983 due to war tensions.
e) The government behaved better and contained the situation as opposed to the way JR behaved in 1983.
f) Politicians are indeed racist bastards but not as bad as last time.
g) The army and the police are under tighter control.
h) Religious leaders all round have played a role in soothing troubles.
i) Though global jihadism is more powerful than the LTTE, Easter Sunday was not an authentic ISIS operation.
j) The Muslim community and its leaders are trying hard to avoid trouble
You will not be surprised that the responses were widely spread. Some wanted to take a “different approach” but I could discern how their views fitted in. The grouping (a), (b), (c) attracted most support but only just ahead of (d), (e) and (h) which were also well picked. A majority did agree with my premise that “Another-1983 is unlikely”; that was reassuring, but is it sanguine?
I would be depriving readers of alternative insights were I not to report that some thought my premise (‘Another-1983 unlikely’) was complacent. One said “If they had attacked a Buddhist temple you would have seen another 1983”. The most cogent dissent with my premises was this:
“The Moors are not Hindu vegetarians! Their response to physical oppression will make what the Tamils did seem like a picnic. I lived in Lanka till 1990 and have over the years followed the anti-Tamil campaign and I can see that the anti-Moor propaganda and hysteria that has grown exponentially since April dwarfs what the Tamils encountered. Every day for six weeks Moors are being arrested and include relatives of politicians, professionals and a cross-section from every part of the country. There are witch-hunts against gynaecologists! This never happened to Tamils! Can you ban the Arabic language and expect no reaction locally and globally? I would not be surprised if the Moor worm turns, if terrorism that the establishment is hysterical about actually breaks out, and if West Asian and other Muslim countries provide diplomatic and material support and impose sanctions on Sri Lanka. How are Muslims, whose women-folk are afraid to venture outdoors, going to respond in the coming months? I have grave misgivings”.
While there is variation in judgement about how big an ethno-religious flareup may ignite in say the next year, there is consensus that Muslim-revulsion is widespread among Sinhalese. I see it in friends, even leftist university pals and unsurprisingly a few SB relatives. I accosted UNP folks about their Party’s funk and the responses, truthfully, are: “Ranil is making an effort and visits places where harm has been done but the rest of our Party consists of unmitigated bastards (their word) seeking to cash-in on an anti-Muslim vote-wave”; “Sirisena, the bigoted hypocrite, pardoned Gnanasara who now threatens to oust him; what can the UNP do?”; “There is a black-hand, (finger pointed at Rajapaksas, Weerawansa-types and the SLPP-LSSP-DLF alliance) inciting Moor-hatred, but our craven UNP keeps silent”.
If I concede this appalling state of affairs, you may well ask why am I confident that this hatred will not be allowed to go so far as to spark another-1983. My answer is straightforward and implied in my interrogations (a) to (j). I believe that (a) to (c), (e), (g), (h) and (j) are correct and taken together might stem the tide of religious-racist filth splurging from extremist SB gutters. Furthermore, the (a) to (c) fans are in mostly Sinhalese, resilient to the deluges of the gutter. If organised they are robust enough to beat back extremist excrement. I concede that (d) is not true – Muslim-hatred is hugely manifest in the fanatics excrement; and as for point (f), today’s politicians are as egregious as their forerunners.
The real menace I perceive is a twenty-first century Lankan Dark Age (LDA) descending gradually on the nation. Cultural primitivism, religious intolerance, regression to pre-enlightenment values and medieval intellectual patterns are abundantly manifest. Should one laugh or weep at the edict barring women working in government from wearing a frock, skirt & blouse, jeans or pants and outlawing sarong and tunic for men! A tuneful but profane ditty doing the rounds is: “Ratna-sirige sarama galavelaa: Lankat-eka asse baduwa nathivelaa”. The serenaded gentleman is probably a hapless old fool stuck in a rut, the real culprit is surely the grama-sevakaya. Saprophyte is a word recently introduced to me, it means an organism living on decayed matter and mucky bacteria; you get my point!
More seriously, what action do Udagama and the rights commissioners propose to take about this palpable violation of fundamental liberties? Will Udagama take Ratnasiri to courts; if not why not? Don’t say it’s a trivial matter and not worth the effort. I see it differently; if what is happening now is not nipped in the bud it will be the thin edge of a wedge lurching towards LDA and incipient fascism. John Stuart Mill opens On Liberty with the remark “(T)he nature and limits of power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual” is “my” subject. Substitute for “society”, ‘culturally and intellectually backward society and antediluvian state’ and the challenge is much magnified. A Human Rights Commission that ducks this challenge will be diminished in worth.
I am not fully persuaded yet that come 7 December we will be rid of the dotard and his buffoon squad. This is not to repeat the common rumour: “Until the eviction is final there is danger of hanky-panky”. That’s true but I have a deeper cause for concern. The menace of SLDA does not arise from individuals alone (politicos, extremists, jihadists and fanatical clergy). The enduring vulnerability is that rot is deep-rooted in sections of the populace. We see the worst side of democracy; extremist hell bent on creating a Sinhala-Buddhist State by electoral opportunism, or if need be by turmoil.
Tolerance and compassion are scarce among some Lankan Buddhists! An example is a reader’s comment in the Daily Mirror of 31 May in response to an essay on Sufism by Fathima Mohamed: “You can come with explanations and excuses about Islam, but it is a gutter religion. Muslim countries are cesspools who practice this gutter religion”. All over the world the centre is hollowing and the masses are piling up, left and right, depending on whether socialist-egalitarian-environmental motives or nationalist-religious-cultural concerns, respectively, motivate them. Socially and class-wise all are from the same pot; rejection of the established economic order and alienation from liberal social norms. Globally, the resolution to this dilemma of a fractured world is to change the distribution of wealth and power ending a condition where the 99% is in mortal combat with the 1%. To check Nazi style extremism and rip-up the Sinhala-Buddhist State project, however, the Sinhalese people themselves must smash the extremist excrescence. Religious-racist fanatics and jihadists can be contained by no other means than forcing their downfall.
CORRECTION: I made a typo last week, title All that’s familiar is falling apart (2 June) and wrote “The social classes pushing from the bottom are (NOT) simply petty-bourgeois scum and lumpen hordes that made up the battering ram of fascism in the 1930s”. I omitted the NOT and reversed my meaning that class-wise alt-left and alt-right derive from the same alienation and social issues. The error would have been obvious to most readers, but sorry.