21 October, 2019

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Sinhala-Buddhist Extremism Mirrors Jihadist Fundamentalism: Thwarting Lanka’s Fascistic State-Project

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

In last week’s column I argued that another-1983 (race riots, carnage and mayhem) is unlikely. But there is another peril we need to reflect upon and controversially I will again be complacent about its prospects. Not to imply that opposing it in every possible way is unimportant; analysis is armchair, practice is what matters.  Anyway this is not the first time a Sinhala-Buddhist or authoritarian (JR, MR) project has raised its ugly head, nor will it be the last. True, a Sinhala-Buddhist (SB) state need not be fascist; there are relatively benign semi-theocratic states – except that the rights of religious minorities are strangled (in Israel it’s the Palestinian majority). For example Islamic states vary from mild Indonesia, through Bangladesh and Pakistan, to monstrous Saudi Arabia. A Sinhala-Buddhist State (SBS), were it to materialise, will be located at the disagreeable end of the spectrum.

An enthusiastic minority of the SB public is ever happy to be incited by dangerous monks, the governing UNP-JHU alliance is stuffed with opportunists too craven to take a stand (except Mangala), the Prime Minister is toothless, the President untrustworthy and the opposition (SLPP, MEP, LSSP, DLF and CP) ingrained in race politics and stirring up instability in a quest for power. This alignment portends regression from whatever democracy we still retain to a de-facto or de-jure bad-land. It will be accompanied by repression not only of minorities but also Sinhalese who dare dissent and are branded traitors. A majority of Sinhalese, though not joined at the hip to extremism, at the same time fear to boldly confront it; such is the clout of the inbred Buddhist ethos in its Lankan manifestation. This is my justification for positing that regression to an SB Statist ideology in the prevailing mood of Muslim hate, ever present hostility to Tamils, majoritarian acquiescence and visceral abhorrence of democracy, has degenerated into a neo-fascist tendency.

Consider one example which will be much multiplied if an SB State materialises. The witch-hunt of gynaecologist Dr Seigu Shihabdeen is mind-boggling but his supervisors, hospital bosses, health minister and politicians are petrified to confront those who are fanning Moor-hate. Is this Sri Lanka’s Kristallnacht? I will not provide a summary; enough information is available – e.g. Piyumi Fonseka’s interview in the Daily Mirror of 4 June with Dr Imara, Shihabdeen’s wife. Imara says everything that happened before and after the arrest convinces her that the charade was concocted. I believe her. I have no comment on medical competence as opposed to the palpable witch-hunt. 

Prof. Hemantha Senanayake, Head of Obs. & Gynae. Colombo Uni. demands an impartial inquiry by medical experts: “If people are intimidated by declarations not supported by medical science it is a worst-case scenario” (Daily Mirror, 8 Jun 2019). The Madras Hindu, 6 June: “A concerted campaign demonises the community; an extreme example is the allegation that Muslim doctors surreptitiously render Sinhala women infertile”. The Economist (8-14 June) in ‘Fighting Hatred with Hatred’ talks of Lanka as though it were a Neanderthal habitat. A Reuters’ summary pokes fun at Lanka’s racist sham.

To move from the horrific to the ludicrous, let’s have just one of many farcical examples. A Muslim woman was arrested and harassed at the instigation of locals and persons in saffron robes for wearing a dress with an image of a nautical-wheel, which some donkeys fancy resembles the dharma chakra – an Indian motif reaching back to Indus Valley times, later adopted as a Hindu, Jain and Buddhist emblem depicting the wheel of dharma. The police chumps and the charlatans prompting the arrest are oblivious of the rudiments of history! 

The concerted campaign to demonise Muslims is not simply racial venom spewing from zealots. It is consciously used by some to thrust forward an SBS agenda, though in the minds of most it has no larger motive than Moor-hate per se. Is the SLPP – obviously with knowledge and consent of LSSP, CP and DLF – a hidden-hand fomenting unrest? There are accusations and speculations to this effect in the web and in the rumour mill, but at this time of writing I have no hard evidence. If one were to go on past form of course it is likely; but it’s prudent to wait and see. What is more relevant to this column is whether a successful SBS project, as opposed to racist agitation to discomfit the government, is in the interests of the Paksas and the parties of the Joint Opposition. 

My answer is NO. The ambition of the Joint Opposition is to install a Paksa regime, but a near-fascist SB State will in the long-run have no use for the ‘family’ and its rotten cabal. They will be pushed aside by religious extremists, racists and Rasputin-like mad monks (Buddhist Imams and Ayatollahs). The Paksas are eating, drinking, mating people, who will grate on prudes and zealots. An alliance will not last. Guardians of a putative SB State will crush the fraudulent (MR, GR, Bacillus, GLP, Tissa, Vasu and other rogues) and clean out sinners to retain starchy credibility. More likely however, a Rajapaksa regime, if and when in power, will need to pulverise mad monks and fanatics. The lesson of September 1959 is not easily forgotten.

Extremists and mad monks cannot alone install a Sinhala-Buddhist semi-theocratic state; they need durable allies. In previous paragraphs I ruled out a lasting alliance with the Rajapaksa movement. Sure, Paksa-strategists will use monks as a lever, but plans to nip the loonies in the bud are likely on the ‘high-commands’ mental drawing board already. For one, a Paksa-regime will be desperate for international acceptability; sitting atop a medieval state is no help. What other partner can the neo-fascists look for? The one that comes readily to mind is the military, if it is at all willing to play along with half-wits. Recent examples of the religious-right playing ball-squeezing games with the army have seen the former come to grief. Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan are cases in point, though the fallout was different in each instance. In Egypt a puerile Muslim Brotherhood government was pulverised by the army it was flirting with. Prime Minister Morsi and the Egyptian people are now prisoners of the military. The fight is now bloody in Sudan; Imran Kahn has managed a draw in Pakistani after the military curbed Islamic extremism at American insistence.

The one place where an Islamic mass movement won hands down was Iran in 1979. Tens of millions surged out, the Sha’s detested military was obliterated and the state was transformed root and branch. The lesson is clear, seizure of power by revolutionaries, ethnic rivals, foreign intruders or faith-based radicals, can survive if and only if the incumbent armed state-power is eliminated. The Lankan military is very unlikely to ally itself with a nutty Sinhala-Buddhist putsch-cum-state project, but if it does it will soon snuff out its erstwhile partner and monopolise power. You might intervene with the objection “What if it’s not a putsch but a legitimate electoral victory of a Sinhala-Buddhist-Statist clutch. But that’s the option I commented on previously; except in alliance with the Rajapaksa opposition, there is no way an SB extremist faction can reach power electorally. 

The logical conclusion my arguments lead to is that foisting a Sinhala-Buddhist State (semi-theocratic as in Somalia, Israel or Sudan) is not possible. Unenlightened enactments like the Chapter on Buddhism in the Sirima-Colvin Constitution will of course surface from time to time. Gamini Kulatunga is alarmed by Ratanasara’s fast: “The outcome due to the emotional upheaval of the common man could be the harbinger of a theocratic order”; the Inter-Religious Reconciliation Council proposed by Ranil may pave the way for extremist monks to veto aid agreements, treaties, budgets and investments; a halfway house to theocratic bedlam. Still, I remain confident that Lanka’s semi-democratic state form will survive for the foreseeable future. Ranil’s capitulation is pathetic, but he will be checked by secular and business interests.

What is likely to get worse is demonization, mob attacks and police harassment of Muslims. True it’s only a minority of Sinhalese who engage in active race-politics, but unfortunately it’s not a small minority. What’s more worrying is that the non-chauvinist Sinhala majority is unwilling to take on and see off these sons of bachelors. How different from the USA or a European democracy where racism is met by mobilisation, a majority white as in Charlottesville. Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches drew huge white contingents. Swathes of the majority community rally out to beat back racists and fanatics in democratic societies. But in Lanka the non-racist Sinhala majority only tut-tuts behind closed doors. Not good enough my friends; you can stop extremism in your community, outsiders like me cannot. If fifteen million Buddhists cannot rout the extremists in their midst what can anyone else or a government do? Don’t pass an impossible buck to state authorities.

India fast tracked prosecution and a few days ago convicted six men including policemen and government officials, all Hindus, for rape and murder of a Muslim girl in a Hindu temple. Three of the monsters were sentenced to life imprisonment. Hindutva activists in the meantime marched all over trying to shield the fiends; reminiscent of home? Public outrage, forceful action against goons and fast track prosecutions are what Lanka needs to learn – perhaps one day! Even if in analysis the triumph of a theocratic sate is improbable we cannot relax until all its recognisable indicators are demolished.

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Latest comments

  • 5
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    The idea of a “Sinhala-Buddhist” theocratic state is far-fetched, based on the fact that no minorities have been forced to convert to Buddhism. Maybe the author is assuming the government will force minorities to light Vesak lanterns? The author fails to understand that Buddhism by nature is introspective; unless one is a monk, there are very few ceremonial practices. Most practices involve some kind of meditation or self-reflection. Islam is entirely different. The word “Islam” means submission. It dictates every aspect of a person’s life, from what to wear, to what to eat, to whom to marry. A Muslim must pray 5 times a day, while facing Mecca. Muslims have their own interest-free system of banking. A Muslim must do haj at least once in his life. Those who are not Muslims are designated “kufir.” In this case, the basis is there for a theocratic state, beginning with a designation of Muslim and non-Muslim. In fact, this is how (historically) Islam was able to spread so quickly, for the most part without violence. Muslims were given privileges while non-Muslims could not climb the socio-economic ladder without converting.

    • 3
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      Yes, indeed, this dodo Kumar who thinks he is gods gift and all knowing is part of the problem.
      Sinhala Buddhist and IS fascism is greatly exaggerated to advance the American project to divide and rule and set up a military base and colonize Sri Lanka to fight the Cold War with China!

      • 1
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        KD: The Solution is to identify the real CIA and SOF (Special operations forces), of US who own and operate IS and are behind the Easter Sunday bombing and have a huge MULTI-RELIGIOUS PROTEST with Buddhist, Hindu, Christians, Muslim leaders and civil society to outside the US and Saudi embassies.

        KD why cannot you think of globalization and global forces using Sri Lanka to Divide, and Rule and set up military bases? All your exaggerated verbiage here contributes to this US project. Why is the scope of thinking so limited, small, and islanded, and only focused on local politicians and ethnic and religious conflicts when the Easter attacks came from outside and were orchestrated by global forces?

        The Solution is to identify the real criminals behind the Easter Sunday bombing and have a multi-religious protest with Buddhist, Hindu, Christians, Muslim leaders and civil society to protest outside the US and Saudi embassies.

        Until the real culprits are identified inter-religious conflict will continue and leave Sri lanka vulnerable to the US SOFA, and MCC land and ocean grab project to turn the country into a US military base and colony to fight the war on China and Asia Rising.

    • 0
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      Lester very good and fair explanations.

  • 4
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    Please use correct terminology. The right word is ” the Far right ” or “extreme right wing “. Which exists in every country inducing the US ( Republicans, the Aryan nation, Klue klux klan ) UK ( the British National party ) Europe( Le Pen of France ) and Australia ( Pauline Hanson ). The phenomenon exists because outsider’s like the Muslims and Tamils refuse to live according to the constitution and the rule of law of their adopted nation.

  • 2
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    I have taken to comparing the CT and Sunday island versions of articles to throw light on the mind set of the S Island editors. In the case of this piece here are statements that have been censored. There may be more deletions.

    1. “(M)ad monks” (2 or 3 times)
    2. “(R)racists and Rasputin-like mad monks (Buddhist Imams and Ayatollahs)”.

    3. ” Is the SLPP – obviously with knowledge and consent of LSSP, CP and DLF – a hidden-hand fomenting unrest? There are accusations and speculations to this effect in the web and in the rumour mill, but at this time of writing I have no hard evidence”.

    4.”The Paksas are eating, drinking, mating people, who will grate on prudes and zealots. If we were to go on past form of course it is likely; but it’s prudent to wait and see”.

    Is it that SI editors too are intimidated by “the clout of the inbred Buddhist ethos in its Lankan manifestation”, hence 1 and 2?. But why the cover up of the Rajapaksa politics in 3 or 4; whether one agrees or disagrees with the comments is another matter?

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    If any one uses the term Sinhala Buddhist for any claim without using the term “Sri Lankan”, that person is a “RACIST”. We are all Sri Lankans. We are all Brothers and Sisters.

  • 2
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    It is high time to differentiate and separate racist/fanatic Sinhala-Buddhism from True/Civilized Buddhism. We have observed for many years that the Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka, better known as Sinhala-Buddhism is not only Intolerant but also Violent and Barbaric in nature. Instead of practicing what Buddha preached (Ahimsa/non-violence, Karuna/compassion, Metta/affection, and Maithriya/loving-kindness towards fellow humans), the Sinhala-Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka engages in un-Buddhist practices such as in racist politics and also promote Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism and hatred against the minorities. Today it has reached to the extreme.

    It is tragic to see that Buddha’s philosophy/teaching (Buddhism) is dragged down to such a low level by non-other than the members of the Sinhala-Buddhist clergy. These Sinhala-Buddhist monks (hora ganayas or cheevaradharis) are exploiting the respect that the Buddhist society has for the saffron robed Sangha and not only misleading the gullible Buddhists but also betraying Buddhism and insulting the Buddha. They are hijacking Buddhism with their anti-Buddhist activities and disrupting the peace in the country.

    As responsible leaders, not only the government but also the moderate Sinhala media personnel, educated and intelligent Sinhalese people and moderate religious leaders/Buddhist clergy should educate the Sinhala masses to think rationally and differentiate real Buddhism from extremist Sinhala-Buddhism and also differentiate between a genuine Buddhist Bikku and a Sinhala-Buddhist Cheevaradhari (rogue monk).

  • 3
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    Mr Kumar you have conveniently forgotten that when BBS contested 2015 elections none of their candidates won. They only got 39,000 votes nationally. Over 11.5 million Buddhists voted against them. You think in the West Christian bigotry is checked by White liberals coming out to protest. But their numbers are like the Sinhala Buddhist foreign funded NGOs coming out to march against BBS types. After all Trump won on the US racist Christian extremist votes. There are such victories for them in Europe such as in Netherlands, Austria and Italy. There will be much more in coming years. Cardinal Ranjit told Catholics that they should respect the Sinhala Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka and we can all live in peace. Obviously you were deaf to it but hear very well the AntiBuddhist diatribes of Mangala. Colombo Telegraph why are you so fascinated with BBS and other foreign funded Buddhist thugs? Focus on the rational authentic Buddhist voices that forms the majority opinion. All what they are asking is to respect Sri Lanka’s Buddhist identity and heritage. Is that extremism?

  • 1
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    I see an enlightened professor who did not agree that racial contradictions are severe than class contradictions in 70s.and supported vehemently srimavo Colvin constitution of 1972
    I hope professor realizesthat ruination of the country started with his leader Colvin Constitution which he supported in the Auditorium of Engineering faculty when Colvin addressed it and Nevile Jayaweera was criticising it

  • 4
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    Prof. Kumar David is sleep walking.
    Islamic terrorism is the issue on hand.

    Soma

  • 3
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    The bliss of having no religion

    • 0
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      Thank You Manilal.

      Please God, make our wish come true.

  • 3
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    The discredited remnants of the Yahapalanya crowd.calling the kettle black.

  • 1
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    I may be able to agree with description of the current emotional status prevailing among among S/B but, I have to say that Kumar David is hugely miscalculating the potential political outcome if the current trend prevails by the time of the next general election. The history of the kind of regime under MaRa clan clearly shows that, despite the fact that SLPP coalition is made up of medley of political parties & individuals who like to “eat & drink”, it also played the S/B card very strongly not only to cover up the abuse of power, corruption & inefficiency but also in election campaigns as well. I would go even further to argue that the rise of S/B extremism was a byproduct of this racist politics of MaRa clan. How can anybody argue against the repetition of the past if the racism will be the thrust of the next election campaign as well?
    If the abuse of military intelligence & the police to harass political enemies under MaRa/GoRa regime is to stand as any lessons, then I would expect a much worse campaign of reprisal against minority leaders (mostly Muslim) & liberal journalist under the pretense of defending S/B identity.
    Yes, they will have to face a huge resistance from the west against HR violations but, I doubt whether that will be enough to deter them b’cos, instead of trying to come through back door through “vanity projects”, this time, China will march directly with its military along its modern version of the “silk road”! If the media owners & journalists who enjoy “eating & drinking” also will support the brutal regime as they did then & now in return for opportunities to engage in corruption, who will there be to stop them behaving worse than they did before they lost power in Jan 2015?

  • 0
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    you hit the nail on the head

  • 0
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    Prof David. A very good analysis. This had happened too often in this country.

  • 0
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    Even if Dr Seigu Shihabdeen’s name is cleared some day soon, the story that has been spread will live on and be used to harass Muslim professionals by SB rabble rousers supported by the media and encouraged by their rivals.
    *
    Even after charges of Tamil favouritism in marking GCE-ALexamination papers in 1970 were dismissed as baseless by a government inquiry, the government went ahead with its ‘standardization’ scheme. What was worse was that the story continued to be believed by many and was even reactivated in connection with university examination by three high ranking university academics around 1982. One was a former Vice Chancellor.
    *
    “The Paksas are eating, drinking, mating people, who will grate on prudes and zealots. An alliance will not last.”
    Do not count on it. See how the dictators of Saudi Arabia live amid claims to defending true Islam.
    Hypocrisy is the hallmark of religious fundamentalist politics.
    *
    Sudan was the first in Africa to become an Islamic state. But I am not sure if Somalia is a theocratic state.
    There is something of the kind happening in Somaliland. Al-Shabaab in Somalia has a strong Islamic identity, much of which is the result of American meddl;ing in the country.

  • 2
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    Kumar: the fascist project has been triggered by the weaponization of Islam and Buddhism that has been covertly ongoing by US-Saudi and UAE in Kathankudi and, on the one hand, the US weaponization of Buddhism. as in the Cold War.

    Why do you think the US Ambassador Alina Teblitz visited the Mahanayakes – to sell SOFA violating the separation between religion and State in the US constitution?

    This is a clear case of how USA uses religion to get its dirty work done and install the war machine in Sri Lanka to fight the Cold War on Russia and China – the US Pivot to Asia – to cause conflict and de-stablize and destroy the economies and rise of Asia.
    Until this external role in weaponizing religious divides in Sri lanka is recognized and addressed there is no hope for multi-religious Sri Lanka! So wake up Mr. david

  • 1
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    I already wrote a comment challenging Kumar David’s final the conclusion. This is an extension based on my own conclusion. Perhaps, everybody is missing the right approach to resolve the current conundrum of ethnic tension escalated by the Easter Sunday bombing. If we look back at the time of the aftermath of the fateful “black July” incident up to “delayed” strong anti Muslim sentiment, It is quite obvious that S/B stayed mostly away from leaning towards racism based violence even during hight of the civil war. If there was any incident as in the case of Aluthgama and later of Monragala/Digana, they were mostly local & motivated by a politically small group. The same can be said of the delayed violence after the Easter Bombing. For the most part, since the black July, S/B was immersed in the “quasi intellectual” debate of the role of Buddhism & the democratic Gvt in dealing with minority issues. I would argue that there was a kind of consensus building as to recognizing the political rights of minorities. In the mean time, There was another debate, though not totally detached from the minority issue, was going on as to the nature of practices of modern Buddhism vs original teachings of Buddha. The latter had some impact on the former as well b’cos of the religious argument against minorities led by some racist monks.
    I think that this intellectual environment played an important role in quelling racial tensions for a about three decade. Had not for the revival of racism by MaRa/GoRa politics, the country would have reached far reaching political resolutions regarding the burning minority issues. May be Easter Sunday bombing may have destroyed all that at least temporarily thereby giving some life to opportunistic racial politics of the opposition.
    I believe that the way out of this ugly momentous victory of racial politics lies in the hands of intellectuals.

  • 0
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    Intellectuals? For far too long they have been backward in coming forward. They are probably scared of being stoned or worse by the rabid minority who have now taken over matters to stir up trouble in this earthly paradise of ours.

    When Gandasara and his surrogates created trouble around the country, nobody did anything, or say anything loud enough. Those who should have been prosecuted for hate speech/incitement, were never touched. Even a would-be bomber who was arrested was set-free because of some interfering politician.

    Our useless politicians, and our should-know-better intellectuals are slowly allowing the barbarians to take over our paradise.

    If there is a God, we would have been saved. But don’t look, there is no God. Cause and effect is what has brought us here. The answer lies in OUR hands, and the longer people sit their hands and do nothing, the longer it will take for sanity to be restored.

  • 0
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    If we argue based on the same logics that Kumar David uses here, It is the Religions that originated in the middle-east that are violent and are responsible for wars all over the world..

  • 2
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    Kumar David, If somebody says Tamil Hindu Facisistic project mirrors LTTE Terrorism, hat do you say?

    Our heroic armed forces annihilated LTTE Terrorism and similarly will be annihilating Islam Fundamentalism, Jihadists, ISIS etc.

    Country will come under One Common Law where no special practises to any race, community or Religion.

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