By Izeth Hussain –
A clarification is required about the title of this article. I refer only to a narrow segment, a very narrow segment, of the Tamils, not the totality of them, or the generality or the majority of them. Does that very narrow segment of Tamils merit a two or three part article? I believe they do for several reasons. By and large the relations between Muslims and Tamils are quite satisfactory. In fact, I am told, that there is better rapport between the Muslims and the Tamils – the Tamil-speaking peoples – than there is between either of them and the Sinhalese. It is only in the Eastern Province that Muslim-Tamil relations are troubled, already I suspect to a fairly serious extent. There the Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racists could come to play a catalytic role in creating yet another monstrous ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.
We must also bear in mind that what today seems to be the lunatic fringe can tomorrow become the center. The French Prime Minister forecast some weeks ago that the National Front – which for decades was regarded as belonging to the lunatic fringe – could come to power in a couple of years. In India the RSS was for decades regarded as belonging to the lunatic fringe but today its idiotic Hindutva ideology reigns in the state, mosques and churches are being destroyed, and moves are afoot to build temples in honor of Godse the assassin of Gandhi. The most distressing example of the commutation between the lunatic fringe and the center has been that of Sri Lanka. For here the lunatic fringe has always been at the center, on both sides of the ethnic divide. The result has been a quarter century of war with 100,000 dead. It would be very foolish of us to ignore the incendiary potential in the Tamil ant-Muslim lunatic fringe on the ground that they are numerically not very significant.
I come now to a relevant autobiographical detail. Sometime in the first half of the ‘nineties, I was one of the three speakers at a meeting organized by the Church of Sri Lanka, the other two being Sarachchandra and Dr.Devanesan Nesiah. The latter stated that as an official I had had a blameless record but thereafter I was somehow at the center of controversy. He added that he was in agreement with ninety percent of what I wrote. He clearly meant that my writings proving to be so controversial was difficult to understand and required explanation. I will not venture on an explanation at the moment. The point that I want to make is that my peculiar capacity for being at the center of controversy, spotted by Dr. Nesiah, has continued over the decades, so that I have plenty of experience enabling me to assess the peculiar character of Tamil attacks on me.
My weekly articles in the Island are published simultaneously in the Colombo Telegraph where, unlike in the print media, there is ample space for responses. I have received many encomiums directly through email, disproportionately from Tamils which I thought was easily understandable because for decades I have been outspokenly critical on Sinhalese racism against the Tamils. Quite suddenly my articles in the Colombo Telegraph started receiving extremely negative responses. I noticed after some time that all those extremely negative responses came from writers using nom de plumes, and invariably those nom de plumes declared a Tamil identity. When I pointed this out the reply was that I had been attacked also by several others whose non de plumes did not suggest a Tamil identity. Quite true, but those responses registered sober dissent and nothing of the rage and hatred that characterized the Tamil responses. For instance a writer with a Burgher name was very critical of me but he declared nonetheless that I had “much to contribute”. That would have been unthinkable from a Tamil racist. A Sinhalese, who I know hates my guts, declared that I am “well read and readable”. That too would have been unthinkable from a Tamil racist.
Some features struck me as rather curious about the Tamil attacks. They were invariably written in fluent English and obviously came from educated professionals. The emails I get – very infrequently -from Sinhalese racists are usually written in poor English. I had the impression that the Tamil attacks came from expatriates – I made the point and it was not denied. The most interesting feature to which I want to draw attention is that the Tamil attacks seemed to be organized, not just a random phenomenon. They did not start with my first article in the Colombo Telegraph, it took a little while for them to get going, after which for several weeks every article of mine provoked attacks by around seven to ten Tamils. Suddenly they subsided for some weeks, after which they erupted again with the old fury. In the present phase they have subsided again, but a couple of newcomers have entered the fray with the same fury as the old-timers. Recently one of the old-timers blurted out a detail that clearly indicated that he was attacking me under instructions. I leave it to others who may be better informed to make sense of all this.
I am afraid that this article will be excessively long if I go into details to substantiate my charge – made on the basis of the attacks on me in the Colombo Telegraph – of Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism. The interested reader will have to access the relevant material through the internet. I can do no more here than provide just a few pointers. A consistent feature of my exchanges with the Tamil racists has been a total imperviousness to fact and reason and a total absence of moral scruple on their part. I will provide an instance. I wrote more than once that if not for India the Tamils would be treated like a conquered people – that is to say like dirt. A Tamil reader claimed that I showed disrespect for the Tamils in using the term “like dirt”. Another, one of the worst of the Tamil racists, declared that in using such language I showed up my very low upbringing, unlike that of my former colleague Bandu Silva. The racist hated was so strong that he failed to understand – although he is fluent in English – that I was deploring the ways of the conqueror, not of the conquered. In reply I cited the case of Somerset Maugham, a life-long Francophile, who fled France when the Nazis invaded that country. When asked what would be the fate of the French under Nazi occupation, he replied tersely “Eat shit”. I pointed out that Maugham was deploring the ways of the Nazi conqueror, not of the conquered French. In fact he was showing contempt for the Nazis. Instead of accepting that clarification, the Tamil racist burst out that my choice of an example using the word “shit” only showed what a low degraded fellow I am. He clearly displayed a total imperviousness to fact and reason, a total absence of moral scruple, and also a savage racist compulsion to view the Muslims as low degraded people.
I will provide one more example to illustrate the depth of the Tamil racist hatred. The ostensible reason for the attacks on me is supposed to be that I am anti-Tamil and that I am widely notorious for being anti-Tamil. I will show in the next part of this article that the truth is the very opposite. I have in fact been dangerously outspoken on Sinhalese racism against the Tamils and on Muslim support for that racism. It is a mystery why the Tamil racists feel under some sort of compulsion to project me as anti-Tamil. Anyway they are unable to provide any evidence to substantiate their charge. Therefore they picked on a charge made against me by a Tamil that I had advocated famine as a weapon to subdue the Tamil rebels. I showed in an article in the Island that in fact I had advocated the very opposite – that the Government should not use famine as a weapon. In recent months the Tamil racists have repeatedly made that charge. I challenged them to produce the documentary evidence but they were unable to do so. Actually the document can be easily accessed by clicking on my reply to Arvind in 2006. I believe that the Tamil racists were deliberately lying all along. It must take a terrible hatred to try to incriminate someone by imputing to him the very opposite of what he had advocated.