By Izeth Hussain –
Observations On Muslim-Tamil Relations – III
I am going to write this concluding part of my article partly in notation form, for brevity because many newspaper readers are impatient with articles that extend into several parts. My focus in this part is on the reasons why the Tamil attacks on me should be regarded as racist. I will begin by setting out facts, most of which point unambiguously to racism.
1) They were concerted attacks, not random. They did not begin with my first article but after some weeks. After several weeks they subsided, to revive again with the old fury. In the present phase they have subsided again, but attacks are continued with the old fury by a lone straggler and a couple of newcomers. The lone straggler recently wrote, “Reading you, Sir, against our wishes so boringly often …..”, which gives the impression that he has been acting under instructions. These Tamils have given the impression that they are expatriates who are devotees of the LTTE, which of course has been utterly racist.
2) Since people are nowadays deeply concerned about foreign meddling in our internal affairs, the question has arisen whether RAW has been behind the concerted attacks. I doubt it. But I must say that for some reason that is still beyond my comprehension the Tamil racists have always been grimly determined to project me as anti-Indian. It seems to be an obsession with them. I certainly have been critical of India when that has been necessary, but my stance on India has been far removed from that of the so-called Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists.
3) One point has emerged in the exchanges over my articles that points to an implicit racism. The point has been frequently made – not only by Tamils – that as a Muslim I should write on the IS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and the horrifying spread of fundamentalism in parts of the Eastern Province: therefore It is not for me to pontificate to the Tamils on how their problems should be solved. I claim the right to deal with national problems just like any other Sri Lankan national. I am horrified, and disgusted, by the assumption that I should not deal with the Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic problem even though it led to the genocidal eviction of Muslims from the North and grim butchery in the EP.
4) One fact that in my view points very clearly to racism is the intensity of the Tamil hatred directed against me, not matched by anything from the Sinhalese. Soon after the attacks began I asked the question “Why such hatred?” because there was nothing in what I had said or written to justify it. I found myself using the phrase “a total annihilating hatred” but did not revise it because there did seem to be a genocidal rage behind the Tamil attacks. I am not being thin-skinned because there is nothing comparable in the attacks on other articles in the Colombo Telegraph. For instance frequent articles by a well-known political analyst almost invariably attract flak, even when they are of the highest quality. But for the most part the flak consists of sneers, jeers, and imputations of ulterior motives with little or nothing of the hysterical hatred and mad dog rage inspired by my articles. It is legitimate to conclude that there is racism behind a hatred that cannot be explained on any other rational ground.
5) The most frequent allegation against me by the Tamil racists is that I am and have been for decades anti-Tamil. The only evidence cited by them to substantiate that allegation is that I had advocated the use of famine as a weapon to subdue the Tamil rebels. I protested that I had in fact advocated the opposite and they kept on repeating the charge. Recently I made it clear that I had the documentary evidence to support my position, and they have not repeated that charge. But one of the worst of the Tamil racists a few days ago referred to my “inhumane recommendations to GOSL during the war” without daring to specify what they were. It’s all nonsense. In an earlier article I have mentioned that sometime before the air-drop two lorry loads of rice were sent to Jaffna, the result of my persuading Foreign Minister Hameed to take such action. The Tamil racists have been reduced to blatantly concocting evidence to show that I am anti-Tamil.
6) They could try to distort the import of my article Rationale for 13A minus plus, about which I must make some clarifications. Some improvements and extensions may be possible on 13A, but a wide extension up to federalism and more is not a realistic expectation in the foreseeable future. Let the Tamils by all means continue to struggle for that extension. But let us at the same time try to implement 13A minus as thoroughly as possible, mounting a crash program like Dudley’s Green Revolution or the Mahaveli Accelerated Program. In addition let us establish a fully functioning democracy with special safeguards for the minorities such as Race Relations Boards etc. I can’t see anything anti-Tamil in any of that.
7) So far from being anti-Tami; I have in fact been regarded as pro-Tamil, even to the extent of endangering myself. A) I have consistently berated Sinhalese racism against the Tamils, and Muslim support for that racism. B) I have refused to regard the LTTE as a terrorist movement. I have written two articles arguing that it should be regarded as a nationalist movement. I have written many articles on the ethnic problem over the decades, but I don’t think I have used the term “terrorist” about the LTTE even once. C) I am probably the only non-Tamil who has acknowledged in writing that the genocidal eviction of the Muslims from the north was preceded by Muslim Homeguards getting together with the STF to drive out Tamils from allegedly sixteen villages in the EP. D) I have been in favour of a common commemoration of our dead soldiers and the dead LTTE fighters. In that connection I had the temerity to cite the inscription on the tombs built by the ancient Chinese to honor the bravery of their fallen enemies: “May you be born among us in your next birth”.
8) It seems bizarre in the extreme that I of all people have come to be perceived as anti-Tamil, even though it is only by lunatic fringe Tamils. A clue to an explanation is provided by an episode in the world of cricket. Umpire Darrell Hair of Australia could see evidence of ball tampering where none else could. Cricketing legend Geoff Boycott provided the explanation: racism. Tamil racists perceive me as having been an anti-Tamil racist – and notoriously so – over many decades. No one else shares that perception. The Boycott explanation applies: racism.
9) I cannot go into theories of racism to set out the grounds on which that explanation applies. I will here provide a few pointers only. The racist perceives the Other in terms of stereotypes, which are seen in essentialist terms as virtually unchanging. The Other is also seen as inferior and/or threatening.
10) The stereotype of the Muslim is that he shines at trade, the gem business, and illicit trafficking in narcotics. He is a very poor performer in practically every other field. He is educationally backward and is seriously under-represented in the upper echelons of the State and the professions. Intellectually and culturally he is null and void. In politics he produces politicians who have been utterly self-seeking and devoid of principle. He holds himself apart, and has not much of a national sense. He is conservative, particularly in religion except that he is taking to fundamentalism in a big way in the Eastern Province
11) I am talking only of the stereotype about the Muslims, not of the changing realities that now make the stereotype largely irrelevant except in a few particulars. This factor of change is crucial in understanding Tamil anti-Muslim racism. The point is that the Muslims are getting more educated and could become competitive in practically every field. This is a time of socio-economic decline for the Tamils, which could make them apprehensive that the Muslims might gain ascendency over them, particularly in the Eastern Province.
12) Why have I in particular become the focus of so much Tamil hatred and rage? I am in most ways the diametrical opposite of the stereotypical Muslim drawn out above. I could be the forerunner of a new type of Muslim whom it would be impossible to hold in contempt as essentially inferior.
13) My purpose in this article is severely pragmatic. As I have stated earlier the Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racists are a tiny segment of the Tamil people, but we have to bear in mind that the lunatic fringe can easily slide into the center, and furthermore that it can serve as a catalyst to ignite a conflagration in the Eastern Province. On the other side, the Muslims there are increasingly falling prey to Wahabism and its clones, which means that they are among the most stupid and potentially violent of human beings on earth. In earlier articles I have several times referred to Islamic fundamentalism as Yanko Zionist Petro Islam. I rather doubt that a new Government will take effective action to prevent a conflagration in the EP. Since 1948 the basic policy of our Governments has been to allow ethnic problems to fester. Therefore action has to be taken by the TNA and the SLMC, and the civil society. I would like to end this article on a bright note by pointing out that it would not be over-sanguine to expect the civil society to play a significant role in the EP: it did play such a role in bringing about the revolutionary transformation of January 8. – Concluded.