25 May, 2019

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Who Is To Blame? If It’s All About The Muslims, Why Have A State?

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

In the old story of the New Testament, Easter was the end of agony. It marked the glory of resurrection, yet another fable in humankind’s vain attempt to get past death. In Post- Easter Sri Lanka, on the other hand, there is no glory, only agony; endless questions and loads of blame. Who is to blame? That is the question. There are indeed too many to blame, but too few to offer credible answers and even fewer, if any, to put anything right. This is not the fault of any Sri Lankan community, but the failure of the Sri Lankan State. The blame game targeting Muslims is a global pastime and effective political fodder in every country with a minority Muslim population. This is understandable given the global reach of Islamic messianism emanating in the Middle East and encroaching Muslim communities in every country. But there is no global solution to this problem. Each country has to fashion its own solution, but not in an exclusionary way as Donald Trump ham-handedly tried to impose in the US and was  stymied by his own legal system. Thanks to Trump, more Muslim Americans have been elected to the US Congress than ever before. The solution in Muslim-minority countries has to be inclusionary of Muslims, and not exclusionary. 

In Sri Lanka, as was alluded to editorially and otherwise in the Sunday Island last week, the solution is best advanced through moderate Muslims. But the Muslim community can only provide the best medium; the task of advancing the solution of accommodating Muslims and preventing further acts of terrorism is the responsibility of the State. The Muslim community has a role to play, indeed a vital role, in repairing the damage done on Easter Sunday to the country’s social and political fabric. That role has been made considerably easier by the heroic restraint shown by Sri Lankans of all communities in the wake of perhaps the largest coordinated terrorist attack on civilian targets not only in Sri Lanka but anywhere else since 2001. 

This is truly commendable considering the earlier backlashes of historic proportions in less than comparable situations. The State that had orchestrates backlashes on earlier occasions was too ineffective to organize even a backlash, and that after failing miserably to prevent what was a very preventable tragedy. By all accounts, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith rose to the occasion and literally cast a shepherding influence not only on his faithful flock but on all Sri Lankans. Religious and community leaders, civil society activists, and communities at large have roles to play, but not all of them combined can replace the State or substitute for the role that only the State can and must play. 

State and civil society

There is a division of labour between the State and civil society and there should not be any confusion about it. If communities can self-manage and self-correct themselves without a State, then why have a State? When the State overplays its hand and abuses its powers, then there is reason for civil society and communities to step in and push back on the excesses of the State, but not to carry out the basic role and function of the State that are the very reason for its (coming into) being. In the present context, confusion over this division of labour leaves the Muslim community on tenterhooks and lets the State and the government and political leaders off the hook.

The confusion manifests in multiple assertions and questions: The Muslim community must take responsibility. Why are rich Muslim youth getting involved in terrorism? Why have Muslim leaders been allowing the Arabization of Sri Lankan Muslims? How did so many madrasas, Mosques and even a university in Batticaola come to be established without anyone doing anything about it? Who is to blame for the caches of weapons that the police are reportedly discovering on a daily basis? Who is to blame for the alleged failure to apprehend suspects, and the failure to ensure the remanding of those who have been taken in? Is the government’s failure to enforce the law a result of whatever commitments it may or may not have given to the UNHRC in Geneva? And finally, the political coup de grace: as a result of Easter Sunday bombings, no mainstream political party can afford to form a common alliance or appear on common platforms with Muslim political parties.    

In these and other questions, it is the Muslim community that becomes the exclusive target of scrutiny, while the State – its leaders, institutions and agents are spared of the stronger strictures they deserve. The questions are also expressions of inter-communal stereotyping. Stereotyping is a fact of Sri Lankan social life, and different communities exchange stereotypes of one another in ways that range from the humorous to the odious. In times of tension, stereotypes can turn nasty and hurtful. 

The Muslim community cannot be collectively blamed or held accountable for what happened on Easter Sunday, any more than we can collectively blame – the Sangha for the assassination of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike by a misguided Soma Rama Thero; the Sinhalese for the JVP insurrection; or, the Tamils for the LTTE war. The perplexity over young rich men turning into suicide bombers is an inadvertent accusation of the poor – predicated on the presumption that only the poor and the deprived must be prone to political violence. 

No one can conclusively diagnose what motivates the rich or the poor to take to political violence, let alone suicide bombing. Talal Assad, the American Anthropologist of Euro-Arab origins, in his monograph On Suicide Bombing, debunked the notion that suicide bombing is integral to Islam or Islamic civilization. Sri Lankans know that experientially. In his The Age of Revolution (1789-1848), Eric Hobsbawm recounts how, out of Europe’s small provincial towns, “ardent and ambitious young men came to make revolutions or their first million; or both.” After more than two centuries of revolutions and wars, people are generally sick of violence. And ambition nowadays covets only millions and not revolutions. The ISIS and its followers are aberrative hangovers and that Sri Lanka got in its violent crosshairs has more to do with government ineptitude than any laxity on the part of the Muslim community.

The current theocratic domination of Arab world should not blind us to the progressive possibilities that Arabs not long ago presented for the region and the world. The political forces unleashed by Nasser’s Egyptian Revolution and Ba’ath socialism wanted the Arab world to break free of foreign domination and its traditional ruling houses predicated on religion. Egypt’s Nasser played a founding role with India’s Nehru and the then Yugoslavia’s Tito in the launching of the Non-Aligned Movement. These movements were thwarted by superpower intervention and oil wealth in the hands of traditional ruling houses. It is a very different Arab world now from what seemed to be emerging during the 1950s and 1960s. Even Sri Lanka has changed after those decades. These changes have cumulatively brought about “A calamity of Constitutional Crises”, according to veteran journalist Lucien Rajakarunanayake.   

State failure, not a failed State

Seemingly taking a break from his hilariously biting genre, Mr. Rajakarunanayake has written a seriously formal article linking Lanka’s Easter calamity to Sri Lanka’s constitutional crisis that has been brewing over the last four decades. Easter Sunday has exposed the many failures of the Sri Lankan State, although Sri Lanka is not a failed State. But post-Easter, no politician wants to talk about the constitution fearing a backlash from an angry people. In that respect, Lucien Rajakarunanayake (LR) has done a great service to the media and the country by drawing attention to the constitutional elephant in the room, namely, the Presidential system and its infighting incumbents, as well as other aspirants to the presidency. He has exposed both the structural rigidities of the system and the incompetence of individual incumbents. He sees no quick fixes to the breakdown of government short of a thorough overhaul.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has got into political hot water as usual by asserting that changes to the law are needed if Sri Lanka is to deal effectively with terrorists. The Daily Mirror ‘fact checked’ the Prime Minister and proved him wrong, for apparently the old Penal Code provides for the police to deal with not only domestic but even foreign acts of terrorism. Much has been made of about thirty or forty Muslim youth leaving Sri Lanka to join the ISIS in Syria. In western countries, the numbers of such voluntary conscripts are in their hundreds, and governments there keep a tab on them instead of making speeches in parliament.

It is a red herring to suggest that whatever commitments that Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera made to the UNHRC in Geneva may have prevented the police from going after those who plotted the Easter Sunday bombings. How does that explain the police actions after the bombings? Is it the UNHRC that also stymied the police and the prosecutors from arresting and charging those responsible for Sri Lanka’s ‘emblematic’ killings of journalists and a rugger player during the tenure of the previous government? Is it because of the UNHRC that no serious charges have been brought by the present government against those from the former government accused of corruption and abuse of power?

The truth of the matter is that corruption of and political interference in police work and preventing indictment of well-connected perpetrators of crime have been going on for decades. Once law enforcement is compromised, it is impossible for enforcement agencies to pick and choose the beneficiaries of corruption – as to who will be prosecuted and who will be left alone. On the contrary, those who commit crimes now have the option of picking and choosing their ‘contacts’ in the government and administration to stop police work in its tracks. The ‘contacts’ that apparently protected Easter Sunday’s suicide bombers are all reportedly known. What is also known is that the government gave into these ‘contacts’ and ignored the complaints from the larger Muslim community.

Lucien Rajakarunananyake offers a potent insight that the collective failure of political leadership began with the elimination of the direct election of MPs (under the much maligned first-past-the post system), and its replacement by the impersonal proportional representation system and, within it, the insidious preferential voting. These changes ended the nurturing of political succession that was seen under the parliamentary system. Now only the President is directly elected by the people, and that system has spawned a coterie of  permanent and irremovable political leaders, who want to be perpetual presidential contenders.

The UNP has no alterative candidate other than Ranil Wickremesinghe. The SLFP always picks its incumbent. And for the newly minted SLPP, the permanent Supreme Leader is Mahinda Rajapaksa, and only another Rajapaksa can be a presidential candidate. Sri Lanka apparently has no alternative but to elect its next President from this short list of deadwood people. The three of them, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Miathripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa are old enough to apply to themselves the age of retirement that is enforced on Sri Lanka’s public servants, and take a collective bow out of politics. As their last parting act, they would do well to overhaul the constitutional order as they have always undertaken to do. There can never be a more pressing time than now for these three men to keep just one promise and get out.   

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Rajan Philips,

    RE: Who Is To Blame? If It’s All About The Muslims, Why Have A State?

    Many say it is the brainwashings by the Saudi Wahhabi-Salafi-ISIS, Tauheed Jamat cults, who interpret their theology as instructed by Satan , by the Hadith of Najd.

    Hadith of Najd

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith_of_Najd

    “O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Shaam. O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Yemen.” The people said, “O Messenger of Allaah, and our Najd.” I think the third time the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “There (in Najd) will occur earthquakes, trials and tribulations, and from there appears the Horn of Satan.”

    In any case, we have dead terrorists, and 300 innocents dead. However, the terrorist ideology, rooted in Wahhabism-Salsfism, is still there. So, the terrorism, is still there. All it takes is a Wahhabi Ulama, Mullah or Moulavi, to switch on the terrorists.

    Yes, the Normal Muslims must watch out for these Satanis among them , report and reform them . This has become an ideological war,

    Scholar from al-Azhar: Wahhabism is a Satanic Faith, the Horn of the Devil that Muhammad Predicted

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UDy_apXW3E

    Some others say, it is a geopolitical and local political power play, between the super powers and regional powers, with the cooperation of the locals. However, how did they mange to recruit the locals, and commit suicide? Wahhabi Salalfi money?

  • 7
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    We would not have any type of terrorism on our shores IF the State functioned as a state should and law and order was impartial and the judiciary was truly independent.

    Pipe dreams?

  • 0
    2

    (Easter) “…. yet another fable in humankind’s vain attempt to get past death.”

    Rajan,

    Its your private belief. Like an engineer who refuses to practice engineering and says engineering is a “fable”.

    With people like you calling the New Testament a “fable” because they are (renegade to marxism) unable to experience resurrection in their spirit we don’t need the muslim bombers to do away with Christians.

    You are an insensitive person to write this as your opening sentence when Christians are hurting and mourning so.

    The resurrection is a grace still available to us all because Jesus died and rose again.

    • 4
      1

      Dushy,

      Do you have unequivocal evidence that Jesus died in the cross and rose again!? The Muslims say that, he did not die, but was raised to heaven, and therefore did not die for mankind’s sins.

      Why did God wait 4,630,000,000 years, after the formation of the Earth, to show his presence in the driest parts of the Middle East, not China and not in India, not in Egypt? Was the world only 10,000 years old?

      • 0
        1

        Mr. Amarasiri

        Those who know know. Those who do not know do not, but say they alone know (right or wrong) and will not listen. One can only find out for oneself in such matters.

        Jesus is known regularly even in his risen glorious form by even non-Christians and that more realistically and memory-wise indelibly and not as a dream, than seen by physical senses between about 0-33 A. D. The Bible accounts and surrounding valuable historical records matched by the Sudarium oviedo attested as to its authenticity by kings and the Shroud of Turin scientifically point to his death and resurrection . Too many highly educated early martyrs, converts to discount it and a Church Universal existing 2000 years after. Official Records of his death exist.

        Christ has revealed Himself other than through his incarnation as Jesus, all along.

        As for the Ahmadis and the Gnostic’s Gospel of Barnabas and the monasteries in India whose stories Notovitch published retracted, they had their own agendas. (Strange tales about Jesus”, Per Beskow).

        Mr. Amarasiri, I too have asked the questions once.

        Seek child-like (for philosophers are calloused in their soul by their earthly knowledge), and you too shall “know” and possess private unequivocal evidence. Then questions will cease.

        • 0
          0

          Dushy,

          “Why did God wait 4,630,000,000 years, after the formation of the Earth, to show his presence in the driest parts of the Middle East, not China and not in India, not in Egypt? Was the world only 10,000 years old?”

          • 0
            1

            Amarasiri

            Did you feel like turning yourself into a suicide bomber after reading Dushy’s typing?

      • 1
        0

        It is a pity that that Jesus who died in the cross and subsequently resurrected could not resurrect eve one life of those who died in the churches on Easter Sunday. Perhaps he did not want to bring back to life any one to this dirty world, until he is born again, which may not be very far off as stated by Some Christians.

  • 4
    3

    The answer to Rajan Philips question “Who Is To Blame?”, for the 2019 Easter Sunday tragedy is simple.
    It is Muslim extremists and BBS, the patrons, protectors and financiers.
    Muslims have accepted their part of the blame. BBS has not.
    Rajan is one of hundreds trying to keep BBS out of the equation.

    • 1
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      K. Pillai

      BBS is out of the equation, well if you include it, what’s their part.

      Please guess.

  • 2
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    It appears that there are born ‘Super Stars’ who are supposed to guide various practicing religion, except Hinduism. The Super Star for Christianity Is Jesus, Catholics Mary, Islam Prophet Mohamed and Buddhism lord Buddha. But for Hinduism there appears to be various ‘Nayanmars’ and no individual Super Star. Further .I am inclined to believe that, If not for Jesus Christ there wouldn’t. have been Christianity ,If not for Mary No Catholicism, if not for Prophet Mohamed No Islam, If not for Lord Buddha, no Buddhism, But with regard to Hinduism it appears to be an open religion with many Gods and the devotes are free to select their favourits, Shiva, Parvathy. Pillaiyar, Murugan Luxmi, Saraswathy and others of lesser prominence. and pray. They also can switch sides without antagonizing or have parallel Gods at the same time without any hindrance. Democracy prevails to a great extent. It is not necessary to take oath of allegiance to any god in particular. thus making life easy. Without preaching from Super Stars. Hindus seem to conduct themselves reasonably well on their own free will.
    I do not hold any brief for any religion, but simply looking at things I have come to this conclusion..
    Forgive me If I have hurt any one. Thank you..

    • 0
      0

      Being able to switch ‘allegiance’ between Hindu gods lies in the understanding of the Hindus that they are all the manifestations of the Brahman, the supreme formless one. So they don’t see
      any conflict.

  • 1
    0

    In a nutshell, when the state is weak enemies surface easily.

    Minorities must be looked after well but the country’s destiny should be decided by the majority as it’s high as 70%.

    Unless there’ll be no peace in this land.

    It’s good to ban Political parties with racial/religious identity to minimize unpractical demands of minority communities.

  • 0
    0

    After 30 years plus another 4 of Yahapalanaya , Professor Dr Hoole doesn’t seem to know why our Lankan Boys and Girls wear C4 laden Floaties , and now Designer Back Packs. to blow up themselves and our poor innocent inhabitants..

    Our Political Leaders could have prevented this terrible destruction of the Holiest places of Worship. on their Holiest Day in the Calander of the Catholic Community, by simply making a Phone Call to their Cardinal in Colombo.

    Just like the call which the UNP Minster’s Dad made to his beloved Son, who is not only a Catholic but claims himself to be one of best who gave us Yahapalanaya.
    It could have simply prevented the deaths of over 250 innocents including the 45 Foreigners.

    It could have been better if Dr Hoole tell our poor inhabitants why the UNP Minsters didn’t do it, including the Minister of Catholic Affairs .who I am sure has been to Kochchikade..

    Instead of publicly apologizing to the Catholic Community and the rest who didn’t get the Call, and begging mercy. ,these shameless Politikkas are now telling ever bigger ass pokies to fool the Inhabitants yet again,
    And to trying get the best positions going to the Election.

    Now the lies are even more hilarious .
    Sira like the Rambo, telling us that he will finish off the Terrorists and Terrorism in Six Months,
    But Chilaw was in flames last night….

    Dr Ranil the PM went even further and promised to fill the Hotels by August.
    And make Nallathanni the new Tourist Zone.

    That is how much faith and trust these leaders have in the UNP followers and the Yahapalanistas..
    So will it make any difference to teach them the theories and statements from those valuable Texts and even the Holy Genesis which Dr Hoole has presented?.

  • 1
    1

    “This is truly commendable considering the earlier backlashes of historic proportions in less than comparable situations. “

    Commendable, yes. That is only because (1) the Muslims did not ask for a separate state (e.g. declare war on Sri Lanka), and (2) Christians are also, in a way, a minority in S. Lanka. If, for example, monks are attacked, there will be no way to prevent mob attacks. I do not support mob attacks, or violent attacks in any way, but I cannot speak for the rest of the populace.

    • 2
      1

      Lester

      “Commendable, yes. That is only because (1) the Muslims did not ask for a separate state (e.g. declare war on Sri Lanka), and (2) Christians are also, in a way, a minority in S. Lanka.”

      Of course Muslims didn’t ask for Separate state however the Global Caliphate Jihadi MUSLAMISTS are working on a strategy that include Arabisation through back door from Halal Branding, Jihadi love, major changes in dress code, conversion, ………….. SALAMI tactics, step by step slow imposition SHARIA law, and many other in the pursuit of happiness, perhaps that include heaven and 72 virgins.

      The way the Global Caliphate MUSLAMISTS run their microstate Islamic Republic of Kattankudy should have informed you what was to come.

      It is a competition between the Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto building fascists and the Global Caliphate Jihadi MUSLAMISTS. It’s a matter of time this country is reduced to rubbles like Syria, Iraq, ………………

      Make sure your b***s are not caught between both fascists.
      Hindians ensured there is no room for a third ghetto building fascist hence they destroyed VP and his stormtroopers, soon to be replaced by Hindian Hindutva.

      About the born again Christians they want to go to heaven by converting you to Christianity. Why most saffron clad thugs are focussing on them?

      There is a competition among all these nutter. If the state don’t treat people well there are too many strangers out there ready and willing to grope your women folks. By the time you realise, it would be too late and the dowry land would have been transferred to the stranger.

      Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt
      Mark Twain?

      • 1
        0

        Native Vedda,

        Sometimes its good to leave forest to meet real people. There are two groups of Muslims, Sunni and Shia. The Shia are very peaceful. They have never carried out suicide attacks. The Shia can be found in places like Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The militant Muslims are 100% Sunni. The Sunni (with the support of Saudi Arabia) are fighting the Shia for dominance in the Middle East, Libya, and Yemen. Because oil is bought and sold in USD, the Americans back the Saudis, and by extension the Sunnis. Iran is the number one enemy. This is the fundamental problem in the Middle East, a power imbalance between Sunni and Shia, with Westerners using their own influence to prop up dictatorships. These dictatorships are oppressive and encourage extremist groups. That is what happened in Iraq, when the Americans put a puppet Shia government in place. ISIS grew out of Sunni dissatisfaction.

        • 1
          1

          Lester

          “The Shia are very peaceful. They have never carried out suicide attacks. “

          The 1983 Beirut barracks bombings which killed 307 people: 241 U.S. and 58 French military personnel, six civilians, and two attackers.
          Does it ring a bell?

          • 0
            0

            One attack from 36 years ago? After the US illegally occupied Lebanon? At least your Google skills are improving.

            • 0
              1

              Lester

              The Beirut attack was just an example.
              There have been many, for example 1992 attack on Israeli embassy in Buenos, Aires Argentina.

              • 0
                0

                Native Vedda,

                You are talking about the 36 suicide attacks by Hezbollah between 1982 and 1986. All of these attacks were against political or military forces. These attacks occurred against occupying forces or within the CONTEXT of a war. These Shias only used suicide bombs in response to armed Western aggression and occupation. Whereas the Sunnis use suicide bombs to maximize casualties among CIVILIANS. My initial point stands: only a fraction of the Sunnis want a Caliphate.

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