Sri Lankan Muslims at the Cross-roads … the full monty

Izeth Hussain, courtesy of The Island, where it appeared in a four-part series recently in May-June 20s4

    Izeth-Hussain                    PART I      2a-Moorman Tamby =213

My last two articles in the Island were under the title Making sense of the Bodu Bala Sena, focusing in both of them on the anti-Muslim campaign of the BBS. There is now a view, still at the incipient stage but which can soon gain wide currency, that the BBS is on the way out. The argument is that extremist movements such as the BBS have no staying power in Sri Lanka, and that the forces of Buddhist moderation are now working to bring about the quick demise of the BBS and related extremist groups. But I began the first of my last two articles by pointing out that the conventional wisdom for well over a year – shared by the President himself – had it that if the BBS were ignored it would evaporate after some time. It did not, and in recent times it showed a renewed virulence.

 52-Muslim men prepare for worship

It is possible that now the BBS – as expected by some analysts – will go into a period of hibernation, for which there could be several reasons. The Government has to prepare its counter-thrust to the UNHRC Resolution, which focuses among other things on the maltreatment of the religious minorities including the Muslims. There cannot be the least doubt that the international community as a whole – with the possible singular exception of Myanmar whose anti-Muslim racism has been absolutely revolting – has utter contempt for our Government over the maltreatment of Muslims. The Muslim Governments may vote for us at the UNHRC, but that is only because they share with our Government a despotic disregard for human rights. What they really think was indicated some weeks ago by that Arab Princess – the Foreign Minister of one of the Gulf States – who asked our President in public a deliberately embarrassing question about the maltreatment of Muslims. The crucial point, of course, is the self-incriminating latitude allowed to the BBS and other extremist groups to break the law with near-total impunity. In addition to that external dimension there is also the internal one: the Government probably asks itself whether it is wise electoral strategy to alienate the Muslims and all the other ethnic and religious minorities to the extent that it has done.

So, it is possible that the BBS may fade away, as some expect, or it may be a temporary demise, a period of tactical hibernation for the reasons that I have given above. In either case I expect the Muslim problem to continue because there are reasons of a structural order behind it. First of all we must note that the Muslim problem did not arise because the BBS suddenly erupted. There were anti-Muslim ructions practically every year from 1976 to around 2002. Later there were the rousing anti-Muslim tirades of the late Rev. Soma Thera on State-owned television. That was stopped by the Government, but after that he availed of a Sunday weekly column in a leading newspaper. Over the last two years we have had the anti-Muslim action of the BBS and other extremist groups. In addition, there have been over the decades several irritants spoiling Sinhalese-Muslim relations: the mosque calls to prayer over loud-speakers, the proliferation of mosques, cattle-slaughter, and so on.

The striking thing about the negative developments that I have outlined in the preceding paragraph is that successive Governments did little or nothing by way of corrective or deterrent action. There was a failure, or rather a refusal, to take such action. I will not go into details about that refusal as it will take too much space, and instead I will put forward the possible reason for it. The reason is that there has been no serious attempt at nation-building in Sri Lanka, no attempt at all to establish stable ethnic harmony, apart of course from hollow verbiage about it, and the reason for that is that the nation is conceived of, particularly by the Sinhalese power elite, as already existing. This has been the land of the Sinhalese people from ancient times, with a special position for the Buddhists because they are the guardians of Buddhism in all its pristine purity. The minorities are no more than “visitors” to this island who should not make “undue demands”, in the felicitous phraseology of Sarath Fonseka. There was no punitive action of a deterrent order taken against anti-Muslim violence from 1976 to 2002, nor an assertion of the rule of law over the BBS monks, probably because all that serves to show to the Muslims who’s boss in this island.

The fact that there is no drive, and there never has been a drive, to build a multi-ethnic nation in Sri Lanka is the fundamental reason why we can expect the Muslim problem to continue: as long as there no such drive there will be a resistance on the part of the Sinhalese power elite to give fair and equal treatment to the minorities, including the Muslims. We must also take into account the fact that the Sinhalese power elite has shown a fierce hierarchical drive – for cultural reasons that cannot be explored here – which leads to a resistance to giving fair and equal treatment even to the Sinhalese. It is not accidental that for the greater part of the period since 1977 Sri Lankan democracy has been deeply flawed, unlike in India where democracy broke down only for a brief period after Indira’s Emergency. Nor is it accidental that in recent years the Government has clearly shown a racist and neo-Fascist drive, which some think could lead to an anti-democratic Buddhist theocracy.

We have to face up to the fact that the BBS may go away but the Muslim problem won’t. The Muslims have now to think of what they should do to secure and promote their best interests. Before proceeding further I want to refer to the two concluding paragraphs of my article Making sense of Bodu Bala Sena in the Island of April 26. I noted that three prominent Muslim politicians, Rauf Hakeem, Azath Sally, and Rishad Bathiudin had become admirably outspoken on the BBS, which would have been unthinkable some time ago. I took that as symptomatic of the profound socio-economic changes that have been taking place in the Muslim community, catalyzed by their taking to mass secular education in a big way after the Second World War. The result is that whereas they were traditionally competitive only in the field of trade, they have become competitive in other fields as well. Kumar David has pointed out to me, quite correctly, that their knowledge of English confers a very special advantage over the other ethnic groups. Therefore, in terms of the racist paradigm to which I referred in that article, they have to be pushed down and kept down, and that is the profound meaning of the sudden eruption of the BBS and other extremist groups.

What should the Muslims do to secure and promote their legitimate interests? It is not difficult to work out the answer to that question. Obviously all the irritants that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations for decades should be addressed by both sides and removed as far as might be possible. But if that is obvious, why on earth has that not been done over several decades? Part of the answer has been suggested earlier in this article. The Sinhalese power elite has never been interested in forging a multi-ethnic nation with a deep sense of unity, and therefore it has had no interest in establishing harmonious Sinhalese-Muslim relations. Besides, anti-Muslim violence and the anti-Muslim campaign of Buddhist extremists serve to show the Muslims who’s boss in this island.

But why is it that the Muslims have not been agitating over all these decades for effective action to remove those irritants? After all it is they, not the Sinhalese, who have been the victims. There are several reasons for their adopting what might be called a strategy of political quietism. First of all there is a continuing fear psychosis that was initially set off by the anti-Muslim riots of 1915, and there is a sense of deep vulnerability because they know that they cannot depend on the support of the Opposition or the civil society should the Muslims challenge the powers-that-be. They believe that challenging the Government of the day over Muslim interests would only make their plight worse. But their keeping quiet about anti-Muslim violence over a quarter century has led to the State-backed anti-Muslim extremism of the last two years. The strategy of political quietism has proved to be a total failure and it is time to jettison it. That is why the speaking out by Rauf Hakeem and others is to be welcomed.

PART II

I concluded the first part of this article by stating that the Muslim strategy of political quietism had several reasons behind it, one of which was the fear psychosis set off initially by the anti-Muslim riots of 1915. I had intended to begin this part of my article by going into the other reasons, but I have since then come across excellent material to substantiate my point about the Muslim fear psychosis. M.S.M.Fouzer, writing in the web site Halal SL, states that there are disturbing signs at present that the anti-Muslim campaign is catching on with the Buddhist masses. He gives importance as a causative factor to the spread of a video which had been shown by the BBS to the heads of the Sangha in Kandy. He pointed to the destruction of a shop in Aluthgama and other ominous incidents, and advocated, among other things, that Muslims should avoid clothing that identifies them as Muslims while mingling with the Vesak crowds.

Are people like Fouzer being alarmist? I think they are being courageous in being outspoken in spite of a pervasive climate of fear in Sri Lanka, which – with good reason – afflicts our Muslims in particular. Fouzer is also being realistic: I myself will eschew ethnic markers declaring myself a Muslim if I go into a Vesak crowd. I think we need some clarity about Muslim fears on what could happen to them as a result of the State-backed anti-Muslim campaign. The very fact that it is indisputably State-backed justifies some amount of a fear psychosis. It seems to be now generally believed that the Government will not allow a July ’83 against the Muslims, not because of moral scruples but because of the probable adverse international repercussions. But much that is horrible can be perpetrated against the Muslims short of a July ’83. For instance the torching of a Muslim shop in Aluthgama a few days ago, under the most absurd of pretexts, has not apparently so far led to any police action to apprehend the culprits – see the excellent and outspoken article by Hameed Karim in the Colombo Telegraph of May 14. It is the sort of thing that can multiply until the Muslims are degraded to the status of a lesser breed that is not entitled to any protection under the rule of law. The State racists may be able to bring that off without provoking international punitive action.

The traditional fear psychosis of the Muslims is today enhanced by the obvious external dimension of the BBS. It appears that it really got going consequent to a visit of its leaders to Norway, after which hitherto unheard of monks suddenly shot to national prominence with their anti-Muslim campaign. The political analyst Chandraprema, who has been emphasizing these facts, believes that the BBS is part of a program aimed at destroying Buddhism and Buddhists in Sri Lanka. I myself thought that Norwegian Islamophobes may have wanted to encourage Islamophobia in the Buddhist world, and hence the nexus established between the BBS and anti-Muslim Buddhist extremists in Myanmar. Later, it seemed to me that the BBS’ anti-Muslim campaign amounted to an advertisement for Eelam, for reasons that I don’t want to repeat here. In the absence of hard evidence, I would emphasize just two points that we should bear in mind. One is that while the Islamic fundamentalists are nutty, the Islamophobes are equally nutty, and any kind of lunacy can be expected of both of them. The second is that sinister foreign forces could be working towards the destabilization of Sri Lanka.

It is in the context of the external dimension of the BBS that I would view the video that is said to contain material that is outrageous to Buddhists, so outrageous that it could easily ignite anti-Muslim violence on a nation-wide scale if the State racists organize it. Before dealing with that video, I must make some clarifications about the story that has apparently gained wide currency that Wahabi Muslims have been attacking Buddhism. As I have stated above, I regard Islamic fundamentalists as essentially nutty and therefore I thought it just possible, not probable but just possible, that some Wahabis made irate by the ignorant denigration of Islam have retaliated on some occasions with ignorant denigration of Buddhism. But I am assured by knowledgeable Muslim contacts that the story is utterly false and that not a single Sri Lankan Wahabi has ever attacked Buddhism in public. There is a Sinhalese convert to Islam who has attacked Buddhism, but his behavior is atypical of the SL Muslims and is typical of converts who tend to become ultra. The story of SL Wahabis attacking Buddhism does not accord with the deep fear psychosis that is built into the SL Muslim psyche.

I come now to the video which I have not seen, and therefore depend on the account given about it in the Hemantha Warnakulasuriya Island column of May 13. I quote: “A person called Razeek Rafideen, alias Abdul Razeek, Secretary of a Muslim religious organization was addressing a crowd in very fine Sinhala. His objective was to commit the worst kind of blasphemy by castigating the image of Buddha and Buddhism. He said that the Buddhists were worshipping and praying and asking for protection from the ‘Triple Gem’ (theruwan) which were three gems. Therefore they prayed to three stones and that was nothing but a false belief.Can stones help you in difficulties?”Then he went on to say that ‘in the Majima Nikaya Buddha refers to a person who is unborn (nupan) and that person is none other than Allah.; The he referred to a book written by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda, claiming that according to it and the sutras, he claimed that Buddhism encouraged Cannibalism,”

HW also wrote: “Up to the time of writing this letter, not a single Muslim organization or the Moslem Council of Ulamas (All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama) and Minister and other persons of importance had not condemned that blasphemous and sacrilegious statement.” He is clearly faulting Muslim institutions and individuals in important positions for not speaking out against those sacrilegious statements. Some would draw the conclusion that the Muslims as a whole either approve of those statements or attach no importance to them.

Let me try to explain what I would regard as the Muslim position on this matter. First of all there is the Muslim fear psychosis which dictates a strategy of political quietism. Most Muslims if confronted with the shocking statements attributed to a possibly non-existent Rafideen would want to keep quiet about it and hope that the problem will simply go away. That, in fact, seems to be the position of the President himself in regard to the Muslim problem. Secondly most Muslims, including the ones in important positions, may not even have heard of those sacrilegious statements. I myself, as well as some of my well-informed Muslim contacts, have come to hear of the famous video only very recently. So, the question of a self-incriminating silence on the part of Muslim notables does not arise. Thirdly, most Muslims viewing the video would almost certainly regard it as no more than anti-Muslim propagandist garbage. They would find it impossible to believe that any Muslim who is not a certifiable lunatic would make that statement about Buddhism encouraging cannibalism. A significant fact about the video is that it has been in circulation since June 2013, almost a year, and thousands have seen it, but it seems to have caused a stir only very recently. The probable reason is that most Sinhalese viewers have also regarded it as not much more than propagandist garbage.

But unfortunately the matter cannot be allowed to rest at that. Mr. Warnakulasuriya is a successful lawyer with much experience behind him – whose column I usually read with much interest. He has shown in his article that he is by no means anti-Muslim by several statements against the BBS and other extremist groups. He has been clearly outraged by the video, and his Buddhist sentiments have to be respected. Furthermore, the video has reportedly been shown to the Maha Sangha by the BBS to show that it has come into action only because the Government has been failing to protect Buddhist interests. These facts point to one conclusion: the Government must hold an inquiry into the authenticity or otherwise of the video. This is desirable also for the reason – as I have argued above – that there could be sinister foreign forces working towards the destabilization of Sri Lanka. If proved authentic, punitive action must be taken against the culprit, and nothing should be held against the totality of the Muslims who will most certainly unanimously support such punitive action. Alternatively, the BBS must show that it was not complicit in the production of anti-Muslim propagandist garbage.

In my present series of articles on Muslims at the cross-roads, I will be emphasizing two points for positive action. One is that the rule of law must be relentlessly applied. Our Government seems to be bent on showing that our Muslims will be treated as one of the lesser breeds who are not entitled to the protection of the rule of law as a matter of course. The other is that problems that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations, sometimes for decades, must all be addressed and solved. In my view there is none that is really intractable. Successive Governments have failed, or rather refused to do this, and that is why in addition to the horrendous Tamil ethnic problem we now have a Muslim ethnic problem that can also become horrendous.

PART III

In the second part (Island of May 17) of this series of articles on SL Muslims at the cross-roads I dealt with the bizarre case of a Muslim who reportedly made outrageous statements against Buddhism at a public meeting, He had reportedly stated that in worshipping the Triple Gem the Buddhists are worshipping stones, that Buddhism encourages cannibalism, that the Buddha himself had once eaten human flesh, and that the Buddha had spoken about Allah. His statements were reportedly recorded in a video which has been in circulation since June 2013. My initial reaction, as well as those of my Muslim contacts, was one of total incredulity because it seemed to us impossible that any Muslim in his right mind would have made such statements. It seemed to us further that the video was probably inauthentic, just a piece of anti-Muslim propagandist garbage.

But it turns out to be authentic, and had been put across on MTV about a couple of weeks earlier. According to my informants, the person who made those statements was the President of a group that calls itself the Tawheed Jamaat, about which I must make a very important clarification. It is quite unlike the Tawheed Jamaat of South India which is very powerful with a huge membership, and boasts in Zainul-Abdeen a theologian of high caliber, according to a friend who is capable of making informed judgments on Islamic theology. The local Tawheed Jamaat, on the other hand, is small and relatively insignificant. It cannot be regarded as representative of mainstream Sunni Islam in Sri Lanka, nor for that matter of Wahabi Islam. Undue importance should not therefore be given to the utterances of its leader.

It appears that the members of the Tawheed Jamaat had been irked, just like many other Muslims, by the ignorant denigration of Islam that has been going on in Sri Lanka, inspired partly by the Islamophobic idiocies of the West. That had led to the issue of a challenge to the BBS for a public debate on religion – there is an authentic video on that challenge also. It was in that context that the Tawheed Jamaat representative had made absurd observations on Buddhism based on wrong interpretations of obscure Buddhist texts – or so I am told. The upshot was that he was arrested, brought to trial, apologized, and released. Evidently the apology meant that he repudiated his absurd charges against Buddhism.

What importance should be given to this episode? I think none whatever because it is just too ridiculous to be taken seriously. As I have pointed out above the Tawheed Jamaat has no representative capacity worth speaking about. How many of the more than one and a half million SL Muslims share the views about Buddhism expressed by the TJ representative – that Buddhism encourages cannibalism, that the Buddha ate human flesh and so on? I believe that none, none whatever, share those views because the TJ representative himself, by his apology, repudiated those views. It would therefore be totally absurd for anyone to draw any conclusions from those statements about Muslim extremists and Islamic fundamentalism. I am making this point because there seems to be something sinister about the revival of that offensive video. It was originally issued in June 2013, it was seen by thousands, but it evidently failed to make much of an impact. It is possible that it has been revived – shown on MTV and so on – with the objective of rousing mass anti-Muslim hatred.

One point about this episode cannot be ignored. Those absurdly offensive statements hurt the Buddhists, and therefore it was meet and proper that the perpetrator was subjected to action under the law. But what about all the offensive statements about Islam that hurt the Muslims deeply? Why were the perpetrators not subjected to action under the law? I refer to the most outrageous of all the insults to Islam in Sri Lanka: the demonstration in which Allah was imaged as a pig and burnt in effigy. The police performed their accustomed role of passive spectators. I believe they did a little more than that by restraining horrified Muslims who could have got out of hand – and perhaps that was wise. But why was there no legal action thereafter?

That leads to a crucially important question: what really is the strategy of the Sinhalese Buddhist State towards the SL Muslims? It was earlier expected that the anti-Muslim campaign would culminate in another gory July ’83 holocaust, this time against the Muslims. That is not the general expectation today, not because it is thought that the Government has developed moral scruples but because it fears the possible international repercussions. But other horrors can be perpetrated against the Muslims that are just as horrible as July ’83, possibly in the long run even more horrible. I have in mind the fact that the Sinhalese State seems to be in the grip of a fierce hierarchical drive aimed at establishing the Sinhalese Buddhists firmly and securely at the apex and relegating the Muslims to the position of outcastes. That seems to be the significance of the double standards to which I pointed above: punitive legal action against the Muslim but none against the Sinhalese. It is true that the culture of impunity applies to the Sinhalese as well, but not so consistently as against the Muslims, as shown during the anti-Muslim campaign of the last two years.

It should be beyond dispute that the Muslim strategy of political quietism has proved to be utterly disastrous: polishing the boot of Sinhala power has only earned good hard kicks on the backside. Just as well maybe, because the strategy of political quietism was essentially self-seeking, not aimed at the national good inclusive of the good of the Muslims. I have advocated a two-pronged strategy: struggle for the impartial application of the rule of law to all, and dialogue on the issues that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations for decades. The first, the struggle for the rule of law has a very particular importance. It has been a besetting vice of Muslims in the decadent phases of Islamic civilization to withdraw into themselves, to go into a self-imposed ghetto and limit their interaction with the others to the bare minimum. That goes against the greatest Sri Lankan need of the present hour: the need for national integration. In struggling for the rule of law our Muslims will be making common cause with the Sinhalese and the Tamils in a common struggle for the national good.

There is one point in particular that our Muslims must bear in mind. Under the brutal and stupid rule of the 1977 Jay Gang the SL civil society was practically dead, not much more animate than a door-mat. In recent years it has been becoming vibrant in unexpected ways. It is not so vibrant, not so vital, as in India and the West but it certainly counts in the affairs of the nation. The SL Muslims can therefore make their struggle to live in peace and dignity part of the national struggle for a better Sri Lanka. I have in mind the splendid statement of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka against the BBS and in support of the Muslims (Island of May 22). Let the Muslims invoke the blessings of Allah on the heads of the BASL members, and let their names be inscribed in gold in the memories of the Muslims.

PART IV …. after Aluthgama-Beruwela Violence

It is evident that after the anti-Muslim action in Aluthgama and Beruwela on June 15 and the days following, the Sri Lankan Muslim problem has entered a new phase. There is no need for me to recapitulate the well-known details pointing to the Government’s complicity in the anti-Muslim action. Indeed it is more than complicity, and what happened should be properly regarded as a Governmental anti-Muslim racist pogrom. What happened is not novel because it is the kind of thing that has been going on for the last couple of years or so. What is novel are the sustained and meticulously planned attacks on Muslim business establishments. This fits into the racist paradigm to which I have referred in earlier articles. According to this paradigm the Sinhalese, more particularly the Sinhalese Buddhists, should be at the apex of a hierarchical structure, a program that required the kicking down of the Tamils. It is now the turn of the Muslims to be kicked down.

Admittedly, what I have written above could be a simplification of the prevailing situation, because I have not taken into account what might be called the existential fears of the Sinhalese people, fears that go well beyond the supporters of the BBS. That is true, but it is not germane to my present purpose, which is to point the finger directly at the Government as playing the crucial role in a racist anti-Muslim project. My point is that those existential fears are themselves the product of anti-Muslim racist propaganda. It should have been recognized as the duty of the Government to counter that propaganda. Of course it did nothing of the sort because – just like our earlier Governments – it has in effect acknowledged as its only duty in the ethnic field as that of establishing and maintaining the supremacy of the Lion Race.

What should the Muslims do to safeguard their legitimate interests, to live in peace and dignity with their Sinhalese compatriots, as the majority of the Sinhalese themselves would wish? First of all we must recognize that their present options are far wider than they would have been in 1983. The Government seems to be proceeding in its anti-Muslim project on the assumption that it can degrade the Muslims to second or third class status – the Tamils being already reduced to second class status – by stages, avoiding the provocation of a July ’83 holocaust. The Government today gives permission to the BBS to hold a rally in Aluthgama – a decision deplored by no less than the BBS President himself – and the police look on while the racist mob torches Muslim business premises. Tomorrow and the day after the process can be replicated in Colombo and elsewhere until all major Muslim business is taken over by the Lion Race. But the international community has reacted in a way that would have been unimaginable in 1983, and so has the civil society in Sri Lanka – I need not go into details. These reactions seem to signify that the peoples of the world are making themselves heard, that the wretched of the earth are arising. It could be that the racist neo-Fascists in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are not going to have an easy time.

One development in the civil society, still at an inchoate stage, could hold out much hope for the future. There seems to be a growing realization that society is something like a seamless web in which what happens in one part impacts on the others. It means that what is done to the minorities today could be done to the majority tomorrow. In July ’83 the Sinhalese power elite and its henchmen sank into the reptilian and the bestial. The holocaust against the defenseless Tamils was organized meticulously in a cold-blooded way – hence my term “reptilian” – by and with the knowledge of the top racists of the Jay Gang. Thereafter the racist mobs were given the license to sink into bestiality. The JVP, which was utterly racist at that time, enjoyed it all thoroughly. But towards the end of that same decade the JVP were ruthlessly butchering their fellow Sinhalese and were ruthlessly butchered in return. In several areas of Sri Lanka the youths were subjected to indiscriminate butchery on a horrifying scale. The paradise isle was drenched in blood and the greater part of it was transformed into a cemetery. An atrophy of the moral sensibility was shown by the Sinhalese power elite towards the Tamil minority in July ’83, and thereafter the Sinhalese majority itself paid a terrible price for that. Today the Muslim minority is being systematically denied the rule of law, and the Sinhalese majority is being denied it sporadically. Tomorrow – as the Bar Association of Sri Lanka seems to understand quite well – the Sinhalese majority will also be denied it systematically. It does seem that society is a seamless web.

What specifically should the Sri Lankan Muslims do to safeguard their legitimate interests? I used to be against our Muslims internationalizing their internal ethnic problem but today, unlike in 1983, internationalization is impossible to avoid. The Organization of Islamic Countries comprising 57 member states – the largest international organization outside the UN – has made its statement on the recent anti-Muslim action, and the UN has spoken through the voice of Navy Pillat. The leader of the SLMC, Rauf Hakeem, has urged the Government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues to take action on the present situation in Sri Lanka. Every Muslim political Party and every Muslim politician should back Hakeem’s highly commendable move.

Internally, the Muslims should focus on two areas, the ongoing national struggle to make the Government respect the rule of law, and secondly the issues that have been bedeviling Muslim-Sinhalese relations for decades. I believe that it is crucially important to make Muslim action in these two areas part of a national struggle to bring about a better Sri Lanka. The campaign to make the Government respect the rule of law is already under way, and the Muslims should support that campaign in every way possible. As for the issues bedeviling Muslim-Sinhalese relations, individual Muslims such as myself can write articles on them – and that certainly is necessary – but their usefulness will be limited as individual Muslims may not be seen as having much of a representative capacity. What really is required is a group consisting mainly of Muslims and Sinhalese to put together papers on those issues in a readable form, aimed mainly at opinion-makers and decision-makers. That could be followed by translations into the vernaculars to reach a wider audience.

The project that I have in mind will take some time to mature. In the meanwhile I propose writing some articles on some of those issues, focusing initially – if I can get sufficient data on them – on those that seem to be seen as posing an existential threat to the Sinhalese. One is the spread of Wahabism, or what might more appropriately be called “political Islam”. The second is the supposed demographic threat according to which the Muslims are multiplying so fast that before long Sri Lanka will become a predominantly Muslim country. The third is the alleged economically privileged position of the Muslims. All three issues, I believe, are nonsensical, but I believe also that it will be irresponsible and stupid to dismiss them as unworthy of serious consideration because they are nonsensical. The point is that the nonsensical could have behind it irrational fears, but those irrational fears could be very real, and besides irrational fears could carry a high incendiary potential. The Government will not address those irrational fears because they accord nicely with its own anti-Muslim project. It is up to the civil society to address them.

     Izethhussain@gmail.com

ALSO SEE https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/izeth-hussains-reflections-on-sri-lankan-politics/

AND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrBgKWapYFA

AND “For All Sri Lankans: A Message of Tolerance and Conflict Resolution from Ven Galkande Dhammananda” 14 April 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/for-all-sri-lankansa-message-of-tolerance-and-conflict-resolution-from-ven-galkande-dhammananda/

AND  LAW & SOCIETY TRUST: “Where have all the Neighbours Gone? A Fact Finding Mission to Aluthgama ….”  http://www.lawandsocietytrust.org/images/PDF/Resources/aluthgama%20report%20final.pdf 

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Filed under accountability, Buddhism, cultural transmission, disparagement, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, life stories, Muslims in Lanka, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, security, self-reflexivity, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, world events & processes

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