Izeth Hussain, from The Island, 27 June 2015, where the title is “LTTE and Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism” … readers should also visit Colombo Telegraph for a sense of the commentary that IZETH’s essays have attracted.**
This article is really an addendum to my three-part article on Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism in the Island of April 28, May 2 and May 9. I feel impelled to write this article because the political context has changed radically since I wrote the last one. At that time the LTTE was seen by me and practically everyone else as the rump LTTE, just a vestigial presence without much bite and vigour to it. We were mistaken. It has become clear that for quite some time there has been a resurgent LTTE without the limiting epithet of rump, an LTTE with plenty of bite and vigour to it, though it may not be identical with the pre-2009 LTTE. Consequently I now have to reassess Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism taking count of the LTTE.
The recent statement of the US State Department about LTTE activities in 2014 clearly establishes that there is now a resurgent LTTE: “The LTTE used its international contacts and the large Tamil diaspora in North America, Europe, and Asia to procure weapons, communications, funding and other needed supplies. The group employed charities as fronts to collect and divert funds for its activities”. The detail about the procurement of weapons has a chilling effect. The statement led to questions in Parliament about Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s controversial meeting with the GTF leader and others in London. I would give weight also to Kumar David’s article in the Sunday Island of June 21 on the Northern Province Chief Minister C. Wigneswaran who has apparently developed the ambition to become leader of the Tamils. He therefore adopts a confrontational posture towards the Government. He has become severely critical of President Sirisena, after having alienated Prime Minister Wickremasinghe, and is the rising star of the hard-core Tamil diaspora, evidently meaning the devotees of the LTTE. The details in this paragraph attest to the enhanced stature of the resurgent LTTE.
I will now recapitulate some of the details from my earlier article. My articles have been published simultaneously in the Island and the Colombo Telegraph. For several weeks I got favorable responses, more from Tamil readers than from others, including Fr. S.J Emmanuel of the GTF, and a Tamil expatriate magazine in Canada published two of my articles in translation. None of that was surprising because over several decades I have been outspokenly critical of Sinhalese discrimination against the Tamils, and of Muslim support for that discrimination. Suddenly there were attacks against my articles, which were sustained over several weeks. I noticed some odd features about those attacks. They were mostly from persons using nom de plumes that declared a Tamil identity. The other attacks could be unfair, even insulting, but they were much milder than the Tamil attacks. I posed the question “Why the hatred?” because there was nothing in my articles that could explain the intense Tamil hatred shown in the responses. I noticed furthermore that there was nothing comparable in the responses to other articles appearing in the CT.
The most significant feature of the attacks for the purposes of this article is that they were concerted ones, not something that happened at random according to the whims and fancies of individual Tamils. They did not begin with my first article but after some time, they continued for several weeks with around seven to ten Tamils going at it, they mysteriously subsided for a brief while, they continued thereafter for several more weeks until, quite abruptly, they stopped altogether. Later a couple or so stragglers from the old days, accompanied by some newcomers have carried out further attacks, but there is no sustained hate campaign. It seems very significant that after my earlier article there were no responses at all from the Tamils who were involved in the concerted attacks. Who concerted the attacks? Almost certainly the resurgent LTTE. Why were the concerted attacks called off? It is possible that there has been a struggle between extremists and moderates within the LTTE, and the moderates have prevailed.
I will now make some observations on Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism from a LTTE perspective and thereafter from a general perspective. Two charges have been consistently made against me by Tamil racists that to my mind make sense only when seen in a LTTE perspective. The first is that I am, and have been for decades, notoriously anti-Tamil. That is factually absolute nonsense and they know it but they affect to believe it. In my earlier article I brought out details to show that amongst non-Tamils I must be accounted as quite exceptionally sympathetic towards the Tamils. But that makes no impact on the minds of the LTTE type of Tamil. They keep repeating that I advocated famine as a weapon to end the LTTE rebellion. I have produced detailed data to show that I advocated precisely the opposite. That too makes no impact on their minds. The truth is that the LTTE type of Tamil is under a compulsion to believe that I am anti-Tamil, the mad logic behind which could be something like the following: for the LTTE only Eelam matters and anyone who stands in the way of it should be regarded as anti-Tamil, including Muslims such as myself.
The other charge is that I am anti-Indian, which also is total nonsense. Perhaps the mad LTTE logic behind it goes along the following lines. The LTTE knows that it can get Eelam only with the blessings of India. The LTTE would want the fat agricultural lands in the East exclusively for the Tamils, and that would require the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims from the East. India would want, as a reward for enabling Eelam, an area in which it feels totally secure and that would require the ethnic cleansing of any group that might be hostile to it. So, from the LTTE perspective, it would be a pukkah idea to project all Muslims without exception as anti-Indian. Such might be the mad logic of the LTTE. I am open to alternative explanations.
I sense a qualitative difference between LTTE racism and that of the Tamil lunatic fringe racists. Both share a tendency for the rational faculty to go into abeyance, which I hold is integral to racism. But in the case of the LTTE the moral sense also goes into abeyance. The probable explanation is the well-established fact that an excess of power leads to two horrible consequences: a weakened grasp of reality, and an inability to distinguish between right and wrong. The LTTE, as we all know, enjoyed for a long period absolute and total power over the unfortunate Tamils under its heel, a power that it exercised with utter brutality and with no moral compunction at all.
My impression is that the ordinary Tamil lunatic fringe racist has not lost his moral sense altogether. What cries out for explanation in his case is that his anti-Muslim racism is much more intense than that of his Sinhalese counterpart. I have to be tentative and very brief in suggesting an explanation in the remainder of this article. An obvious part of the explanation is that the Tamil caste system is much more rigid, much more hierarchical than the Sinhalese one. It is part of the explanation for the shocking fact of the failure to build any sense of solidarity with the estate Tamils. It seems reasonable to presume that the Tamil racist will show a greater propensity than the Sinhalese racist to regard the Muslims as lower beings. I have also in mind the fact that Freud pointed out that the most vicious and irreconcilable quarrels take place between peoples who are nearly identical. The Tamils and the Muslims have a linguistic commonality.
Before concluding I must reiterate yet once more that my strictures on Tamil racism apply only to a tiny fringe of the Tamils and not to the generality of them, and furthermore that there is better rapport between the Tamils and the Muslims than there is between either of them and the Sinhalese. In conclusion I must pose the question, Why is it that so much hatred and fury has been directed against me by the lunatic fringe Tamils? I believe that the explanation is that I don’t fit the stereotype of the Muslim who is at the best an excellent businessman or excellent drug trafficker, who can be treated with benign tolerance as essentially inferior beings. On the contrary, over the decades I have acquired the following image: an intellectual, a public intellectual, a writer of highly educated prose, a political analyst, a member of the literati, culturally thoroughly Westernised and utterly highbrow. Consequently when a Tamil racist starts reading an article of mine he gets into a state of hysterical hatred that issues in mad dog rage. One of them kept on attacking me for weeks with his first paragraph invariably full of expletives such as fool, mad, nincompoop, numbskull, imbecile. My friendly advice to him and other Tamil racists is this: Racism is a disease. Get well soon!
** An Editorial NOTE: I got to know IzethHussain and his Burgher wife when they lived in a small house nestling in the heart of Kollupitiya in the 1970s. Izeth was serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later became an ambassador as well. We have not met for ages. He is now an octogenarian — an outspoken one who does not suffer fools gladly and faces up to the abusive irate in the manner irate. I note that this technique is the only way one can survive at times in addressing some of the bilge that appears in some commentary in Groundviews and Colombo Telegraph. I only wish I had Izeth’s energy.