‘Moderate’ is a convenient garb for the pernicious
By Malinda Senaviratne
We don’t have to listen to the not-so-veiled threats of ex-Governor of the Eastern Province, Mahabood Hizbullah to understand that there is a real and abiding danger of a kind of terrorism this country did not know before Easter Sunday. And yet, the noises made in English, in and out of the media (mainstream and social) are almost exclusively directed at the majority community, the Sinhala Buddhists.
We know what happened. And we know also, that women (close to 800) who complained about Dr. Shafi (who is not, contrary to reports, a gynaecologist and obstetrician) on the suspicion of wrongdoing following Caesarean Sections he performed (resulting in not being able to conceive thereafter) have been vilified. People have asked why only some 60 of them had agreed to submit themselves to examination, never mind that concern is one thing and anxieties about probes and related publicity are two different things. Pregnancy, childbirth and the ability to deliver are extremely personal matters which are surprisingly ignored in the relevant discourse.
And we know what didn’t happen. Women’s rights activists have not moved in. The human rights advocates are quiet. And we don’t have to ask what would and would not be said and done had, for example, a single non-Sinhala non-Buddhist woman complained about, say, not being able to conceive after a Sinhala Buddhist doctor performed C-Sections.
Today we have many lecturers on coexistence, harmony, reconciliation, peace and such things, just as there were when the LTTE played ‘Poor relation of the (then unknown) ISIS’. Terrorists have no religion, we are told. Don’t conflate Muslims with the Jihaadists, we are told. Don’t alienate Muslims. Don’t isolate them. We are told.
I am in agreement with all of the above, in general. Isolation and alienation would, as argued, most certainly play into the hands of the extremists. There’s no doubt that we have to deal with the terrorists as they ought to be dealt with, from processes and structures that feed ideology and facilitate recruitment to detecting and dismantling operations. With respect to ‘processes’ anything that isolates and alienates the relevant community will be an obstacle.
Vilification of an entire community, in this case, the Sinhala Buddhists, is probably not THEIR intention. Neither would they advocate the alienation and isolation that could result and indeed seem to be the outcome preference of their fellow travellers
Perhaps the error is in exaggerating the possibility of the latter, assuming it is a done deal and pretending that isolation and alienation can only be inflicted and not chosen. In any event, we have seen a lot of this exaggeration which has in fact snowballed into two things: a) a crass generalization and vilification of the majority community, and b) scandalous silence on all other factors including the threat at hand and the relevant complicity of the Hizbullahs of the Muslim community, apart from the odd and token reference.
It is a script that we’ve read before. It is a film we saw during the nineties and the early part of this century. And those who wrote and read and play it out call themselves or would have us believe they are ‘moderates’.
I firmly believe that there are some who are in fact ‘moderate’. Vilification of an entire community, in this case, the Sinhala Buddhists, is probably not THEIR intention. Neither would they advocate the alienation and isolation that could result and indeed seem to be the outcome preference of their fellow travellers. In fact I believe the majority of the moderates are, well, moderate. And for the main part, silent though not necessarily inactive. I am not talking about them but those moderates who give a bad name to moderation.
And this is why those like Rev. Gnanasara and outfits like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) are ‘heaven-sent’ to them. Such individuals and outfits, however rejected they may be by Buddhists, are used as proxies for that community
What’s their beef, though? Who are they, though? Among them are people who are neither Sinhalese nor Buddhists. Among them are people who for whatever reason believe and worry that the ‘Sinhala Buddhist community’ is the preserve of those opposed to the current government led by the United National Party.They talk about a Sri Lankan identity in public, but fervently affirm their ethnic or religious identities in private. Many are wont to believe (although they won’t say it) that Sri Lanka is Colombo and vice versa, and assume (without saying it) that the affairs of the country should be managed by the English-speaking, Anglicized and relatively wealthy class.
Many of them consciously or unconsciously are ashamed of their own skin and DNA traces, and find the vilification of Sinhala Buddhists a means to self-isolation and self-alienation that makes them ladies and gentlemen. They would shop, to put it a bit crudely, in the high end department stores like Odel (for instance) but would not be caught dead at Uptown Kandy in case (to use oft used derogatory epithets) ‘gode’ or yako’ rubs off on them. There are also among them people who do not belong to this class, people who are Sinhalese and Buddhists, who can’t afford high-end consumerism but want to be ‘posh’ and therefore do the cost-less thing of mimicking the ‘posh’, namely taking up the vilifying chant.
Many of them consciously or unconsciously are ashamed of their own skin and DNA traces, and find the vilification of Sinhala Buddhists a means to self-isolation and self-alienation that makes them ladies and gentlemen.
They rant and rave against isolation and alienation, but in fact isolate and alienate. Caricature is their watchword. And this is why those like Rev. Gnanasara and outfits like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) are ‘heaven-sent’ to them. Such individuals and outfits, however rejected they may be by Buddhists, are used as proxies for that community. No caveats. No specifics. Totalizing, instead. Generalizing instead. Caricatured. And that’s ‘moderation’ and ‘moderates’ for you, ladies and gentlemen. Part of the problem. Sri Lanka must rise up, but to do that Sri Lanka must wise-up to these fake-moderates for they endanger everyone. That’s fundamental.