The task of the multi-million dollar Islamophobic industry is to keep alive the steady stream of misinformation about Islam and Muslims. People who speak ill about the Muslim community merely repeat that which they had acquired from the Islamophobists. They are innocent pawns, propagating the message of someone whom they do not even know. A joint report, released on June 2011, by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley, stated that more than US$ 200 million was spent towards promoting ‘fear and hatred’ of Muslims in the United States by various organizations between 2008 and 2013. The report identifies 74 groups, including Feminist, Christian, Zionist and prominent news organizations, which either funded or fostered Islamophobia.
Islamophobia in Sri Lanka, which was hitherto experienced only on the surface, has become widespread after the Easter Sunday attacks. The reason for this is not surprising. Those who were earlier covertly anti-Muslim and/or anti-Islam are now expressing their views openly. Paradoxically, this is a very good development. Those persons who are cocooned in a world of prejudice and misinformed facts can cause harm to themselves and to the society as well. Discussion, debate and engagement are some of the tools that help to clear and clarify.
The sad reality is that not only the Muslims but all Sri Lankan citizens, which means the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and others, are directly or indirectly victims of this evil industry.
At the bottom level of this industry is the common man, the unaware average citizen, who is the carrier of misinformation. Whenever the ‘carrier’ makes an anti-Muslim reference, that person actually does not realise the gravity of what had been said. The ‘masterminds’ of the industry have designed their campaign in such a manner, that such statements are to be regarded as normal as, ‘Hi, how are you?
Moreover, Islam/Muslim bashing has been made common and ‘fashionable.’ There is, then, another category of people. They are the true operators of the scheme. Their responsibilities are greater than the mere spreading of hatred. These actors are active in maintaining the momentum to what is trending. In addition, have the task of creating new sensational situations, as the earlier dramatizations lose steam. A look at the chronology of recent events clearly demonstrates this pattern.
21 April 2019 – The Easter Sunday attacks took place.
29 April 2019 – Ban on face cover was gazetted.
30 April 2019 – Harassment of Muslim women intensified and continued. Free movement of Muslim women was severely restricted. Access to government facilities, hospitals, schools, Courts and several other institutions were hindered. Vigilante groups abused, intimidated and even physically assaulted Muslim women.
12 May 2019 – Anti-Muslim attack, arson and destruction of houses, business premises, vehicles in Kurunegala District, in Bandara Koswatta, Kekunagolla, Panduwasnuwara, Kobeigane, Edandawela, Karanthippala and Bingiriya
13 May 2019 – Sinhala extremists laid siege to the Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola, Aukana, Kottampitiya, Nikaweratiya and other areas, continuing the pogrom. Also, Minuwangoda, Kottaramulla and Thommodara in the Gampaha District.
23 May 2019 – A Sinhala language newspaper published in large bold letters a front-page article alleging that a Muslim doctor had secretly sterilized 4,000 Sinhala-Buddhist women.
23 May 2019 – Ven. Gnanasara Thera was released from jail by a presidential pardon. He is known for his hard-line views and was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of Court.
31 May 2019 – Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera commenced a fast-unto-death campaign outside the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple in Kandy, demanding the resignation of certain Muslims Members of Parliament and Governors.
2 June 2019 – Ven. Gnanasara Thera, who is widely alleged to be behind the June 2014 Aluthgama massacre (against Muslims), issued an ultimatum to the Government on the resignation issue. “I give time until noon tomorrow to the Government…if there is no action, they will be able to witness pandemonium (sanakeli) islandwide.”
3 June 2019 – Nine Muslim ministers and 2 provincial governors resigned in order to avoid bloodshed in the country.
4 July 2019 – Public rally organised in Nugegoda against Wahhabism. A pretext for Muslim bashing, since nothing substantive on Wahhabism was spoken about.
7 July 2019 – Ven.Gnanasara Thera holds a public rally in Kandy. Another well-organized Muslim/Islam bashing. Also, pledged to build a Sinhala Parliament, that would enable the Sinhala people to decide policy and laws as they wished.
From 21 April 2019, to date, certain Media – television, radio, newspapers, including social media are consistently and incessantly carrying on the deliberate strategy of maligning Muslims. Unceasingly, daily doses on ‘hijab,’ ‘swords,’ ‘halal,’ ‘madrasa,’ ‘arabisation,’ and other similar things were being fed. They were the architects of creating the environment of fear, anxiety and panic in the minds of the public. Schools were shut down, the end result of which was successfully achieved by them, namely, spreading hatred against the Muslim community and dividing the unity that existed between the Sinhala and Muslim people.
The method of spreading ‘fear and hatred,’ be it in the highly-developed United States of America or 15,000 kilometres away in Sri Lanka, is the same. An environment of suspicion and distrust is created against the Muslims in the minds of the public. The false claim that Muslims do not belong to this country, and that they can never be loyal citizens of Sri Lanka are made.
Further, implanting the baseless fear in the minds of the public that the Muslims are invading this country. The mercury of anti-Islamic sentiments rises when it is connected to political rhetoric. In this context, an election acts as a catalyst for Islamophobic onslaughts.
There is no dearth of so-called, ‘experts’ appearing in TV talk shows or even holding their own press conferences. In the West, there are so-called paid ‘experts’ for this exercise. In fact, there is one famous guy in Australia by the name Mohammad Tawhidi, an Iranian-Australian. RationalWiki describes him as a useful idiot for Islamophobes and racists alike. He self-proclaims as an Imam (Muslim religious leader) but his status is never recognised by the Australian National Imams Council or its South Australian equivalent. Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, a spokesman for CAIR, is reported as saying, “It is an entire industry of itself. There are people making millions of dollars per year from promoting Islamophobia. They often present themselves as experts on Islamic affairs when they are not.”
We also have, in Sri Lanka, half-baked ‘experts,’ who, knowledge-wise, do not even come close to the ‘pseudo-experts’ of the West. However, their pretense is larger than themselves (Brobdingnagian). It is a shame, is it not? These are characters who are selling their souls.
How are you a victim?
All Sri Lankans become victims of Islamophobia, both materially and spiritually. For example, the followers of Buddhism are supposed to practice loving-kindness (metta) in their daily life. By entertaining negative thoughts towards another community, the feeling of metta disappears from consciousness. The world of metta is substituted by the evil thoughts of jealousness, anger, vengeance and intolerance. Behaviour is dictated by these negative vibes, which reflect on the actions, and thus affects the kamma of that person. What about the consequences of distancing oneself from compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), equanimity (upekkha)? What about the reputation of Buddhism internationally? What about the pride that Sri Lanka is the repository of Theravada Buddhism?
Are we paving the way for Sri Lanka, too, to be considered similar to Buddhist Myanmar, who internationally have been condemned for gross human rights violations and even genocide?
Materially, the economy of the country as a whole gets impacted. The simplest example is the fall in tourist arrivals, due to the continuing insecure and unstable environment in the country. When this happens, imagine how many hundreds of thousands of our own brothers and sisters, irrespective of whether one is a Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher or any other, directly or indirectly suffer. At the macro level, do we understand the ripple effect this has on the economy of the country?
ISLAMOPHOBIA – When did it all start?
INCREDIBLE spoken-word piece against Islamophobia