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Constructing An Anti-Islamic Bridge To America

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear” – Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)

The malignant police response to the peaceful vigil organised by the Facebook group, ‘Buddhists Questioning Bodu Bala Sena’ proved one fact beyond doubt – the BBS is a protected species, protected by the Rajapaksas. According to video footage, the police acted as if they were the private army of the BBS, threatening and harassing the participants of the vigil. Clearly the police were under orders to display a zero-tolerance towards these non-violent protestors – just as they were under orders to employ a laissez-faire demeanour towards the mob attacking Fashion Bug.

The BBS will be above the law, so long as it does the Rajapaksas’ work.

The toxic conduct of the BBS can ignite an anti-Muslim Black July, jeopardise Colombo’s relations with the Islamic world and inflict a new war on Sri Lanka. Given these deadly potentialities, the order to protect and facilitate the BBS (and its offshoots) would have had to come from the very top. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa might be the Godfather of the BBS, but he could not have extended consistent patronage to an organisation trying to incite a Buddhist-Muslim conflict without the approval of his brother, the President.

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According to video footage, the police acted as if they were the private army of the BBS

Ethnic overdetermination died with the Tiger. The Siblings need a new (ethno-religious) overdetermination to prevent their Sinhala base from focusing on socio-economic issues (such as the electricity hike which will have a punitive impact on the poor/middle classes while shielding the rich). Fear of an ‘Islamic threat’ can reduce the Sinhala masses into a state of infantile compliance and make them respond to iniquitous economic-shocks with resignation rather than anger.

What about the possible loss of Islamic support, internationally? Perhaps the question should be approached from a different angle. The Rajapaksas need Islamic support because they are having problems with the West on democracy/human rights/accountability issues. If the West discards these concerns and welcomes the Rajapaksas into its fold,Colombowould not need Islamic allies.

Then there is the Magnitsky Act.

Last week, the Obama Administration imposed a travel-cum-asset ban on 12 Russian officials accused of rights violations under the Magnitsky Act. The EU plans to enact its own Magnitsky Act. Imposing generalised sanctions on a country for the crimes of its leaders amounts to collective punishment; it is unjust and ineffective – because the costs are borne not by the leaders but by the people. Laws such as the Magnitsky Act can localise punitive measures to miscreant-leaders/officials and ensure that ordinary people do not have to pay for the sins of their rulers.

Both Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa are US citizens. They cannot but have properties and bank accounts in their adopted country. When President Rajapaksa needs medical help, his preferred option is the US, not China or Russia. The mere thought of the Magnitsky Act being applied against Lankan leaders/officials would thus be a nightmare for all three Siblings. Such a development may take years, but the Rajapaksas would want to take preventive measures early on, given what is at stake for them personally.

The Rajapaksas do not want to become Asian Chavezes. If there is an international model they might want to emulate it is of those Third World despots who were/are welcome in the West, despite innumerable tyrannical deeds.

How to build bridges to the West without abandoning the despotic measures necessary to maintain familial rule – that would be the Rajapaksa Gordian Knot.

One method is image-laundering. Since the Rajapaksa diplomatic and propaganda apparatuses are not up to the task of creating an Orwellian counter-reality, the job is being outsourced to Two American lobbying firms: the Majority Group and the Thompson Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG had only one reported client in 2012; its annual reported income was a measly US$ 80,000[i];Sri Lanka will pay this nonentity US$ 66,600 per month! The Majority Group seems so tiny that it does not have to disclose its lobbying details (firms with an annual income less than US$ 10,000 are exempt);Sri Lanka will pay this firm US$ 50,000 per month!

The urgent Rajapaksa need to mend fences with Washington might also explain another curious development: the BBS’s sudden American visit.

The BBS’s interest in sprucing-up its image is understandable. But why commence that image-remaking effort in theUS, a country with a Christian-majority, the home base of Evangelical churches the BBS loves to hate?

The BBS in America

The Rajapaksas continue to target their opponents/critics; the Uthayan paper was attacked, again, and the Sirisa TV was threatened, again. They have no intention of implementing the democratising recommendations of their own LLRC. They seem to be intent on either postponing the Northern provincial election or winning it by force.

They want to do all this without jeopardising the Commonwealth Summit. And they must escape the Magnitsky Act.

During the Cold War decades, the adoption of neo-liberal economics and anti-left politics sufficed for anyThird Worlddespot to become the darling of the West. Currently, a country which is anti-democratic can win Western favour only if it is seen as a target of ‘Islamic terrorism’.

Immediately after the horrendous Bostonbombing, a website notorious for rightwing insanities carried an article[ii] which blamed an Iran-Al Qaeda combine and mentioned Sri Lanka as a conduit state. According to the article’s unnamed source, Iran’s Quds Forces are collaborating with “Hezbollah and elements of al-Qaida with links to individuals in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He said that under Quds Force guidance, Hezbollah recruited Sunni terrorists allied with al-Qaida factions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who then entered the US for terrorist activities”[iii].

Given the schisms within Islam (which cause far more murderous violence than anti-Americanism), a nexus between the Shia Iran/Hezbollah and the Sunni Al Qaeda is as impossible as Mahayanism being welcomed inSri Lankaby the BBS. But this is the sort of insane conspiracy theory which is beloved by fanatics of every religion.

And such myths are used to justify the targeting of ethnic/religious/racial ‘Other’ as the anti-Semites did with the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ hoax.

One can easily imagine a meeting of minds between the purveyors of such delusions in the US and their saffron-robed Lankan counterparts.

The Obama administration does not subscribe to the myth of an anti-Islam civilisational conflict, but a future Republican administration (fortunately an unlikely possibility) might. Islamophobia is a powerful politico-ideological current within the Republican Party. Republican Islamophobes believe that “Islamic Sharia Law is creeping into American courts; the Department of Justice has come under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the President’s engagement ring includes secret writing that indicates Muslim loyalties…. in August delegates at the Republican National Convention voted to include a plank in their platform affirming their opposition to Sharia law” (Mother Jones – 3.1.2013). The Republican Party therefore would be far more receptive to Rajapaksa overtures, if the Siblings can portray themselves as warriors battling the ‘Islamic Threat’.

Is this the message the BBS is expected to convey to the Republican right, at the grassroots level, during its American sojourn?[iv]


[i] http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?id=D000057582&year=2012

[ii] The author of the article is Reza Kahlili, a self proclaimed CIA spy who in 2010 claimed that Iran “will attack Israel, European capitals, and the Persian Gulf region at the same time, then they will hide in a bunker (until a religious prophesy is fulfilled)…and kill the rest of the non-believers” (Washhington Post – 7.12.2010).Iran manifestly did not.

[iii] http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/u-s-was-warned-of-terror-attacks/ The World Net Daily is an ultra-right website infamous for its promotion of such delusions as the ‘Birther story’.

[iv] The BBS monks may have been deployed at least once previously on an unofficial diplomatic mission. Sometime in 2011, Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero led a delegation to Norway. According to the CEO of the BBS, a purpose of the visit was to meet some of the hardline Tamil Diaspora groups. Why should Rev. Gnanasara et al, who relentlessly attack Tamil moderates, go all the way to Norway to meet pro-Tiger Tamils?

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A Religious Police For The Rajapaksas

“The BBS will take immediate steps to form a ‘Cane Force’ against those who act in a manner insulting to Buddhism during the Wesak season”. –Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero (Lankadeepa – 17.5.2013) 

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Pro-democracy demonstrators protesting against the flawed Iranian Presidential Election of 2009 feared one enemy above all other – the Basij,Iran’s religious police. As the ‘Protectors’ of the values deemed valuable by Iran’s ruling Ayatollahs, Basij is generally occupied with breaking-up parties, destroying satellite dishes, lashing bloggers and attacking women considered ‘improperly attired’. But Basij is far more than a bunch of zealots with a penchant for violence and sadism; it is also an indispensable weapon in the arsenal of Iran’s rulers, a cudgel to be used against political opponents (including dissident Ayatollahs). Basij played a brutally effective role in defeating the 2009 pro-democracy movement. The next Presidential election is scheduled for June 2013 and Basij is busy cracking down on Tehran’s coffee shops, the political-oases of Iranian intellectuals/dissidents.

Mutaween – the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Protection of Vice – is Saudi Arabia’s Basij. Its members also roam the streets searching for offenders, ranging from women ‘violating’ the dress-code and fans of Western music/films/TV shows to non-related males and females who interact with each other. In two emblematic cases, Mutaween arrested a 70 year old woman for having two unrelated men in her house (they were delivering bread; she got 70 lashes) and prevented fire fighters from rescuing female students from a burning school (15 girls died). Mutaween is also indispensable in buttressing the power of the Saudi ruling family. It cracks down on critics/dissidents; its leader recently warned that twitter users – one of the very few platforms available to the regime’s opponents in this über-despotic land – are eternally damned.

Now the Bodu Bala Sena wants to give Sri Lanka and its ruling clan their very own Sinhala-Buddhist religious police.

At a recent press conference, Ven. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero announced that the BBS plans to form a ‘Cane Force’ (Weval Balakaya) to ensure ‘proper conduct’ during the Wesak season: “The monks of Bodu Bala Sena will go from village to village carrying canes to control/punish those people who are acting indecently”[i].

It is the BBS’s intake on the Buddha’s final exhortation to monks, to travel far and wide, for the wellbeing of the masses.

Religious fanatics cause damage other religions; but their most irreparable harm is reserved for their own faith. The likes of Taliban, Saudi Wahabis and Iran’s Ayatollahs cause far more harm to the reputation of Islam with their inanely brutal conduct than all the anti-Islamic propaganda of all ages. The Inquisition and the Witch-Hunts are still bywords for violent intolerance and persecution; the midget-descendents of those Christian fanatics still oppose the teaching of evolution in schools and demand the death penalty for homosexuals. Hindu fanatics who defend such repressive practices as casteism and Jewish zealots who demand a country segregated along not just Jewish-Palestinian but also gender-lines are the worst detractors of their own faiths.

If anything would be more damaging to Buddhism than Myanmar’s rampaging monks, it will be Sri Lanka’s BBS types, on the warpath against not just the ‘religious-other’ but also against fellow Buddhists who refuse to accept ludicrously fanatical fatwas.

When Martin Wickremesinghe’s Bava Tharanaya was published in the 1970’s, a vocal-minority of monks and lay people wanted it banned (probably without reading it) as an insult to the Gautama Buddha and Buddhism. Today, the BBS would burn the book, attack the bookshops and pronounce Martin Wickremesinghe to be a traitor in the pay of foreign conspirators.

The BBS’s ruffianly conduct towards a group of Buddhist monks protesting outside its headquarters is a warning of what Lankan Buddhists – including monks – can expect in a country in thrall to fanatics. Apart from a dress-code, a code-of-conduct, an Index of Banned books/movies/plays and a socio-cultural inquisition, the BBS-types might develop their own version of Buddhism, including what monks should sermonise on and which politics are kosher.

Fanaticism is often inane.  During the annual Cultural Festival in Riyadh this April, Mutaween arrested and deported three male delegates from the United Arab Emirates for being ‘too good looking’! Take the artificial ho-ha about a storm named ‘Mahasen’; a BBS-type organisation stormed the Meteorological Department, demanded an immediate name-change and announced that the naming was a foreign conspiracy. This asinine conduct could have been dismissed as an antic of attention-seeking fanatics, expect that President Rajapaksa mentioned ‘the naming-of-the-storm-Mahasen issue’ in his Victory Day Speech, as proof of an anti-Lankan conspiracy.

That was silly; it was also indicative of the symbiotic relationship between the Rajapaksas and the Sinhala-Buddhist lunatic-fringe.

BBS: From Halal to the 13th Amendment

From warring against Muslims and policing Sinhala-Buddhists the BBS has waded into purely political-waters, by declaring war against the 13th Amendment.

The Rajapaksas excel at using cat’s paws. That is how they de-merged the North and the East, checkmated the IIGEP and impeached the Chief Justice (not a single Rajapaksa signed the impeachment motion).

The Siblings need a way out of the Northern PC poll. A postponement might compel Indiato put its weight behind Canada’s call to boycott the HambantotaCommonwealth. Delhihas already warned against denuding the 13th Amendment.

The Rajapaksas can hold a relatively free and fair election and allow the TNA to form a council (reserving the option of dissolving it later), but this option may not suit the Siblings’ maximalist-palate. An election suffused with violence and malpractices might ignite Tamilnadu and compel Delhi to sabotage the Hambantota Commonwealth.

So, why not get Sinhala-Buddhist maximalist organisations to launch a campaign against the Northern PC poll; and to file a case in the Supreme Court asking for a postponement? Then the Rajapaksas can escape retribution by telling Delhi that the Judiciary postponed the election. (Who can doubt Mohan Peiris’ willingness to give any order the Rajapaksas order him to give?)

The BBS, given its willingness to descend to levels even Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka are a tad reluctant to – can play a ignobly pre-eminent role in such a campaign. Since it is not a UPFA member, the Rajapaksas can disclaim all responsibility; they can have their cake and eat it.

Just as economic neo-liberalism seeks to make the world more like what it was under pre-socialist capitalism in terms of relations of production, religious-fanaticism seeks a return to pre-Enlightenment (European-Christian) values/morals. Fanatics of all religions are not just viscerally opposed to the progressive, secular and libertarian currents which led to and resulted from European Enlightenment. They are also completely antagonistic to the tolerant ethos which characterised many a non-European civilisation/ruler from the Ottoman and Mogul Empires,Baghdad and Syrian Caliphates and Al Andalus to India’s Ashoka, ancient Greece,Persia and Mesopotamia.

Historically, the religion-politics nexus played a negative role, tearing countries apart, flattening everything progressive in its path, cultivating intolerance and obscurantism and dragging societies to places they never intended to go initially.

Saudi Arabiais the perfect example of what can happen to a country, even in our own time, when a ruling clan combine religion with politics to perpetuate itself in power.

Let us beware. 


[i] Lankadeepa – 17.5.2013

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