“Those Muslims bung, they’re extreme, they can take seven wives AND chop off people’s heads,” Everyman says, reading the morning paper, which is full of the religious violence all over the world. After smugly dissing the extremities of Sharia law, Everyman goes on to diss the Americans, the Pakistanis, to decry the ascension of Modi in India, and will perhaps discuss these issues with his learned peers, whose only vices are daily drinking, wife-beating and the occasional bit of bribery.
Mr. Everyman, today, is a bit silent (as are my vocal neighbors), because the average Sinhalaya has indeed gone a too far. The Bodhu Bala Sena, which is Sri Lanka’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, is on the verge of instigating another civil war. Aluthgama, a town situated on the Galle-Colombo road, is on fire. The properties of several Muslim citizens are burning. The violence has spread to Beruwela, where Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha is reportedly walled up inside the Nallemiyah Arabic College in Beruwala, with an armed mob standing outside the gates. In Dehiwala, almost at the feet of Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, a few stones have begun flying.
Following the above hate speech by the religous terrorist Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara, the town of Aluthgama, situated on the Galle-Colombo road, is on fire. Police Curfew has been declared. Whether this is good or bad remains to be seen: these is the same police force who stood by as BBS thugs assaulted peaceful protestors holding candles and torched Muslim-owned businesses in the past.
Break out the pitchforks.
The local media, who seem extremely proactive when it comes to finding fault with the UN or with India’s politics, is unusually silent. The only word from the papers seems to be that a police curfew is in effect after a riot in the town.
According to the grapevine, there’re two possible ways things went down:
1) The BBS held a rally. Someone threw stones.
2) There was an argument on the 12th of June between a Muslim youth and the driver of a monk who was en route to said rally, which snowballed. Religious extremist Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara made a fiery speech in which he promised any Muslim who dared lay a hand on a Sinhalese would get it.
Cue warfare. (PS: for more responsible recaps, visit the Colombo Telegraph or the Republic Square, which seem to be the only functional media outlets. There’s also the BBC (whose motives are never clear).
Why is Everyman responsible for the actions of a few? Because we are. We have let the Bodhu Bala Sena and the Ravana Balaya and their ilk rise to power. We have a proud record of protesting everything – from issues with (free) education to Foie Gras at the Kingsbury – but nobody dared stand up to a militant monk-figure setting people and places on fire under. I refer to Gnanasara, arguably the Prabhkaran of our times, a figure whose profile would be eeriely similar to anyone who’s cast an eye over the religous extremist groups of today – essentially, a high-functioning sociopath utilizing the fear, respect and obedience afforded to a religious figure to drum up a militant following.
It is so easy to turn everything into a matter of faith. Take a man. Any man will do. Make him a symbol of faith. Pay no attention to the man underneath the robes – be he good, bad, sick, twisted or downright evil: once he is a symbol of faith, his actions are justified. In time, people even forget what the faith stands for. All that matters is the living symbol.
We’ve protested against the BBC and the UN. We’ve fought a 30-year war. We have, at every turn, fought the LTTE disapora and the constant flow of anti-Sri Lanka campaigns stemming from brainwashed morons in Canada. Our politicians have done everything from shooting each other (cue amnesia) to beating up journalists, proving that yes, they have both balls and weapons. We’ve then stood back and cried out to the tourists: “Visit Sri Lanka! Beautiful Sri Lanka! The fountain of Buddhism in Asia!”
Yet nobody has dared stand up to a man in orange robes who is now on the verge of turning into a second Prabhakaran. Our ministers, usually rather vocal and passionate, are next to useless – in fact, one is threatening to resign. The President is urging everyone to stay calm. Stop the press, everyone.
As one person put it : “If this turns into a war monks should be sent to front. Umbalane patangaththe. Umbalama gahagena nethiwenna! (the monks began this – let them fight and die!)”.
PS: for updates, keep an eye on The Republic Square. They’re cataloging reports as they appear.