Sri Lanka’s Muslims Are Under Attack
In the wake of the ISIS inspired Easter Attacks, there has been a growing and increasingly political attack on the safety and dignity of Muslims in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Muslims warned of these attacks multiple times and the fault was with the government, specifically the President. However, or perhaps because of this, the President more than anyone has put the safety of the entire Muslim community at risk. A Sri Lankan Muslim today is at risk of daily humiliation, state or police abuse and mob violence at any time.
This is wrong. So many things are wrong, but the fact that this has become politically coordinated is what’s worst of all. But first let’s go into the many ways that a Sri Lankan Muslim today is at risk:
Casual discrimination towards Muslims, especially women, has become normalized. Women wearing the headscarf are told not to enter supermarkets, harrassed on the bus or on the street, and are pressured out of schools and workplaces. The government has focused on policing women’s dress codes with little thought or communication which has resulted in people ‘taking the law into their own hands’ and discriminating against visibly Muslim people, especially women.
Economic discrimination against Muslims has become normalized through widespread calls for boycotts of Muslim owned businesses, ranging from tuition teachers telling students not to use certain pens, to people circulating lists of Sinhala-owned business to patronize. This has also connects to our next point, wherein Muslim owned businesses are singled out and burned by mobs.
Physical violence against Muslims has also become normalized. Mobs have attacked homes and shops in North Western Sri Lanka, slashing one man to death. These attacks ‘somehow happen’ despite curfews being called and roving bike gangs are somehow able to move despite multiple checkpoints. Some of the perpetrators were also bailed out by the General Secretary of the President’s party.
The President has also granted a pardon to an extremist monk who helped organize earlier racial pogroms and this monk immediately threatened pandemonium unless his demands were met, effectively holding a gun to the entire Muslim population and announcing planned mob violence.
At the same time, this discrimination is supported by a media that carries completely unfounded stories like a Muslim doctor carrying out 4,000 sterilizations, a police that then arrests said doctor for unrelated charges and then invites the public to make complaints. People that have never seen the doctor then make complaints and the completely unproven blame again hits an entire community. The newspaper continues to publish.
While the mainstream media fans racism, social media is awash in it as well, with both sources of information becoming full of incendiary lies.
Into this maelstorm crying out for leadership, we get instead our wounded, incompetent and malevolent President, stirring the pot. As his criminal neglect in heading piles of intelligence was being televised in national hearings, the President shut off the broadcast. To distract from his abject failure, he has tried to distract the people with racism — encouraging racial riots and releasing the main ringleader from prison.
At the same time, the Prime Minister is characteristically silent, meaning that a government elected with minority support is now divided and, in practice, actively threatening the safety of Sri Lankan Muslims.
Into this environment, as a monk is fasting unto death and ominous crowds gather in Kandy, all Muslim Ministers in the government have now resigned. Because they cannot protect their people, and the government they are a part of are actively attacking them.
This is where we are. Sri Lankan Muslims are discriminated against on the street, their businesses are threatened, their property and lives are threatened, and the media and government are lined up against them. Despite being valued members of our community for generations, despite being the ones warning of the Easter Attacks, despite being humans like everyone else. This is a tragedy and a shame and our leadership — the leadership that was voted for to specifically not do this — has deeply let us down.
Our President has betrayed the country and its people multiple times and should be impeached. The Prime Minister has failed to just stand up multiple times and also needs to go. Our clergy is fanning hatred and the hatred and ignorance is within our neighbors and friends. But where does that leave us? A wounded and divided country, with its population and politicians turned into ignorant shrapnel, still spreading from the blast zone of April 21st.
The solution is leadership, but that is sadly what we lack. We have the most irresponsible and dangerous person at the top and the country is barely hodling together. At this moment, however, it is important to say that this is wrong. This is no way to treat people. This is no way to secure a country. This is not good or decent behavior and we should be ashamed of ourselves.
I am so sorry to the whole Muslim community that now has to live in worry and fear. I am so sorry to the refugees that have been thrown out of their homes and hounded wherever they try to take refuge. I am so sorry for my country, that has proven such fertile ground for the virus of terrorism, despite us having suffered so much before. We are doing exactly what the terrorists wanted, isolating Muslims, dividing, and weakening ourselves.
This has to stop. We have to turn around. I am writing this to say that all of this, all of these drips and drabs of injustice, it is wrong. Every petty discrimination, every bit of hate speech, every violent act, it is wrong. What is happening is unethical, it is inhumane and it is just not nice.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim community today is under attack, they are afraid, and my thoughts and my wife’s prayers are with them every day and night. I am so sorry that this is happening to you. I am so sorry that this is happening to us. As decent human beings we must fight this hatred and ignorance, however popular it seems, no matter what political support it has.
Sri Lankan Muslims are part of my country, they are part of humanity and they deserve better than this. We must stand together now.