If you are a Muslim in Sri Lanka today, you are guilty until proven innocent. Mobs can make up nonsense about you, destroy your life, end your business; it’s up to you to prove them wrong. Likely while you’re rotting in jail. This is the opposite of justice. This is persecution.
As an example, we have the media lynching of a gynaecologist. Dr. Shafi was accused of sterilizing 4,000 women in a newspaper. This is medically absurd, but he was arrested nonetheless, on a different trumped up charge, while this rumor was investigated. This is not how justice works. Now the allegations are being proved to be as much of a lie as they seemed on first glance. But the damage is done. He is in jail. His medical career is over. His family’s life will never be the same.
As another example, Muslim Ministers were accused of various things. A monk staged a fast and another threatened communal violence if they didn’t resign. Rather than see people burnt and killed in the streets, they resigned. Before any investigation. Nothing has been found.
This is the opposite of natural justice. This is injustice, and it is playing out in many ways, big and small, throughout our country today.
A tourist is stopped at the airport because they have an Arabic name. They are detained and eventually turned away.
A friend of mine is fixing a van by the side of the road. He has a beard. Someone on a bike stops and asks if he’s Muslim. He continues asking, he asks for ID, he gets aggressive.
Janaposha stops serving free meals to people at hospitals, people ask who their directors are, where their money comes from, calling quite calmly and rationally for persecuting the victims.
At all of these points, big and small, Muslims (or people with beards) are asked to defend themselves. They are asked to prove that they belong, that they are not criminals, and they asked to do so in the face of stupid, impossible accusations.
Dr. Shafi is asked to prove that he didn’t perform 4,000 tubal ligations which are basically impossible. The tourist is asked to prove that he’s not a terrorist, a counterfactual. Someone with a beard is asked to prove that they’re not Muslim, something fundamentally irrelevant to anything. Janaposha is asked to prove that they do not serve a sterilization pill which does not exist.
It’s as if someone said that Indi eats unicorns. Then the burden is on me to prove that I don’t, and to furnish my tax returns, and to wither in the harsh blaze of the press, police and gossip sites. And to be thankful that justice was done. What justice? This is persecution.
This all rests on a certain lie, which is that Sri Lankan Muslims were responsible for the Easter Attacks. They were not. Muslims were on the frontlines fighting and protesting these extremists when our political leadership was not paying attention.
Furthermore, Sri Lankan Muslims are just a bunch of different people and they bear no collective responsibility for anything. They are just human beings like you and me, and they are my friends. It breaks my heart and makes me so angry and ashamed to see them treated like this.
If you are a Sri Lankan, this persecution should weigh heavy on your soul. It is a moral wrong, a political wrong, an ethical wrong, it is just wrong wrong wrong. We have turned justice on its head and people are fine with it because we still have ‘investigations’. But I think we can all see very clearly who is investigated. Not the people who call for stoning other human beings. Not the people who call for banning people from markets based on their race. Not the people who publish false stories that destroy lives. Not the people that burn houses and stab old men in their homes.
No. It is the Muslims who are investigated. It is the Muslims who must explain themselves. It is they who are persecuted.
We have got to turn this around. We have to speak out for and protect each other. This is a fire which will burn us all, and history will judge us for what we do now. Our children will judge us, for whether we spoke out or if we just let their world go to shit.
To all my Muslim friends, I’m sorry. This is wrong. To every Sri Lankan, please do not be silent, and do not be part of the general shrug that enables racism by saying ‘let’s investigate’ or ‘we’ll see’. The very nature of what the media is highlighting and what the police are arresting people for is racist. The things that they are not paying attention to are racist. Do not be part of this system of oppression. Be a fucking human being and have some empathy. This could be you or me and it wouldn’t feel very nice at all.
So don’t support the persecution of other people. Do not be idiotic shrapnel from a terrorist’s bomb. Stay united, and do not stand by while decent people are maligned. What is happening in our country right now is wrong, and we have to say it, and then we have to fight it.