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Aba Saranai And The Scourge Of

Theocratic Politics
| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
it is time that the world adopt a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an
acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation o, crimes against humanity.
ole !oyinka "#$ %onference on the %ulture of &eace and $on'(iolence ) *+.,.*-+*
" .uly +-, *-+/, %olombo, !ri 0anka Guardian1 23at, &ray, 4ast5 was the title of a photo'essay
in the 4oreign &olicy maga6ine marking the beginning of the *-+7 Ramadan season . The
pictures pro(ided a glimpse of the wide and (aried spectrum of global 8slam ) from the hip
young protestors of Turkey breaking fast in the Ge6i &ark to a fully'co(ered woman outside a
mos9ue in 8ndia.
This rich (ariety is inadmissible to two sets of people ) anti'8slamic extremists and 8slamic
The rigid and counter'reality notion of what constitutes a :uslim is the common ground
between the ;;! "and its %hristian<.ewish<=indu (ariants1 and the 8!8! "or ;oko =aram or
Taliban etc1. The ;;! belie(es that all :uslims are fundamentalists obsessed with global
domination and .ihad. The 8!8! belie(es that only those who support its notion of 8slam and its
%aliphatist pretensions are :uslims. $either set of extremists admits the existence of a (ast
majority of ordinary :uslims beyond their confined hori6ons.
8n his incendiary speech at >luthgama, Galagoda'>tte Gnanasara Thera wished the :uslims
shops of the area 2>ba !aranai5. This unfamiliar phrase is said to be a wish for destruction, a
lethal curse. That an adherent of the teachings of the ;uddha cannot wish destruction on any
li(ing being is a foregone conclusion. ;ut for ;uddhist'extremists, from :yanmar to !ri
0anka, heaping (erbal and physical (iolence on enemies is a national<religious duty.
The politics of 2>ba !aranai5 is premised on hating and working for the destruction of
unbelie(ers. 8ncidentally, the category of unbelie(ers is not limited to those worshipping a
different god or following a different religious'teacher? it also includes those who worship the
same god or follow the same religious teacher, in a different way.
!inhala';uddhism is far more intolerant of non'Thera(ada (ariants of ;uddhism than of
=induism, %hristianity or 8slam. The ;;! types are at their most (itriolic when it comes to
monks who disagree with their twisted form of ;uddhism. :edie(al %hristianity5s
preoccupation with 2heresy5 ga(e birth to the 8n9uisition and to the deadly confessional wars in
the heart of 3urope. ;efore the self'professed %aliph of the nascent 8!8!'state ga(e his
inaugural sermon from the historic Grand :os9ue in :osul, he ordered the execution of its
!unni 8mam, :uhammad al':ansuri ) for refusing to pledge allegiance to the new 2caliphate5.
Two days later +* other !unni clerics were executed for the same crime, according to the #$ .
The 8!8! has also threatened to attack !hia holy places in 8ra9.
This combusti(e intolerance makes theocratic politics inherently destabilising, (iolent and
3(en the most secular society has its share of religious extremists. They ha(e always been with
us and it5s possible that they will always be with us, in one form or another. !o long as they
(egetate in their own ideological ghettos they cannot do much harm to larger society. The
danger is when a go(erning class, party or family adopts their ideas and slogans either out of
genuine con(iction, opportunism or a combination thereof. hen that marriage between
extreme religion and politics occurs, it brings forth de(astation, including self'de(astation.
There is a nexus between anti'democratic politics and religious extremism. >ctual and would'
be despots see in extreme (ersions of religion a weapon and a shield for their political projects.
8n $igeria it was the encouragement accorded to extreme forms of %hristianity by the country5s
military rulers which pa(ed the way for the creation of that horror, ;oko =aram. 8n 8ra9,
&remier al':aliki5s !hia'supremacism made it possible for the 8!8! to grow from nothingness
to the monster it is today. 8t is an open secret that :yanmar5s military rulers are
enabling<supporting :onk irathu and his ,@, :o(ement. =e had openly come out against
>ung !ang !uu Ayi "despite her unprincipled refusal to condemn anti':uslim (iolence1
warning that chaos will result if she wins the presidency . 8n !ri 0anka the meteoric rise of the
;;! would ha(e been impossible without o(ert and co(ert state patronage.
The ;;! has already begun to create a faux nexus between ordinary rice'and'curry issues and
the :uslim bogey.
>ccording to Galagoda'>tte Gnanasara Thera, B8t is :uslims businessmen who import dhal
and rice to this country. There are big problems here. Cnce upon a time, not so long ago,
Tamils were blamed for cost'of'li(ing issues and that lie pro(ided an added impetus to the fires
of ;lack .uly. Today the ;;! is insidiously culti(ating the image of the rapacious 2:uslim
businessman5 who is exploiting !inhala';uddhists "a similar bogey'making process preceded
the +,+D riots1. Thus when !inhala';uddhists are o(erwhelmed by economic woes, the ;;!
"or its successor<s1 will hold high the bogey of 2:uslim exploiter5, di(erting majoritarian anger
away from the real culprits ) the ruling family.
hen the :uslim bogey becomes dysfunctional for some reason, there is always the %hristian
bogey and the Tamil<=indu bogey. The ;;! continues to highlight con(ersions to %hristianity
as a critical national issue . 8t is also demanding that &ope 4rancis apologises for the crimes of
colonialists . 8f the &ope (isits .affna and makes some acknowledgement of the plight of the
Tamils, the ;;! might replace 2:uslim enemy5 with the 2%hristian<%atholic<Eatican enemy5,
for a while.
Resisting Religious &olitics
3xtremists of all faiths agree that life and society should be reordered in accordance with
religion, the only difference being whose religion. They oppose the secular humanist (alues of
the 3nlightenment, pluralist democracy and cultural di(ersity. :ost of them are also against
welfare capitalism.
%ommenting on the unra(elling of the 3gyptian re(olution Ahaled =roub said that Bin the
period just ahead of us, these two 9uestions or logics ) the slogan 28slam is the solution5 and the
discourse in the name of the religion ) will, with their ideological burden, face the test of a
public, mass experiment conducted in the laboratory of popular consciousness. The experiment
may last a long time, de(ouring the li(es of an entire generation.
The ;;! types too insist that 2!inhala';uddhism5 is the only solution to 0ankan problems and
the right way forward is to head backwards to a neo'feudal era. 4or them pluralist democracy is
a curse which di(ides !inhala';uddhists and empowers the minorities. This anti'democratic
(ersion of politics in which indi(idual and collecti(e human rights are (itiated and replaced by
!inhala';uddhist rights "to lord it o(er the minorities1 works in fa(our of the Rajapaksas and
their familial project.
e li(e in pluralist societies. 8n such societies, religious politics and politicised religions
cannot but lead to alienation, ci(il hostility and conflict. The de facto dismemberment of 8ra9
"into a !unni state, a !hia state and a Aurdish state1 is a warning that the plague'bacilli of
;alkanisation might infect >sian and >frican continents if the current trend of religion
enmeshing with politics is not impeded.
8n !ri 0anka the political masters and the religious pawns are cajoling and pushing the majority
community into a series of conflicts with e(ery single minority community. 8f we follow this
Rajapaksa<;;! path, 2>ba !aranai5 may will become the fate of !inhala';uddhists.
+. httpF<<saharareporters.com<*-+*<-,<*7<religion'against'humanity'wole'soyinka
*. httpF<<www.foreignpolicy.com<articles<*-+7<-G<+-<ramadanHphotosHaroundHtheHworldI
7. httpF<<www.theage.com.au<world<imam'of'mosul'mos9ue'executed'before'caliph'ga(e'
/. httpF<<www.irrawaddy.org<burma<suu'kyi'presidency'bring'chaos'says'firebrand'
D. 8nter(iew with 8rida 0ankadeepa ) @.G.*-+/
@. 8bid
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J. httpF<<mondediplo.com<*-+7<-@<-Dbrothers