Do Sri Lankans have an image problem?

What can be done to keep radicalism away from the shores of Sri Lanka?

by Victor Cherubim

People in Sri Lanka mistakenly associate Muslims with Islam. The fact is that Islam is a religion and Muslims are a people, many of whom are believers of Islam. It is easier to side with racists politicians who blame Muslims for everything, including the Easter Sunday bombings of Catholic Churches and posh Hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Yet there is a pattern of Easter attracts on Christians in countries where the majority of people profess Islam. In Egypt on Palm Sunday 2017, suicide bombers murdered 45 people in two Coptic Churches. In Pakistan in 2016, a suicide bomber killed 75 Christians celebrating Easter at a public park. In Nigeria, on Easter Sunday 2012, a suicide bomber killed 38 Christians outside a Church. Now in Sri Lanka,249 or more have succumbed to the Easter Sunday bombings in 3 Churches and 2 Hotels on 21 April 2019.

Is there a pattern to these bombings?

Can we blame the religion, or do we blame the radicalism?

It is a well-recognised fact that Christians and believers of Islam accept mankind as descendants of Adam and Eve and for the fall of man from grace of the Almighty. Both Christian and Islam consider Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus as Prophets and HolyProphet Muhammad as the last Prophet. Both religions have much in common. Both religions believe in an afterlife, of a Heaven and a place of damnation as revealed by God to the Prophets through the messengers of God. Both religions also believe there is a judgement day when mankind will be called to account for their misdeeds and thence celebrated or punished and banished by the Eternal, for eternity. Both religions also believe in the Mercy of God.

If surely both religions profess the existence of life after death, of good over evil, of ethical living in this life, why is it that there is an innate antipathy? Can we really put the blame on religion or on those who are misguided and become fanatics? All religions, in my opinion, profess moral values. All religions teach punishment and mercy in their tenets.

Is there a fault line in the interpretation rather than in the basis of the teachings of Christianity and Islam? Religious beliefs have always been seen, analysed and professed over time as a private matter between individuals and civilisations. Without privacy of religious worship, surely freedom dies. Without freedom of worship, life is just a shadow of what it ought to be?

Why are changing mindsets causing radicalisation?

Religion and radicalisation are two ends of the spectrum of life. Whilst forms of radicalisation been on the rise among young people in Guantanamo and in European prisons, life in prisons can be the incubator for religious fundamentalism? These ideologies have been explained as Islamism but in many cases there have nothing to do with religion or religious teaching. They have everything to do with violent and non-violent extremism.

Radicalisation as a phenomenon cannot only be limited to a specific religion or an ideology.

We have seen the following forms of radicalisation identified over many years. We have seen right wing extremism say the Neo Nazi and the skinheads. Then there is the left-wing extremism in anarchism, say when World leaders have their summits around the world annually. Recently, we saw it in the Yellow Shirts in Paris?

The reasons for extremism?

There is always some form of manipulation of extremism. There is the political manipulation of frustration, discrimination, humiliation, alienation and a serious feeling of injustice, which are some reasons.

Then there are these same reasons using religion in intentionally perpetrating violence as means to a political end.

There is ambiguity between politics and using religion for political aims to try resolve contradictions in society.

Politicians borrow the common factors in every religion like authenticity, legitimacy and credibility of religion and religious beliefs for their own ends. Scientific arguments are lacking in this process of radicalisation. We see very rich and well-educated elements in different strata of society being radicalised and fall a prey to misguided notions of salvation
or an easy solution to many of our problems?

We see weak governments fall an easy prey of these radical elements. When there is no strong leadership radicals have a field day?

What can be done to keep radicalism away from the shores of Sri Lanka?

Not much is the short answer in the immediate present. But personal vulnerabilities or local factors in Sri Lanka can make young people more susceptible to extremist messages. These may include a sense of belonging, a feeling of civic pride in the nation, being involved in drugs and easy money with gangs. It could also be the Internet. There could be the propagation of violence by groups who will often offer solutions to strong feelings of religious discrimination, of injustice, of being marginalised, of being misunderstood, not listened to or being treated unfairly.

We need to re-educate against hate. We need to arm ourselves not with weapons but with words, values and real teachings rather than proselytise religion.

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