The Jihadist Journalists of #lka

A steady stream of articles are appearing in the local English medium, attacking demonizing and condemning the Sinhala people and more specifically the Sinhala-Buddhists as extremists, intolerable, genocidal and violent. It is seen by a perusal of these that the writers of these fall into three broad categories. One is the traditionally anti-Sinhala and anti-Buddhist lobby, led by a diverse mixture of Marxists, neo-marxists, liberals, neo-liberals, Eelamists and Christian fundamentalists. The second group is the mercenaries, funded, aided and abated by the diversity of anti-Sinhala lobbies. The third is the group of Islamic extremists and their kith and kin who pose themselves as respectable journalists and writers.

This is a collection of big words strung together by someone. 

It’s also the starting paragraph of an e-mail that’s making the rounds, naming 6 journalists as being fundamentally anti-Sri Lankan, pro-jihadist verbal activists who pose as respectable media personnel to deceive the unthinking masses, classifying them as propaganda machines operating on some secret agenda.

The first is a female journalist attached to the Daily Mirror. “Her father is a reportedly member of the Islamic extremist Shura Council,” says the email. “A Shura Council is a body established in certain Muslim countries to advise and provide direction to the rulers to work in accordance with Islamic principles. Sri Lanka is neither a Muslim country, nor does it has a Muslim ruler to have a Shura Council. However, it is established in Sri Lanka and to whom it advises and what advice is given are well-guarded secrets.”

Yes, that is quite creepy, isn’t it? But before we all venture out and invest in pitchforks, let’s examine what a Shura Council is: a body of consultants, most widely known to exist in Saudi Arabia, where it is a legally recognized body. Saudi’s Shura Council seems to be the most advanced – therefore, let’s have a look at it. It consists of the following:

  • Islamic, Judicial Affairs, and Human Rights Committee
  • Social, Family, and Youth Affairs Committee
  • Economic Affairs and Energy Committee
  • Security Affairs Committee
  • Educational and Scientific Research Affairs Committee
  • Cultural and Informational Affairs Committee
  • Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Health and Environmental Affairs Committee
  • Financial Affairs Committee
  • Transportation, Communications, Information Technology Committee
  • Water and Public Facilities and Services Committee
  • Administration, Human Resources and Petitions Committee

It’s also quite modern: Saudi’s last batch of Council members were technocrats – approximately 43% being US-educated, with everyone having at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and 70% of the total having PhDs. In fact, it sounds quite a lot like what a Parliament should aspire to be – (unless of course you’re Sri Lankan, in which case your Parliament must have a bare minimum of gunslingers, ex-terrorists, lefties, righties, kung-fu monks, random television actresses and the like – because we, of course, believe in diversity).  According the the author of the email, the Shura Council is an extremist Islamic body.

If they are, perhaps we could use a little bit of extremism.

It’s quite creepy that there IS a Shura Council in Sri Lanka. The only thing creepier would be, say, religious figures openly involved in politics, or a terror group dedicated to exploiting religion to topple functioning social structure and threaten the leadership of the government in public speeches, or extremists with police protection…you know, things of that nature. 

The second and third name are a female journalist, “working for the Daily Mirror, whose father was known for his work in international diplomacy. The other writes for Ceylon Today and is a nephew of Trade and Commerce Minister Rishard Badurdeen.”

I’m not sure you need to be Muslim to write critically about the Bodu Bala Sena. Everyone with half a brain is critical of the Bodu Bala Sena. Nevertheless, this criteria has been duly noted. Critics, please note that temporary conversion to another religion is mandatory when writing critically about religious extremists. Also note that writing things like “Facebook takes down BBS profiles” including a statement from the CEO of the BBS, Dilantha Withange, is dangerously unpatriotic and anti-Buddhist.

The email goes on to name more: one of whom is a member of the United Nations Youth Advisory Panel, and therefore, automatically guilty, because the sole purpose for the United Nation’s existence is to dominate and subjugate Sri Lanka and turn it into something with *shudder* more democracy. The other writes write on women’s rights and publishes articles with titles like “Court Reprimands Police” or “Pusswedilla In Or Out?” and “Fonterra maintains that all their products are free of DCD” and “Bribery and Corruption Rampant in Governing Bodies.”

Yet another is a lawyer “appearing on behalf of the child who has filed a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Courts against the principle of Nawala Ananda College for his refusal to allow her to wear a burqa to school. This amply demonstrates where his allegiances lie.”

Of course, being a domain expert is wrong. It’s a damnable crime. This is analogous to the case of former Provincial Councilor to United National Party (UNP) Maithri Gunarathna, a Buddhist lawyer who appeared on behalf of the victims in a case filed against the Bodu Bala Sena. Clearly they should have switched places.

What do all these journalists have in common? They’re Muslim. And, by and large, they don’t write press releases for the Government, or “Next Door dog distressing US man in Jaffna” or duels between dancers at night clubs, or “Six ships at H’tota for refueling” (slow clap). They also possess the miraculous ability to string a coherent story together without having to separately identify each party involved as either Marxists, neo-marxists, liberals, neo-liberals, Eelamists and Christian fundamentalists. 

Unfortunately, whoever did this remarkable piece of writing has missed (or perhaps chosen to ignore) a rather critical point. The Daily Mirror is one of the biggest fans of the government and the Way Things Are. Aluthgama? Not a yip from them. And Ceylon Today, by all accounts, is about as independent as a Chinese search engine.

Are these people good journalists? Yes, they are. They write well about issues that they care about. They’re also not alone on these topics, and nor are their colleagues and supporters Muslim: they’re simply sane. Almost every decent Sri Lankan on Facebook cheered when Zuckerberg and company cleaned up the spew of racist hate filling our profiles and pages. Everyone wants the BBS gone.

Have the newspapers done a good job? No, not really. A dust-up between Islamic extremists on a group of Sufi Muslims in Saindamaruthu in Kalmunai did indeed go almost unreported. Minister Rauff “I-quit-or-maybe-not” Hakeem has still not faced the Eye of Sauron that Ranil Wickramasinghe and the UNP were forced to face not too long ago.  Nobody’s talking about the rapidly spreading, insular communalism that’s slowly breaking this so-called multi-cultural country apart.

Why? Because when there’s a whole bunch of saffron-robed people yelling blue murder and anarchy at the top of their lungs, it’s hard to look away. When you’re being assaulted at Aluthgama and your colleague is taken hostage (as one journalist from the Sunday Leader recently was), it’s hard to stop pointing out a thorn tree for what it is and start call it a beautiful flower flowering in our beautiful island national.  It’s very, very hard to give a rat’s rear end about a man in Jaffna disturbed by his neighbor’s dog when there’s actual stuff to be written about.

But let’s skip to the end of the email, where this appears: “However, these journalists are the exception to this rule. Not only are they hiding uncomfortable truths and uttering lies, they even go to the length of taking upon the role of Kangaroo Court judges, passing judgment on Sinhala people, Buddhists and the organizations that represent the Sinhalese and Buddhists and their leaders. The methodology adopted by these people is to let only the things they desire of to go to the people, repeat it often so that it becomes a truth(reinforcement through repetition is the notorious propaganda method employed by Nazi Media minister Joseph Gobbels very successfully…”

What a brilliant, beautiful explanation of both the government’s and the BBS’s media strategy! Kangaroo courts (except run by a select group of imposter-monks rather than journalists): reinforcement through repetition. Notice how the writer condemns without providing example. Indeed, what organizations do represent the Sinhalsese and Buddhists and their leaders? Surely not the BBS, whose policies are closer to the Spanish Inquisition or the early Christian Crusades than they are to actual Buddhism. Surely not they who heap hate speech  when the very Constitution of Sri Lanka actually forbid it and espouses true freedom of religion.

If any of these six (or other journalists) are reading this, let me share something the great Aristotle once said:

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

You’ll be criticized as long as you say and do. Whatever you do. You know this already. It’s still better than being nothing. At least you, unlike the author of said email, have the truth on your side and courage of your convictions.

Note: names have been expunged upon request from those named.