It hasn’t even been a week since we published Ammar Anwer ’s commentary on the instrumentalization of terrorist attacks for political purposes and we are now again observing this phenomenon in the case of Sri Lanka’s bombings.
Anwer wrote about the differences in Muslim reactions to various terrorist acts. He compared uneven patterns and bias in response to attacks where the perpetrators are Muslims (including acts of terror with Muslim casualties), to the attacks that can be described as committed by the West. One can observe today a similar biased approach by the media and politicians to the assault on Sri Lanka’s Christians.
Some commentators point out the media’s much less aggressive reaction to the attacks in Sri Lanka when compared to their reporting in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand. It is hard to substantiate it quantitatively, but if Polsat News (one of Polish news agencies) prioritizes news from Prudnik (local events) over reporting of the major tragedy in Sri Lanka, it is disturbing and worrisome. With nearly 300 Christians dead, one wouldn’t find this time any politicians putting on crosses around their necks just as the Prime Minister of New Zealand who decided to put on a headscarf in solidarity with Muslims. There is also no sign of the UN calling for the fight against Islamic terrorism, although, after Christchurch, it recognized the far-right terrorism as its “top priority”. I would like to believe that these reactions will happen later.
We won’t see our heads of states calling, as part of their election campaign to the EU parliament, for the fight against Islam and threatening followers of Allah with another Muslim retreat like the one from Vienna. It is a good sign, however, that our leaders do not conduct such disgusting political campaigns as the president of Turkey.
Instead, we have politicians who don’t dare uttering the word “Christians” in relation to the victims of an Islamic terror attack. Both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton expressed their solidarity with Easter Worshippers in the face of Sri Lanka’s attacks. Easter Worshippers (sic)!
Someone may ask what the fuss is about since everyone knows that the phrase meant Christians. If that’s the case, then why wouldn’t the same people call Muslims for instance “participants of Friday prayers” after the events in New Zealand?
While the identification and the religious association of the victims couldn’t be avoided, the identity of the perpetrators was initially unknown. One would hope that what Breivik’s attack in Norway taught everyone was that one should not to jump to conclusions too quickly. This basic wisdom somehow escaped Adam Szostkiewicz, the editor from Polityka (one of them main Polish political magazines). On the pages of the publication he swiftly named the culprit – the Buddhists. Among other speculations, only a few hours after the attacks, and in large letters, the weekly wrote: “Buddhism has various faces” and cited as an example the discriminatory actions of Buddhist monks in Burma. “There are many indications that the attacks in Colombo and other towns on the island have similar basis [as the events in Burma]“ – summed up Szostkiewicz. What were those indications? He did not write.
It is true that riots do occur in Sri Lanka with crowds, stirred up by Buddhist nationalists, attacking mosques. It was, however, the editor’s mistake to draw far fetched parallels to Burma where the anti-Muslim hostilities are conducted on a much larger scale and with the support of the security apparatus.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has immediately introduced the state of emergency, announced a curfew and installed censorship blocking most of social media to prevent retaliatory lynching of the members of Muslim minority. What similarities did Szostkiewicz see between the spontaneous retaliatory actions of the mob and the coordinated suicide bomb attacks? Sri Lankan nationalists have so far never participated in such violence. Also, attacks on hotels have never been a customary “modus operandi” among Buddhists. In reality, what was supposed to “point” at Buddhists was only the wishful thinking spin of a “journalisming” journalist.
Finally, the most important: now that we’ve learned so much more about the attacks, one would look in vain for the editor’s apologies to the Buddhist community. Only there is another article in the Polityka magazine by another journalist, Dominik Sipiński, with a prominent quote: “Buddhism, religion of peace?”
We are used to be presented with rather more calming and pacifying responses after any form of violence instead of the immediate inciting against the alleged perpetrators nowadays, like in the case of Polityka’s editor. We would naturally expect words such as “this is just a tiny minority”, “this is a perversion of religion.”
Apparently, such assurances must be made only when it comes to the real “religion of peace.” Buddhism and other religions obviously do not qualify. In the shadow of the most recent bombings in Sri Lanka, Sipiński calmly and shamelessly writes: “Sri Lanka did not reach the stage of the nearby Myanmar, where the Buddhist government and monks run a genocidal campaign against the Rohinga Muslims, yet the direction is the same, though much more subtle.”
Perhaps it is easier to blame the Buddhists knowing that any serious repercussions won’t ensue than to follow the tracks leading to the real perpetrators and thus risk being called “Islamophobic”. For an example of this nonsense look no further than here: the Indian media were accused of Islamophobia by an Al-Jazeera journalist, Saif Khalid, after they reported, following the local news media in Sri Lanka, that Zahran Hashim, a radical Muslim cleric in the organization of National Tawheed Jamaath, was one of the masterminds.
This information was confirmed by the Sri Lankan government. According to their findings, it was the NTJ group with the support of the international terrorist network that carried out the attacks on Christians and hotels. NTJ was known earlier only for random acts of vandalism against Buddhist statues. It is difficult to believe that the group would be able to carry out these attacks on its own. A number of Muslims from Sri Lanka did fight in the ranks of ISIS and it has been known for some time that the organized Islamic extremism has been trying to expand its influence not only in Sri Lanka but, more broadly, in Southeast Asia.
Just in January of this year, Sri Lankan security services discovered explosives on one of its islands belonging to Muslim radicals. The explosives were stored in a remote place used also as a terrorist training camp. There were no lack of signs and traces pointing to the Islamic State as the culprit of the slaughter in Sri Lanka, but for some reason Polityka decided to go after the Buddhists.
One can get the impression that many members of the media and some politicians, especially on the left, literally expect and wish for more religious attacks to occur against Muslims in general. It seems it would make them the happiest, should those attacks come directly from the Buddhists.
There is no point in debating the intentions of Szostkiewicz and his editorial colleague. I will only note that if the Buddhist community were to treat the matters of slander and protect the “good name” of Buddhist religion as seriously and as well organized as Islam does, the articles those gentlemen had written in Polityka would probably mark the end of their carriers in any respectable newspaper.
The Polish original: Muzułmanin się wysadził, powiesili buddystę.