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Tamil Extremists Target Muslims

by Nasir Rifai <
nasir_rifai@yahoo.com> - May 30, 2008

"Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded
as members of the herd." -- Bertrand Russell

The Tamil attack on Muslim civilians that took place in Kattankudy recently is utterly uncalled for and deserves condemnation not only from all Sri Lankans, but the world at large. The densely populated eastern town has been the setting for previous bloody massacres of Muslims by Tamil Hindu extremists and that legacy has been brought back to life in an orgy of violence and terror.

Angered at the death of two of their members who were shot dead in the town, suspected Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TVMP) cadres from Arayampathy stormed the town and shot dead three Muslim civilians. Many others were terrorised, including women and children. Young boys were beaten for being Muslim, and at least one mosque was stoned. Several shops belonging to Muslims were torched and three wheelers and lorries were destroyed. The motive for the attacks seem to have been two-fold; exact revenge for the death of Tamil militants and strike at the economic heart of the community.

Muslims Blamed

The TVMP was quick to lay the blame for the death of their cadres on the Muslims, even though the community has always stayed clear of the internecine war that continues between the LTTE and the Karuna/Pillayan group. The TVMP has many enemies in the region, the foremost being the LTTE. Recent hit and run attacks on the Security Forces in the Ampara District clearly indicate that there is an active LTTE presence in the area.

The latest attack in Kattankudy is just one example of a long history of violence against Muslims that have been spearheaded by Tamil Hindu nationalist groups. Their aim is to strike fear into the Muslim population, subjugate them, and ultimately ethnically cleanse them from the East in similar fashion to what was done in the North. In October 1990, more than 75 000 Muslims were expelled from the North and continue to languish in refugee camps.

The latest attack demonstrates what is in store for the Muslim community in the East with power being centred in the hands of Tamil extremists. What is clear is that whether from the Vanni faction or the TVMP, the Tamil nationalist agenda to control and oppress the Muslim community remains unchanged.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka have steadfastly refused to take part in the violent campaign waged by Tamils to create a separate state, and have long committed themselves to democracy, pluralism and non-violence, placing their trust in the government of Sri Lanka and various Muslim politicial parties to take care of their interests.

Hate Attacks

The hate campaign being directed at the Muslim community by Tamil Hindu extremists needs to be tackled at the highest level of government, as it is the government that has some leeway over the TVMP. Failure to do so will lead to a loss of confidence among the Muslim community, not only in the east, but in other parts of the country as well. The Tamil nationalist campaign to deny a unique identity to Sri Lankan Muslims and subsume them under the label of "Tamil speaking people" continues unabated, and the latest bout of violence points to further moves to marginalise and ride roughshod over the community.

It needs to be made clear to Tamil nationalists in no uncertain terms, that any act of violence or hate against the Muslim community will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Further, the rights of Muslims to live without fear and the threat of terrorism must be respected. The government must ensure that justice is served to all communities in the East, especially to those who are unarmed and have placed their faith in democracy.

Any moves to placate Tamil Hindu extremism at the expense of the welfare of the Muslim community will likely result in an increasingly worried population in the east. That certainly will not be conducive towards peace and harmony which are essential pre-requisites for the development of the Eastern Province after more than 25 years of war.

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