The Way It Is

We can’t sing certain songs
that speak of our glorious past or our
identity. We are shamed. Tunes
hummed softly to walls that sometimes listen but
don’t record words barely coherent they
brush cheeks against hard surfaces
and sigh to winds passing outside. We
can’t be proud of our
history, the long winding road
of deeds that made us who we
are, those many, many years of development,
innovation, education,
love for humanity and the land we
live in, the great strides we
took into the future that brought us
here where we are, right now. We
are ridiculed, made to feel stupid, those years
slowly erased from memory one word at a time,
dissected, analyzed and thrown away as
not being worth a cent. Our
history. My history that sleeps crammed tight
inside cupboards, imprisoned behind glass
walls in a white man’s home, forgotten, yearning to
return but held back by words agreed with
forced signatures while mothers watched
their infants balanced on swords. We
aren’t allowed to practice our beliefs, our
religion of non-violence. We
are looked down as being inferior practicing an
ancient wisdom they claim has no place
in this new world order rolling in. Everything is being
re-written to suit the white man
somewhere. We
are forced to accept the white man’s ways
and beliefs, his lifestyle, his food filled with things
that harm our bodies. We
are persuaded to sell our values, our businesses,
infrastructure, money making properties that are
made to look as disasters, failures in our
incapable hands, handed over to foreigners with
no idea of their true worth, to appease
buffoons in political power. We watch helpless as our
lands, those many tufts of earth that make up
this place we call home, nurtured with the blood of
warriors that died to save it for a future,
are torn up, lines drawn for
ownership claimed from foreign shores.
Slowly, slowly we
change, turn once again to become slaves to
whiteness this time not controlled with
guns held against us
but through agreements signed in cold climes
behind hushed doors. We
are compelled to obey the rules
follow the oil man’s religion. Shroud our
women in darkness. Our
words are twisted like vines, tied up,
strangled. Simple meanings deconstructed, what we
meant is portrayed as something negative, ugly,
best left unsaid thrown into the gutter. We
become nothing. Beaten up our
backs curved in surrender aged beyond our
years. Coerced
into submission to the white master
oil master coming in different clothes, speaking
through different tongues sliced in two, sugar
coated to please
controlling through regional bullies,
political prophets and
religious puppets, money exercising utmost
authority while debauchery reigns,
reigns, reigns and thugs party with not a care in
the world and the police cheer and the public
cry foul and no one listens for ears
hide inside potholes and words roll in the dirt
desperately waiting for the rains.

© 2016 Shirani Rajapakse


Islam on the Rampage

It doesn’t take much to annoy a Muslim. Draw a cartoon figure and call it Mohammad and you’ll have the Muslim world up in arms, destroying property and killing a few hundred innocent people who have nothing to do with the cartoon.

Nearly seven years ago Muslims ran amok protesting vehemently when Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in Jyllands-Posten. Over 250 were left dead and approximately 800 injured as a result of Muslim extremism.(Huff Post)

Muslims went berserk worldwide recently when Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the California based film maker made a movie on the life of the Prophet Mohammad. This time too it was innocent people that got killed as Muslims the world over took to the streets and forced non Muslims to take note of the insult to Muslims.

Those same Muslims went on the rampage killing Buddhist monks in Bangladesh just a few days ago. Why? Because someone, no one is quite sure who it was, allegedly posted a photograph of the Prophet Mohammad on Facebook. Did they wait to verify the authenticity of the person before they turned violent? No. They didn’t merely target the person who is alleged to have posted the photograph. They targeted the entire community. It was as if the Muslims were waiting for the opportunity to destroy the Buddhists community and that one photograph gave them the much needed excuse to go ahead and kill in the name of Islam. Not so long ago, a young Christian girl was arrested in Pakistan for allegedly burning pages from the Koran.

Muslims are quick to shout out against the slightest insult they feel that is directed at Islam but they don’t seem to care about insulting other religions or hurting and destroying the life of non –Muslims. When the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Kandahar, Afghanistan, non-Muslims didn’t go on the rampage killing and destroying property of Muslims or dragging out the ambassadors of Islamic nations and killing them. The Bamiyan Buddhas were ancient statues depicting the form of the Buddha. Not only were they of value to Buddhists but they were also of historical and cultural value to the world.

Religions are supposed to, and claim to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and view. Yet this doesn’t appear to be so in practice, or at least it doesn’t seem to hold true in Islam where it seems it’s alright to destroy and kill people of another religion.

Innocent Buddhist monks were killed, their temples burned to the ground and the homes of hundreds of Buddhist followers were destroyed in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. A photograph posted on Facebook a few days later, of a monk sifting through the charred remains of what once must have been a temple in search of books that were saved from the fire brought back startling memories. It reminded me of another incident way back when in history. Nalanda University, in north India was one of the world’s oldest centers of learning and was once a thriving center of study. But it was razed to the ground by Islamic fundamentalists that didn’t appear to tolerate other religious views. It was said that the University burnt for days. Everything was destroyed, books, journals, and many students perished too. It was said that scholars came from far and wide to study there. Not anymore.

What Islamic fundamentalists burnt down that day in history was knowledge and the freedom of expression and discourse; the people they denied were the scholars and intellectuals, the cream of any society; they also denied future generations gaining from Nalanda’s vast storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. It was not only a gross injustice to freedom of expression but also a violation of the very basic rights of all peoples – the right to knowledge, education, freedom of expression and importantly the right to life and liberty.

Sadly it’s still the same.  Nothing seems to have changed. Except that the temples and houses they burnt recently in Bangladesh was no Nalanda, yet it represented a place of learning, of discourse among people living in that area. These were also their homes that gave them shelter. Now these innocent people are forced onto the streets.

How can a religion claim to be tolerant or peaceful when it burns down and destroys places of religious value? How can it be called peaceful when it destroys life? Islam does all this and still expects the world to feel sympathetic towards them when someone insults Islam. Isn’t this hypocrisy? Or is that allowed?

The Pakistani ambassador recently condemned the anti-Islam video made by Nakoula that defamed the Prophet. Speaking at the UN on behalf of the 56 Islamic states that make up the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) he spoke of the urgent need to protect against “acts of hate crimes, hate speech… and incitement to religious hatred.” His speech is clearly directed at what he believes to be insults towards Islam and not to other religious or peoples.

“Incidents like this clearly demonstrate the urgent need on the part of states to introduce adequate protection against acts of hate crimes, hate speech, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation and negative stereotyping of religions, and incitement to religious hatred, as well as denigration of venerated personalities,” Pakistan’s ambassador Zamir Akram said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Reuters)

The OIC hopes to introduce laws to make insults against religions an international crime. It has backed a resolution submitted by African states and calls on all countries to introduce a provision in domestic criminal law to prosecute those responsible for racism or xenophobia.  While the text deplores “the targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons” one wonders if this will be applied to crimes such as those that took place in Bangladesh recently, or even in Pakistan or any other country. Will this piece of legislation, if adopted by countries be applicable for all citizens living in those countries, including Muslims, or will it only target non –Muslims? If found to be guilty of inciting religious hatred or acts violence against believers of other religions or faiths, would Muslims agree to abide by the decision of local courts or would they try to get away from punishment by hiding behind Shariah? Only time will tell and hypocrisy rules.