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Requiem for a Jihad

2 years ago

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The entire nation of Sri Lanka grieved a threnody of a mournful bloody Easter Sunday dirge, when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)/Islamic State (IS), a trans-global group made up of fanatical merchants of death and terror mongers, on 21 April 2019 sold their freakish and violent merchandise of extremism replete with violent carnage, tragic mayhem, total lawlessness, and resultant bedlam to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), those local followers of the IS, salivating in the decrepitude of religious thralldom buoyed by the dreams of martyrs frolicking in the heavenly bordello with virgo intacta maidens, as the country erupted in a maelstrom of cataclysmic hate, leaving human casualties in the triple-digit range (including law enforcement officers), a similar number injured, a substantial number apprehended, a blundering “blood on their hands and what is left of their conscience” Executive and Government scampering hither and thither to cover their State of nudity, a largely missing in immediate action “too little, too late” Executive President, the sound and fury of the braying Opposition, and the smithereens of a fragile economy (tourism and hospitality businesses) strewn amidst the wreckage of charred places of worship (churches), with the smouldering cinders of broken faith, in its wake. At long last, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Easter Sunday bombings of 21 April 2019 has submitted its door stopper of a report to the President. The five-member Commission chaired by a sitting Supreme Court Judge and comprising a retired Court of Appeal Judge, retired High Court Judges, and former Ministry Secretary was appointed by then President and incumbent parliamentarian Maithripala Sirisena in September of that ill fated year, during the course of its proceedings, heard testimony from over 400 witnesses, some farcical, and others damning. Now that it has been handed over to the President, the usual rigmarole of placing the report before the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government, and then to the Parliament and its usual impassioned yet vacuous debates, prosecutions by the Attorney General and recommendations relegated to proud words on dusty shelves, will ensue. Heads may roll in the case of certain seat-warmers in the defence establishment, intelligence community, and security apparatus, and the emperor may get new clothes, yet complicity continues at the highest levels of power and governance including in the Executive, administrative, and legislative branches, whose clannish and abominable “protect our hides and to hell with the people” policy has not only cost innocent lives, but has also precipitated a public relations fiasco of international magnitude.  Thus, if justice is to prevail in Sri Lanka, the pith and substance of Sections 112, 199, and 289 of the Penal Code ought to be invoked against the then Executive and former Government, namely the Mendacious Seven: President and Minister in charge of the portfolios/subjects of Defence and Law and Order Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene, Ministers Mano Ganesan and Harin Fernando, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, and the perfidious “lying through the teeth” parliamentarians of the eighth Parliament. That their acts, primarily of omission and absconding on their duty of care, and thereby endangering both lives and property, come well within the ambit of criminal negligence or gross negligence is an understatement, and belies the despicable nature of their culpability. Section 112 concerns public servants who voluntarily or intentionally conceal or illegally omits to notify of any information on and knowledge of the existence of a design to commit an offence which they became privy to and is their duty to prevent if they know that it is likely that the commission of an offence will be facilitated by such (the  illustration under this Section specifically mentions police officers), while Section 199 deals with the intentional omission on their part to give information of an offence by a person (whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed) legally duty-bound to inform and notify of such and Section 289 is regarding the willful neglect or omission to perform a statutory duty. As tensions about Islamic extremism intensified following the Easter Sunday terror attacks, the Government pledged to take stern actions to thwart acts of religious extremism including the radicalisation of the Muslim community. The steps that followed involved monitoring and raiding unauthorised madrasas (Islamic teaching colleges and schools) and mosques, and regulating the education given at the madrasas, as the impression that radicalisation began at Islamic educational institutes was widespread. In January 2020, Defence Secretary Gen (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne said that a programme to de-radicalise the youth involved in the Easter Sunday attacks would be put in place. The Police Department also announced their plans to launch special programmes to curb acts of religious extremism targeting Muslim youth. However, what happened under those specific programmes remains unknown to date. The US Justice Department recently announced that three Sri Lankans had been charged with terrorism offences, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation (ISIS). The trio had, according to the Department, been part of a group of ISIS supporters which called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka”. This development begs the questions as to how far Sri Lanka is from finding all culprits responsible for the Easter Sunday attack, how effective our investigations are, and how far the ruling party’s political will will extend to when it comes to finding the inconvenient truth behind the genesis of the attacks. Or will it go only as far as locking up critics of the incumbent regime, dissenters and dissidents, firebrand activists and harmless netizens.  What are the many lessons to be learned from this tragedy? Without getting into the semantics of what is wrong with Islam, and putting aside the fatuous fallacies and superstitious drivel that are put forward by the apologists of the Quran who state that verses are taken out of context in order to alternately wash their hands off or to justify this utopian disorder, it is an evident fact that it is not the self or ego that has been surrendered before the conception of a monotheistic god, but the very submission of reason, sense, and logic. These ignoramuses who export terror are at present floundering. Their celebrity is founded on the aesthetic of torture porn and the calligraphy of gory ultra-violence, of human rights abuses and violations in the form of beheadings, war crimes, ethnic cleansings, and the wanton destruction of cultural edifices. The ISIL/ISIS is in their death throes. Progress in some of the post-9/11 wars waged against the jihadists may seem slow, albeit due to the complex relationships of nurture that the West and the oil-rich Middle East have maintained with the nature of terror. Yet, campaigns led separately by, for example, the US and Russia, through military, might be working towards relegating these holier-than-thou terrorists to their delusions of moral higher-ground, to their promised lands of bestial vestiges. This latest attack, for which they have gleefully claimed credit for, is a resort to the last refuge of the terrorist – the spreading of chaos. How does one deal with this global affliction? Reason? Certainly not. This is extremity, and such extremity can only be dealt with further extremity. “We will lead the fight, and we will be ruthless,” the French President at the time of the co-ordinated terror attacks in November 2015 promised. It is high time that the United Nations woke up the Arab world, including the Middle East, about these predominantly Sunni Muslim adherents of the accursed Wahhabism, and elsewhere Salafism, admonishing them into waging war against this evil. The question of the migrants, whose suffering is poignantly played out in the media as a spectacle, remains. In an era where the threat to national security is considered as one involving the individual versus the almighty State, expenditure for defence in terms of budgets have come under fire, including even in Sri Lanka. The fact that Sri Lanka is an island has insulated this nation from the problem of migration faced by Europe, and this barrier will not in itself be sufficient. It is clear that policies and institutions to recognise the threat of the spread of extremism and fundamentalism and also radicalisation in their ideological and practical forms are a must. Who is it that is asking to become a citizen of a sovereign? Why? What is the line between burgeoning Islamophobia and pernicious radicalisation? Where has the alienation or exclusivist social distancing of the Muslim society and community from the larger multi-ethnic/religious society occurred? How do we discern between those who migrate for work and studies or to flee persecution and those who are wannabe murderers in the name of the allegedly omnipresent one? What is the guarantee a State can give its citizenry or its body politic that their neighbours will not be the harbingers of their doom? This is a battle against the basest of all affronts – the threat to liberty and for freedoms guaranteed by declarations, charters, bills, and constitutions the world over. When liberty and religious tolerance is at stake, national security must prevail above all else, because it is the very presence of national security that will ensure an environment conducive for the individual to articulate their existence. Some wars are just for reasons of the right to go to war and the maintenance of the right conduct in war. This is one such “pacifism be damned” war. The civilised world should unite to fight it. It is a confession of transgression at the temple of liberty.

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