Towards a future free from the fears of Islamism – II – The Island

By Rohana R. Wasala

The web portal reported on Tuesday December 21, 2021: “Riyadh is hosting 4-day EDM carnival”. Commenting on the extravagance of electronic dance music, unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, the presenter said: “The de facto leader of the Islamic world, the guardian of the two holiest sites in Islam, Saudi Arabia, has done the unexpected this weekend. It’s through a giant rave party, a four-day electronic music festival embellished with psychedelic lights and international DJs… ”. With video footage of the densely packed dancing men and women from the exhilarating event held two or three days ago flashing across the background screen, the presenter continued, “… the footage you see is from ‘Saudi Arabia (where) a giant party was held in the deserts of Riyadh with the blessings and money of the Saudi royal family, the House of Saud. They fully endorsed and sponsored this carnival. It brought together artists from the whole world. Tiesto, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Afrojack… you name them, the greatest DJs in the world, have performed at rave. Their enthusiasm was evident in their statements. “One of the DJs was heard say: “It was the first time that there would be women and men who could dance together, and there was also a very historic moment, and I’m happy to be a part of it …. Of course, there is more. things to do to improve the country, but I think they are opening up, you nt really in the right direction, giving more rights to women, like four years ago women couldn’t drive…. they can come and dance…. It’s a huge development… ”.

That’s what one of the DJs on the massive music show said about its underlying meaning for a changed socio-cultural future for the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, with a previous reputation as an exporter of Islamic fundamentalism. The presenter then insisted that the exuberant Western-style music festival in traditionally conservative Saudi Arabia indeed symbolized a “huge evolution”. She continued:

(QUOTE) “Saudi men and women dance with abandon, swaying to the beat of Western music, no gender segregation, no long dresses, no veils, no religious restrictions for that matter…. All of this was unthinkable in Saudi Arabia just a few years ago. Now it’s happening… By the way, this rave party follows closely on the… Red Sea International Film Festival, the first of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia. It was a celebrity affair with women walking the red carpet in sleeveless dresses, a director winning the best director award and an openly gay man winning the best actor award… What do you think of these changes? The sands are moving in Saudi Arabia, it is obvious. The socially conservative kingdom is trying to shake up its regressive image. It limits the primacy of religion in public life and positions itself as a modern liberal kingdom favorable to tourism. And that, we say, is a welcome change. Although critics of Saudi Arabia say it is a facade (and) insist that Saudi society is not making any significant and fundamental change …, since Mohamed bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince of Arabia Arabia, it has embarked on a liberalization campaign, with relaxed gender segregation standards, it has reopened cinemas, allowed women to drive, to go to stadiums, to do haj without a male guardian… D In a way, MBS deflated the country’s religious police who, not so long ago, dictated every facet of day-to-day life. And these are all remarkable reforms, they deserve applause…. But, I must also say that these are only half measures, and very late. Some very problematic issues persist in Saudi society. Saudi Arabia continues to arrest dissidents, … to extend the prison terms of activists. He continues to hold the wealthy over allegations of corruption, tinkering with power structures, arbitrary reshuffling that the Crown Prince believes are potential challengers. Political reform remains taboo… ”(END OF QUOTE)

The above is based on a news item from an independent online news source representing the international free media. News comments are those of the presenter, that we, listeners and viewers, may or may not agree with, or that we can just stay neutral on. But the news is true, as is what it says about the Saudi Crown Prince’s commitment to a “liberalization campaign” and his determination to rid his country of its “regressive” image. What this indicates is that the tide is turning against violent Islamic extremism. It’s the same in other countries as well. Isn’t this good news for people around the world who are confronted with violent forms of Islamism? Because in this global anti-extremist context, we don’t need to harbor exaggerated fears about the threat or resort to measures that could breathe new life into it, instead of letting it die a natural death.

The courageous initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is an extremely laudable example in a world where, despite growing awareness, especially among educated young people, of the dangerous folly of excessive religiosity and the growing rejection of its Supporters and political sympathizers by the civilized world, the backward ruling classes seem to believe that they are bound to tolerate or even appease the few extremists in order to win the hearts and minds of the ordinary faithful. The Saudi leader’s reformist gestures are good news for non-Muslim majority countries, including Sri Lanka, where a few opportunistic Muslim politicians maintain secret relations with extremists while claiming they have nothing to do with them.

Many people rightly suspected during the time of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings (i.e. before and after the unspeakable horror) that a handful of opportunistic Sri Lankan Muslim politicians with a state community spirit maintained treacherous ties to suicide extremists for personal political gain. It is now well known that these false champions of Muslims attempt to create the illusion of a non-existent Buddhist-Muslim conflict or discord in the country through false propaganda, which is part of their ploy to position themselves among foreign donors inspired to genuinely help fellow Sri Lankan believers who, they have been mistakenly persuaded to believe, are persecuted by the Sinhala Buddhist majority. All of our political, civil and religious leaders must unite to convince the leaders of friendly Islamic nations not to be misled by these deceitful and selfish Muslim politicians who, in the end, not only betray the interests of Sri Lankan Muslims. Lankans they claim to represent, but those from across the nation.

I covered this subject in ‘MWL should separate the wheat from the chaff’ /Island / May 4, 2021), where I wrote: “What should worry the government more is the fact that in arranging to identify themselves as constituting the entire Muslim community in the country, the handful of Islamist extremists who are widely believed to have provided tacit or explicit support to suicide bombers, it is also to impose themselves on its powerful patronage (of the MWL). By “the wheat” in the title, I meant the traditional Sri Lankan Muslim minority which has coexisted peacefully with the majority of Sinhala Buddhists and other minority communities over the centuries; By “the straw” I meant opportunistic Muslim politicians who secretly associate with extremists while posing as champions of the generality of peaceful Muslims. These deceptive Muslim politicians manage to enjoy the best of both worlds by making astute changes in their loyalty at the right time to join the incoming administration, regardless of which big party leadership it forms. The leaders of the two major parties do not hesitate to make deals with these communitarian Muslim politicians at critical times.

It reminded me of certain statements by businessman turned politician Shiraz Yunus, who criticized the government of which he is a partner. He attacked the government while claiming to be Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s national coordinator for Muslim affairs. The Prime Minister’s media division has since denied that Yunus holds any government position and expresses his personal views.

This is indicated by a statement in Sinhala from the Prime Minister’s media division posted on the online news portal. lankacnews December 4, 2021 (one day after the Sialkot incident); it was signed by Rohan Weliwita, the Prime Minister’s media secretary. The statement was carried under a title which translates into English as “Mr. Shiraz Yunus has not been appointed to any post in the Prime Minister’s office”:

QUOTE

I wish to announce that Mr. Shiraz Yunus does not work as the coordinating secretary of the Prime Minister; such a post was not granted by the Prime Minister’s Office.

This is to state that the Prime Minister’s office has no connection with the statements by Mr. Shiraz Yunus claiming that he is the Prime Minister’s coordinating secretary.

During this time, he was not given any post of any kind in the Prime Minister’s office.

I also want to make it clear that his statements are very personal and that neither the Prime Minister nor the Prime Minister’s Office endorse these ideas.

END OF QUOTE

Why shouldn’t we ask the Prime Minister’s media unit to tell the Marines? It is little more than a simple play on words. In the following YouTube interview posted over five weeks ago, Shiraz Yunus never called himself the coordinating secretary; he claimed to be the Prime Minister’s “National Coordinator for Muslim Affairs”. This interview took place over a month before Priyantha Kumara was lynched by an Islamist mob. By denying after more than a month what Yunus never claimed (he never said that he was / was acting as the Prime Minister’s “coordinating secretary” for Muslim affairs), the unit of Prime Minister’s media seems to be trying to eat the cake and have it too. Did it take a heinous crime, like beating a helpless man to death and desecrating his corpse by burning it on a main road in Pakistan on December 3, 2021, by a mob of lynchings for alleged blasphemy against the Prime Minister (who is also the minister of Buddha Sasana) to finally disassociate himself from Yunus’ baseless attacks on the loyalist Gotabaya faction in the government? Critics of Yunus include the false accusation of anti-Muslim discrimination as it would be exemplified by the forced burning of the dead from Covid-19, ignoring the religious sensitivities of Muslims. Government and opposition leaders have an inescapable responsibility to ensure the protection of the non-Muslim majority of the population and moderate Muslims from the excesses of Islamist extremists. Politicians, please don’t sacrifice these innocent people on the altar of political correctness to please the opportunistic ruling elite of the Muslim community.

About Andrew Estofan

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