07 October 2022

Enter the ‘God-Police’ amid liberal aiders and abetters


Rosy is out of order. Colombo’s liberals and leftists are out of order. Democracy-advocating NGO personalities are out of order. Funded Voices, Rent-a-Protest Agitators, Born Again Nazis, Candlelight Ladies, Colombots, Stink Tanks and other Kolombians are out of order. And that’s good, for they reveal themselves when they shout and when they are silent. 

In some corner of the world, atop a mountain, in a cave, by a stream, in a coffee shop or a corporate office, there could be someone who is a saint. Right next to such a person there could be someone else who may have acquired marga-pala — sovan, sakrudhagami, anagami or arahat. The vast majority of people in this world, regardless of what religious or philosophical doctrine they identify themselves with, it is safe to say, are not even close to achieving those lofty states of being.  This side of Enlightenment (of any kind) we find faith and the faithful. Believers rather than, say, the enlightened.

In a world made of multiple and utterly tragic deprivation, insults and humiliation, the community of the faithful, one can conclude, is a considerable majority. They are marked by helplessness and dispossession of one kind or another. For relief if not succour, religion offers salve. Extremist adherents who are marked by intolerance and have a fundamentalist bent there are. They instigate, engage in and revel in blood-letting. Even if we counted them out, we still have a vast majority who are all citizens, let’s say, in a country called ‘Faith’. At some level, they and their faith are benign. At some level, they are innocent.

This is why it is harsh to mock faith and the faithful, regardless of church and denomination. And yet, it is typical for people to take wide swipes at entire populations belonging to a particular faith when taking on the unpalatable who claim to subscribe to the same tenets.

This, however, is not an essay on inter-faith tolerance. It is about strange (and telling!) silence on body blows to the notion of 'Freedom of Expression.’ The nimiththa just happens to be religious. The parenthetical introduction above, therefore, should be taken as a qualification — no ill is intended to those of any faith, the particular faiths or, as in this case, the purported anti-theses and their adherents, for they too are ‘faithful,’ they too are ‘believers’ and they too have ‘churches’ of one kind or another.

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), upon the advice of Mayor Rosy Senanayake, had objected to a music festival on the basis that its title included the word ‘hellfire,’ which the Mayor believes is disrespectful of certain religions. Apparently she has instructed Municipal Commissioner Badrani Jayawardena that the organisers should change the name of the show and that ‘it  should be held without disrespecting any religion or any form of worship that is accepted and practiced in Sri Lanka.’ The CMC has given the green light to the festival if ‘hellfire’ is changed to ‘fire.’

A record of a phone conversation between Senanayake and the festival organiser, Thorz’ has since gone viral on social media. She insists, ‘I will not allow you to venerate Satanic music for Stan in my city.’ Thorz insists it is not about Satan. Well, for argument’s sake, it should not even be an issue. Indeed it would have been so much more fun had he been a Satan-worshipper and the festival celebrated Satan. He could have thrown the Constitution at Rosy, metaphorically speaking.

For the record, god-worshippers of all faith have, in the name of the particular god, sacked cities, bloodied the earth, raped women and shackled children into slavery across time and space. God-worshippers cannot, as such, claim any moral high ground. Satan-worshippers, if such there are, can simply point out the hilarity. Atheists too.

Article 10 of the Constitution says, ‘every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his/her choice. No mention here of ‘religions or forms of worship that are accepted and practiced in Sri Lanka. We don't have such a list. It applies to any faith. In other words, faiths/beliefs that contradict each other have parity of status as per the constitution. In other words, it’s ok to worship god and it’s also fine to worship satan. No hierarchy of belief systems, although the Mayor seems to think so.

Rosy Senanayake is the Mayor of Colombo. She’s not the Bishop of Colombo and Sri Lanka is not a Christian State.  She’s not the IGP of a non-existent God Policy, but she’s certainly behaving as though she is. ‘We should be venerating God if at all to save this country.’ I won’t go into ‘god’ here because of the sensitivities mentioned at the beginning. However, is ‘hell’ is to be axed, considering the call for all kinds of genocide in religious texts (Rosy would know, perhaps) certain religious books need to be outlawed too.

Let’s go to the Constitution for help here. Article 14 (1), in particular lays it all out: ‘Every citizen is entitled to: (a) The freedom of speech and expression including publication; (b) the freedom of peaceful assembly; (c) the freedom of association.’
Have the organisers violated Article 10 or Article 14(1)? No they haven’t. Rosy has. Now Article 9 says 'The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(l)(e).’ Essentially Articles 10 and 14 negate the ‘foremost’ clause of Article 9, but these two Articles are essentially buttressed by Article 9. Thorz and his pals have not violated any of this. Rosy is out of order. Absolutely.

What is most interesting here is the silence of those who champion Articles 10 and 14; those who wax eloquent about democracy, freedom of expression and such. They, who vent and froth if any self-appointed representative of the Buddhist community object to anything considered hurtful to the sentiments of Buddhist, quoting these articles of the Constitution, are not upset by Rosy’s moral policing. Why not?

Why are the Sri Lankan liberals, leftists and self-appointed guardians of democracy and related freedoms who people so many Colombo-based NGOs and ‘think tanks’ silent? Where are the Funded Voices, the Rent-a-Protest Agitators, the Born Again Nazis, the Candlelight Ladies, Colombots, Stink Tanks and other Kolombians? Are they endorsing Rosy here? If so, aren’t they abdicating the right to object to anyone who they would believe are not affirming Articles 10 and 14?  Why aren’t they saying now, ‘keep religion and state separate!’? What does this selectivity indicate? They who are conspicuously silent about the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act are also navel-gazing over Rosy giving the finger to freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief (if we are to believe her assertion that the said festival was a celebration of Satan).

Rosy is out of order. Colombo’s liberals and leftists are out of order. Democracy-advocating NGO personalities are out of order. Kolombians are out of order. And that’s good, for they reveal themselves when they shout and when they are silent.