Sri Lankan Suicide Bombings, and the "Problem We Can't Talk About"

Photo Credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo Credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Editor’s note: Previously, the title of this article read “Sri Lankan Suicide Bombings, ant the Problem We Can’t Talk About™” The trademark was meant as a satirical statement towards the fact that big moneyed interests and the current parties in power seem ambivalent to discussing this issue, and would rather shut down said discussion. No actual trademark exists, and the title has been changed for the sake of clarity.

I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

As an atheist, I really could not care less about organized religion. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Sihkism, all of these and more, to me, are just creeds of ethics and morality attached to fables to make their lessons more relevant to the human experience. However, there is something to be said about the practitioners of these faiths. While I see no fit reason to hold myself beholden to the faith that others do, I also see no reason to impose any demand that the faithful believe as I do, barring the one exemption that those who are disagreeable to disbelievers of their preferred cult allow those they disagree with to practice their own faith without harm or perjure.

To make brief that mouthful of conjecture, I care about state secularism, and a combined social agreement to abide by that secularism by all groups within the state.

Of course, at the close of this most sacred holiday in the Christian religion, then, I must turn my eyes to Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist nation, where sadly, 207 people were killed, with another 450 injured just yesterday. These people, the majority of whom were Christians celebrating Easter mass, or else simply innocent civilians at hotels, were targeted by radical Islamic group National Thowheeth Jama’ath, according to the New York Times.

Of the victims, 35 were foreign visitors; several American, some British, some Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese as well.

I could say in as many words that my heart goes out to the families, but to do so would be pointless; I cannot possibly imagine the suffering that they are going through, and I think it would be shameful to pretend or to offer sympathies to those I do not know, whose pain I do not share. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that they have been wronged, that the Sri Lankan people have been wronged, by a small minority of people within a small religious minority upon the island.

Islam makes up less than 10% of the population of Sri Lanka, at least according to Wikipedia and their citations on demographics. Christianity, likewise makes up less than 8%, with Buddhism being the majority religion of the region, coming in at a whopping 70% of the local population. While the Sri Lankan government holds Buddhism in high esteem, and grants it special notice, it is also not officially recognized as the state religion.

Now of course, Sri Lankans are no strangers to conflict. The civil war between the ethnic Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority populations have only been at rest some ten years, but this is a beast of a different nature for them, though one the rest of us are all too familiar with.. Once again, we find ourselves dealing with what can only be described as an unprovoked terrorist attack by a group of dissident Islamists.

I cannot pretend that the same has not been done to Muslims elsewhere, as recent history in New Zealand is still a fresh wound, but this tit for tat escalation seems destined to boil over into all out ideological warfare at some point. We have seen an average of no less than five Islamic terror attacks a day, every single day, around the world since September 11th, 2001. 6431 days have passed since that fateful incident, and over 34,800 attacks have been documented and cited since that time.

While I do not pretend that there isn’t some level of justified Islamic anger at the West, especially after all of the political meddling in the Middle East, with the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by attacks so far, surely any slight upon Islam has been repaid in full with blood by now?

I wish only for peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding with everyone around the world, and to share the benefits that we all clearly can find in modern advancements and free markets. However, that goal seems difficult, nay, nigh on impossible to achieve that when there is one ideology that has sprouted several dissident children, most of whom seem to me, to be dedicated to fundamentalist warmongering, the likes of which most other religions put aside at the end of the 17th century.

It is sadly, functionally impossible to broker a peace with someone whose entire worldview boils down to “Victory or death”. Meanwhile, most politicians kick dirt and pretend this problem isn’t really a problem, for fear of being too offensive.

Therefore, as an activist, as someone who has a vested interest in promoting secular welfare for all, and as someone who cares deeply about all faiths being allowed to practice as they choose, I must ask, where are the calls for Islamic reform? Where are the demands that those who continue to wage war against the innocent change their ways? Not from other Muslims, of whom I’m sure the moderates have said plenty, but from the average person, from politicians, from the world at large?

Why is the most vocal Imam against radical Islam, Australia’s Imam Tawhidi, seen as some sort of controversial, politically incorrect figure, when the only thing he has ever asked for is that radicals reform their thinking?

The world faces a global crisis of faith, an ideological conflict that has sprung up between Radical Islam, and the rest of the world (to say nothing of the splits between radical Islamists and other radical Islamists). We need to demand cultural and religious reform, or else this conflict will only escalate, and more innocents will suffer as a result. The escalation has already started, and the unwillingness of some to address it, as well as the smearing of others who do, only ensures that the camps on either side of the debate dig in their heels and become more radicalized as a result.

If we cannot be honest about this problem, if we cannot try to change things without being silenced, then the pot will continue to boil ever hotter, and no matter how tightly you screw on the lid and stick your fingers in your ears pretending not to hear the sound of it, eventually it WILL explode.