In ten days’ time we will be celebrating Christmas -- the birth of Jesus the Christ -- a man Christians believe is God made man and whose central message is love, sharing, forgiveness and peace.
But today, we live in a strange world. Supposed Christian leaders promote war, religious leaders preach hatred against particular religious beliefs and differentiate people by the colour of their skin and the areas they live in. They overturn the universal message of love taught by all religions and the peace which all mankind longs for through the promotion and sale of arms and armaments.
Even as this editorial is being written, the United Nations is warning that the war in Yemen is leading to a situation where millions of Yemenis will be faced with the prospect of famine within the next year.
Sri Lanka came out of a terrible war situation just a decade or so ago, unfortunately though a peace of sorts exists, there has been no closure to the causes which led to the war itself; just a military victory by one side over the other.
Today Islamophobia -- the fear of, hatred of or prejudice against the Islamic religion or Muslims generally, especially when seen as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism -- is sweeping the world.
Sadly, even little Sri Lanka has not escaped this phenomenon and even the mainstream media, religious dignitaries and cheap politicians are guilty of adding fuel to fire by spreading malicious and untruthful stories of the Muslim community -- remember the one about Muslims adding additives to food to lower the birth rate of another community or of a Muslim medic forcibly sterilizing females of a particular community?
Both stories were reported in the mainstream media as though the rumors were ‘Gospel Truth’. Perhaps the media was suffering from an evidence-bypass.
But there is, to use cricketing parlance, a flip side to the coin which is equally bad, if not worse. It is the glorification of extremist groups, who happen to be Muslim. Groups, who promote a supremacist, isolationist agenda and kill in the name of a particular God. Yet God himself/herself is universal.
A good example of this was for instance, the attack on the Sri Lankan community while at worship in churches on Easter Sunday last year.
Local Christians and Muslims had historically no bad blood between each other. Yet the suicide bombers, while singing praises to Allah!, blew themselves up killing hundreds of innocent non-Muslim men, women and children.
Sri Lankans were earlier among the most ardent champions of the Palestinian cause. In the aftermath of the suicide bombings, it has become difficult to raise public interest in the cause of the Palestinians.
The religious-based terrorist acts are dividing people on a religious basis and the Muslim community has begun to isolate itself from the rest of the Lankan community.
Worse still, Lankans of other communities have started associating even the Palestinians as belonging to a particular faith, which does not differentiate between friend and foe. A stark contrast to the 1970s and ‘80s when organisations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) used hijackings to raise awareness on the Palestinian cause, but still retained mass world-wide support for its cause. The then cause was justice; whereas today’s fanatical tactics stink of hate and revenge for actions of a bygone era.
All religions preach love for one’s fellowmen and women and this is the time of Christmas. The message of Christ and Islam is love and sharing.
It is time to stop the hate. In the words of EMEL magazine’s (a Muslim lifestyle magazine with an ethical and progressive outlook that has a Muslim focus) Editor Sarah Joseph and quoted in the ‘Guardian’: “Islam is not about demanding this and that. It is about serving your community – and that means everyone, regardless of what their beliefs are.”