The belief that the use of fear or terror is justifiable tools to achieve political, religious and social change and the use of violence by individuals, groups or communities to achieve these ends are considered violent extremism or terrorism.
During an earlier era, a home-grown terrorist leader which fought a three-decade-long war in this country was wont to say that the use of terrorism to take forward the aims of the movement should not be shunned as the world would forget the atrocity within weeks.
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has shown, he is of a different calibre, not willing to let the extremist Easter Sunday massacre of 21 April 2019 fade from memory. He is demanding justice for his flock and the country which was burned by the attack.
We are living in a world of uncertain times, a world that has witnessed waves of violent extremism that have taken the lives of many innocent people. Whether based on religious, ethnic or political grounds, extremist ideologies glorify the supremacy of a particular group and oppose a more tolerant and inclusive society.
The 2019 Easter Sunday attacks of Christians at prayers in churches in Sri Lanka was an example of a new pattern of global intimidation.
Targeting Christian Churches on their holiest day of the year was not only an attempt to kill as many families as possible but also to maximise the shock and demoralising effect of the attack.
It is the latest form of violent extremism spreading across national borders, but not the typical form or pattern of attack, because it was an assault by a minority on a larger population, whereas normally persecution is carried out by a majority against a minority.
However, extremism is not limited to religious sects. As mentioned earlier, for around 33 years we Sri Lankans struggled with the problem of ethnic strife which led to the loss of life of more than 50,000 persons. It also exacerbated ethnic tensions which continue even today.
Some of the worst forms of political extremism were witnessed during World War II when Hitler attempted to physically eliminate the Jewish race. It is reported around six million Jews died in the holocaust.
Unfortunately in Israel today, we are witnessing a reverse form of extremism or genocide -the Jews are carrying out a creeping elimination of the Palestinians whose lands they now illegally occupy.
Between 1948 and 2014 saw at least Palestinian 63,543 casualties including 31,227 fatalities and resulting in hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes. The refugees were never allowed to return to the homes or communities from which they were displaced.
Today there are more than seven million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world. UN statistics show around five million Palestinian refugees are eligible for UNRW services.
In Cambodia, we saw political extremism at its worst. In India Christians and Muslims are targetted by the regime. In China, Uighurs are being rounded up and herded into what is being euphemistically referred to as ‘re-education camps.
In the US, people of colour are increasingly coming under attack from white extremists leaving behind a trail of fatalities. During colonial times the British, French, Italians, Dutch and Portuguese, under cover of expanding the Christian faith, raped and pillaged the lands of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
These are all different forms of extremism.
Sadly the official Church became part of the enslavement of people as well as in the destruction of places of religious worship and pillage of communities and all of these acts, including massacres were forms of extremism.
It was the violence of this extremism that drove thousands of people from the colonies especially from the Middle Eastern countries to France where they continue in ghettos.
It is in these areas modern-day extremism has
Extremism has been part and parcel of all nations, religions and ethnicities. None can claim to be better than the other. Today Islam is the scapegoat of modern-day extremism.
But violence-terrorist or otherwise- cannot be excused for crimes of the past. The theory of an ‘eye for an eye’ will only leave man/womankind blind.
The present-day extremism in Pakistan demanding the expulsion of the French Ambassador for legislation passed in France is one more example of these misguided beliefs.