One aspect of the electronic, postmodern world is that there has been a reinforcement of the stereotypes by which the Orient is viewed. Television, the films, and all the media’s resources have forced information into more and more standardized molds. So far as the Orient is concerned, standardization and cultural stereotyping have intensified the hold of the nineteenth-century academic and imaginative demonology of “the mysterious Orient.” –Edward Said (Orientalism)
That the media shapes public opinion is an overt secret.
Shakespeare had the perfect example in Antony in his Julius Caesar; the same people who passionately chanted, “Give him a statue with his ancestors” when Brutus spoke, turned against him; the same man whom they declared as the next Caesar, and his friends, almost instantly. It only took Antony; Caesar’s right hand man, to ascend the stage and speak; and speak he did with words that were chosen to pierce their hearts and stir their deepest, darkest and deadliest emotions; the mission then was complete; the mob had been created, and so Antony said.
“Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt.”
Times have changed. The method seems ancient. Antony is no more, yet his apparition roams in what we now today call, the media.
Thus, public opinion can be molded, standardized and tamed to suit the interests and agendas of an elite few; when opinions are tamed thus, they can be unleashed to accomplish the private agendas for which they were created; when that happens, when the media proclaims, “Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt” Nazis will kill Jews, Hutus Tutsis, Sunnis Shias, Hindus Muslims, brothers brothers, and neighbours neighbours. Brutality will know no bounds, neither child nor sick, neither innocent nor guilty, and it will not cease until it runs out its fuel of wrath.
After a 30 year bloody conflict, Sri Lanka is yet again venturing into the dangerous territory of racial unrest; it was in the making; internationally the experts were brewing public opinion against Muslims; eventually and inevitably it crept into the local social psyche; history though had prepared the local context for its reception; The Media had only to play its Antonian role and propagandize; Mass opinion then, was formed; a new enemy was begot; and the Sinhala Buddhist saviors were called to purge the Muslim vermin and save their race. Thus, begins the war against a perceived enemy. The recent anti Muslim riots set the precedent for a new history; a new era of violence, slaughter and blood spill.
However the media is not alone. Among the various elements that are at work in actualizing the agenda of anti-Muslim public opinion, of brewing social opinion against Muslims, All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulama (ACJU) is also one; this organization is not a resisting but enabling force. In fact this organization is more dangerous and threatening, for it works within the Muslim community; it exploits their blind trust over them to exercise their authority and construct a society that gradually moves towards a polarity, isolating itself from the larger society; in doing so it leads the Muslim community towards isolation. Thus, the Muslims of Sri Lanka are pushing themselves away from the mainstream and becoming more and more closed and isolated; they’re forming a new extreme identity; unawares they’re gradually losing their Sri Lankan identity, and if this phenomena persists then eventually Muslims would pave the way for Sinhala Buddhist extremism to destroy them.
But how does ACJU carry anti-Muslim propaganda? How do they stand in the way of co-existence? First we need to understand their foundations.
The crisis in Madrasa education
The Muslim religious leadership of Sri Lanka, alias ACJU, is the largest Islamic religious organization in Sri Lanka. It currently has 6000 members and 150 branches across Sri Lanka.The majority of member consist of graduates from local Madrasas. These are students who have spent nearly seven years in a local Madrasa learning the various sciences related to Islam – Qur’an, Hadith, Arabic language, Islamic law, History, and Tharbiyya. The basic qualification that is required to gain membership is a simple pass in Al Alim examination, which is conducted and regulated by the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural affairs, and the Department of Examination Sri Lanka.
The question is; what knowledge do these future Islamic leaders attain through these Madrasas?
Since the students who graduate from these Madrasas are granted the leadership of an entire community; assigned positions of great responsibility such as financial advisers, marriage counsellors, psychologists, legislators, social scientists and judges that require an in-depth knowledge in various sciences, including psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, medicine, banking and law, it would be expected that they receive a holistic education that encompasses all these sciences.
Reality though, is different.
Following are some of the text books taught in the Madrasas