Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who is an ‘extremist’?

11 November, 2005 Feature Article
SinhalaNet by Dr.Kingsley Heendeniya


It is common these days to find the word ‘extremist’ used to vilify and caricature persons and political parties. Since no person or party has joyously shouted ‘I am an extremist!’ the concept is used pejoratively, particularly at a time when the Presidential election is nearing its climax, to frighten, bias and deter voters. In the time of the Buddha, there was a spectrum of views and he divided them into two: nihilistic and pleasure seeking or worldly. But when he declared his Teaching ‘the middle way’ he did not imply it is a bit of this and a bit of that. In fact, he discarded and rejected all views as speculative. Views are not insights. Views are inferences arising from conceiving, perception, interpretation, prejudice, like, dislike, adherence and obsession. They are subject to error and distortion of truth.

The accusation is made particularly against two main political parties, the JVP and the JHU. The LTTE and supporters of Elam are called ‘extremist’ because of avowed habitual terrorist ways. However, the JVP and JHU vehemently maintain they are progressive, egalitarian and socially committed to promote racial, religious, cultural tolerance and brotherhood. There is no present evidence that they promote hatred, evil, violence, genocide, greed and intolerance. However, we cannot ignore that the majority population is Sinhala Buddhists and ‘fighting’ for their rights is not thereby a denial and abnegation of the rights of others. To spread false percepts is defamatory, unfair, naïve and stupid because that is in fact extremism with base motive. Note that I am not here commenting on ‘fundamentalism’ prevailing in the Middle East and elsewhere.