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Global economic downturn could spur strident Far Rightism



If there is a marked spike in violence in the West and the world over linked to the Far Right, it ought to be only expected in view of the economic downturn that has overtaken the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Scandinavian countries have been seen as relatively free of such political blights thus far, but recent riots in Southern Sweden which were linked to the Far Right in that country ought to caution the observer on being overoptimistic about the comparative non-occurrence of these negative political tendencies in that part of Europe.

The riots in question were triggered by the burning of a copy of the Quran recently by Far Right activists in the southern Swedish city of Malmo. The event was to be attended by notorious anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan. The Swedish authorities, however, prevented the latter from arriving at the event from Den Mark in view of anticipated law and order problems.

Immigrant majority Malmo City, however, erupted in violent protests against the burning of the Muslim holy book subsequently. This is fresh proof of the continuing grave dangers of Far Rightism. It is relevant to note that even Den Mark has witnessed violence of this kind in the past.

However, one would be stating the obvious by saying that Far Rightism is a near world wide phenomenon. For example, it is rampant in South Asia, with Sri Lanka proving no exception, of course. It is found in some of its most disruptive and dangerous forms in even the most vibrant democracies of the West, including the US and Britain. In the latter, Far Rightism manifests itself in mainly white supremacist sentiment and anti-minority violence.

For example, white supremacist attitudes surged to the surface in the wake of the unrest which swept the US subsequent to the George Floyd killing. White Skinhead-initiated anti-migrant violence has time and again surfaced in Britain, its democratic credentials notwithstanding.

However, the economic setback suffered by the world in the wake of the COVID-19 contagion could set the stage for a strong resurgence of right wing-sourced anti-migrant, anti-minority violence the world over and the international community and democracies in particular will need to brace for this scourge. Economies of the world are shrinking fast and with this decline in growth will come a plethora of socio-political ills, including anti-minority violence and religious extremism.

The latest global growth statistics formulated by some authorities speak for themselves: In the case of Asia, India, Japan and China are experiencing a growth decline of -23.9 per cent, -7.6 per cent and -3.2 per cent respectively. For the UK, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and the US the corresponding statistics are: -20.4, -13.8, -12.4, -12, -10.1 and -9.5.

It will be a case of aiming for the biggest slice of the national economic cake. Extremist political opinion among majority communities in most of the mentioned countries are bound to see religious and ethnic minorities in their midst, for example, as threats to their economic survival amid the current pandemic. The minorities will be seen as getting in the way of their prosperity and well being by majority communities, since the economic cake is shrinking dangerously.

Thus will the stage be set for stepped-up Far Right atrocities against minority groups. Over the years this has been happening in some major countries of the West, which have been witness to a significant migrant presence, and one could only expect a marked uptick in this disquieting trend in the days ahead. As a matter of interest it needs to be mentioned that the exception taken by the political Right to the presence of East European migrants, in particular, in Britain proved a major factor in Britain’s decision to break away from the EU.

The civilized world is hard pressed to act fast in the face of this bleak outlook for everyone. Violence of any kind within states, if it goes unmanaged, would eventually lead to national disintegration. This is an undisputed lesson of history. Accordingly, states, wherever they may be, are obliged from now on to attach top most priority to national integration and social amity. In such programmes, racial and religious tolerance ought to figure prominently.

Fortunately for the world, notable democracies, such as Britain, have indicated to it as to how a pluralistic country could go about strengthening national integration. Britain has zero tolerance for hate speech, for instance, and those countries that are desirous of stemming the rot in the deteriorating communal relations field, could take a leaf from it. Those countries which are keen on strengthening race relations could also model their relevant legislation on Britain’s Race Relations Act. But it does not follow from the foregoing that Britain is not having its fair share of ethnicity-related problems.

However, it would be naive on the part of states to believe that Far Right-linked violence could be put down by law and order means alone. There could be some short term relief as a consequence of adopting these means but such comfort is usually short lived. The more sensible option is to adopt the democratic approach of making religious and ethnic tolerance a solid reality within states by winning hearts and minds. Peace brings peace. Violence brings increasing violence. These are the relevant home truths that states would do well to bear in mind.




Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric



Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers



Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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A mask of DATES…



Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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