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Wednesday 13 April 2011


Many things have been said on multiculturalism by people who have lived in the western countries and also by those who live in Sri Lanka echoing their masters and mistresses. Once the masters fail to “grasp” the world due to their incompetence and ignorance the imitators have no chance at all, but they do not realize that the masters and the mistresses are only singing the swan song. We have number of times tried to expose the myths surrounding terms such as multiculturalism, human rights, fundamental rights etc. that have been coined by the intellectuals in the west in order to safeguard their system. The knowledge created by the western intellectuals whether in Physics or Sociology is used by the politicians, sometimes with the connivance of the former, to oppress the people in the other parts of the world. Knowledge is the most powerful weapon used by western Christian modernity to keep their empire going without giving the others an opportunity to realize what is happening. Occasionally so called radical intellectuals in the west would come out with concepts such as neocolonialism which give the impression that there is only economic colonialism or perhaps political colonialism concealing the most dangerous cultural colonialism. Multiculturalism meant monoculturalism as far as the west is concerned and it is clear that the concept has failed and the western intellectuals will have to create another concept or to reinterpret multiculturalism to suit western cultural colonialism.

If some politicians in the west claim that multiculturalism has failed then it implies that they have not achieved what they had wanted to achieve using this particular concept. Multiculturalism has been used in two different ways in the west and the rest of the world. In the western countries multiculturalism meant allowing the non Christian communities to continue with their cultural practices while Christian cultures dominating in education, formal as well as non formal, in politics and in general in everyday life. This became a necessity for two reasons. Many people of non Christian cultures migrated to “mother” countries such as England and France in large numbers and with the world becoming “smaller” mainly due to air travel and television the migrants could retain links with their countries of origin culturally at least superficially. The Sinhala Buddhists living in many parts of the west have established temples with Bhikkus invited from Sri Lanka attending to the cultural needs of the community. Then they also invite artistes from Sri Lanka and with modern technology they have been able to have CDs videos that capture aspects of Sinhala Buddhist culture. It has been possible to import vegetables fruits and sweetmeats from Sri Lanka and also from some other Asian and African countries and one would find coconut scrapers in many Sinhala homes. The Sinhala Buddhists have also set up ‘daham pasal” and the children take part in many cultural shows and the Sinhala Buddhist culture is “preserved” in the homes of the migrants at least in English or French medium, as some of the children are not very fluent in Sinhala to say the least.

I have given the example of the Sinhala Buddhist families but it is true in general. There is a sense of multiculturalism but the dominant culture is nothing but western Judaic Christian culture. A pundit may say that there is no homogeneous western culture but though there may be differences, in essence the dominating culture is nothing but Judaic Christian. The dominant culture is felt and seen everywhere from the supermarket to media and from pre school to university and one cannot escape this influence by establishing daham pasal. When the daham pasal in Sri Lanka are a poor distant relative in the educational system in Sri Lanka itself there is very little one could expect from the daham pasal in the west. As mentioned above Sinhala Buddhist culture is preserved in English or French as the case may be in the western countries.

The Sinhala Buddhists living in the west are not aggressive and many of them would celebrate Easter, Christmas etc., with Easter eggs, Christmas trees and all the other paraphernalia associated with these events. Queen’s birthday, thanksgiving day etc., are important days in the calendar of some of the Sinhala Buddhists, and in general they would not try to exhibit their Sinhala Bauddhakama to the society at large. Except when the ladies wear the saree (especially osariya) it is difficult even for a “knowledgeable) native white person to identify Sinhala Buddhists shopping in the local supermarket going by cultural symbols. The Sinhala Buddhists are definitely not a threat to western Judaic Christian culture and no Sinhala Buddhist “scholar” living in the west would dare to challenge the dominance of western Christian knowledge and certainly no Sinhala Buddhist organization would demand that Buddhism should be made compulsory at schools. This kind of existence of a culture did not matter at all to the west and the westerners would “proudly” say that that there was cultural freedom in their countries and could coin the word multiculturalism as if equal status had been given to all the cultures in the country. Of course, the westerners knew multiculturalism meant only many cultures existing superficially but not equiculturalism at all. They thought that allowing little freedom to practice the relevant culture would not do any harm and the Judaic Christian culture would dominate without any challenge. In fact it was a case of more the merrier as the number of cultures existing in a country increased they would not organize themselves into one group to challenge the Judaic Christian culture.

However, this would not proceed the way the westerners expected mainly due to the Islamic culture. It is very aggressive and also dominating. Cultures such as Sinhala Buddhist would not have survived in the west if not for the world becoming “smaller” but there are two cultures in the world other than the Judaic Christian culture that would survive under the most challenging conditions. It is true that the Sri Lankan Tamils in the west have become boisterous in the recent past but that has happened under very different conditions. The Tamil Hindu culture is not aggressive in general though the Cholas attempted to dominate the South and South East Asia. It was more Chola than Tamil and could be attributed to the aggressive Chola political attitudes more than to Hindu culture. The Sri Lankan Tamils in the west have become aggressive under the auspices of the English and the other western nations, and the moment the patronage given to them by the west is withdrawn they would become submissive. The two cultures I have in mind are the Jewish culture and the Islamic culture. Both of them have the same origins in the western Asia, and Europeans first found the Jewish culture to be very dominating and aggressive. Shakespeare probably was a witness to the struggle between the Christian culture and the Jewish culture and the two cultures have come to some understanding with the emergence of the Judaic Christian culture though it may not be very deep. The Catholic culture has not shown any mercy to the Jews as Hitler and German Catholic culture were to demonstrate but today it is the Judaic Christian culture that is dominating the world. The Judaic Christian culture is facing the greatest challenge from the Islamic culture and the west has realized that their “soft skills” are not quite adequate in managing multiculturalism as far as Islamic culture is concerned.

Islamic culture has been a threat to Europe from the Iberian empire days and it could even be speculated that the Christian and the Jewish cultures came to an understanding under the threat of Islamic culture. The struggle between the Judaic Christian culture and the Islamic culture is taking place over the globe and it has been continuing for the last sixty years or so in the Palestine and the western Asia and also in North Africa. Libya is neither only oil nor democracy as most of the western educated pundits would say but culture as well. The struggle has been carried over to Europe and the westerners find that the concept of ‘multiculturalism” is not going to help them anymore. Islamic cultural challenge has to be defeated and when the western politicians claim that multiculturalism has failed we know what they mean by that.
Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva