Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

When language feeds fear and hysteria


It is here that we must take note of the militant anti-Muslim rhetoric used by politician­s and political monks. Their language is intended to feed fear and hysteria. The neighbour who has lived alongside you in timeless harmony can be made to seem like an enemy who has cunningly duped you all along. He or she becomes a symbol of all that is wrong with the ‘Marakkala Menace’—a convenient scapegoat (This is in contrast to an earlier reference to ‘Marakkala’/Moor, derived from the Sinhala phrase “maa rekka lae” meaning “the blood that saved me,” invoking a Sinhala folklore that narrates about a Muslim woman who gets slayed by enemies for saving the King). Language can be used to feed fear and hysteria. A neighbour can be made to seem like an enemy, a threatenin­g one at that, by changing the language.

( From the chapter ‘Demystifyi­ng Terrorism: Ethnorelig­ious Extremism or Economic Rivalry?)’

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