The horrific suicide attacks in Sri Lanka which targeted hotels and Christian churches and caused more than 250 deaths have led directly to increased repression from the state.
Responding to Islamophobic anger in the wake of the atrocities it was decreed that “all face coverings” would be banned. The rationalisation for this measure was national security, but it was clearly aimed at Muslim women wearing niqabs and burqas, despite the fact that the perpetrators of the attacks were male and dressed in trousers and shirts.
The effect of this measure has been not just to demonise all Muslims but to put at risk the safety of Muslim women in particular. Already there are accounts of harassment and attacks on women with their head coverings being ripped off. Many are afraid to leave home and feel increasingly vulnerable.
This latest response from the Sri Lankan state is a contemporary illustration of the relevance of Trotsky’s famous analysis of individual terrorism.
“In our eyes individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness… The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interests of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen.”
Whatever the motives for these attacks and all that are similar to them, they set back the struggle against oppression rather than advance it. The whole of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka will feel the heat of the intensification of state repression as it has throughout the world in response to similar acts of individual terror.