I was pondering the gender issues in the suicide bombing of the commander of the Sri Lankan army when it came to light that the suicide bomber was indeed pregnant. An editorial in the Divayina, used the news to take a jab at women activists. Where are these so called women activists, the editor asked, when women are used so blatantly by the tigers. What women’s issue? It is a ‘means’ issue stupid. Whatever it takes to get the job done–women, children, and now the unborn.

Terrorism did have its gender issues, but then those were the good old days of terrorism, if there ever can be such a thing.

Remember Leila Khaled?

If you were school girl in the 60s you would. I was one and I do. Leila Khaled was the 25-year old who high-jacked a plane in 1969 for the Palestinian Cause. It was the TWA 840 bound to Athens from Rome. Leila was slip of a woman, beautiful, with high cheekbones, an Arabic Audrey Hepburn. She immediately became a pin-up for revolutionaries as well as for school-girls in comfortable boarding schools.

She underwent plastic surgery and tried her second high jacking but was wrestled down by a crew that was prepared. She held two hand grenades but did not use them because the instructions were to use them only to threaten or defend but not harm. Today she lives in Jordan, not active as she likes but involved enough.

There was no doubt Leila was committed to her cause but her gender certainly had something to do with her being there. Another Palestinian man with a dark beard and piercing eyes would have made the high jacking of the TWA just another act of terrorism. But Leila made it sexy.

Anoja, the suicide bomber, was apparently chosen because of her looks and her middle class appearance. Her sexuality and class were used to ward off suspicions. But there end similarities. Anoja’s instructions were to kill her unborn and as many as it takes. She ended up with her head on a tree-top, a limb on the road and the rest of her body with its growing life, blown up into pieces. Good old days of terrorism are no more. No subtleties. No more image building. What ever it takes—men, women or children or even the unborn.

It is time to look beyond Prabaharan and focus our attention on those who are in his grips. Let us negotiate peace with terrorists, and above all, reach out to the people. Buddhists have a way of reaching out to anybody, even the invisible! As the Buddha taught us,


What ever living beings there may be,
Without exception; weak or strong;
Long or large; medium, short,
Subtle or gross;

Visible or invisible;
Living near or far;
Born or coming to birth;
May all beings have happy minds!

(From the Karaniya Metta Sutra or Discourse on Loving Kindness)

Let us hope and pray this is the beginning of the awakening of the metta in the Southern Buddhists, specially the angry robed ones. Metta is like the right-of-way in driving. It is something to be given, not taken or expected of others, if we want safety on the road for all. Same for peace.

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