The various ministerial pronouncements made Dick intensely nervous. He loathed communists, in fact much more than Dulcie did, for he had been one in his youth and had since had to deal with them on business affairs; he knew that they were motivated primarily by envy and would have no scruples about depriving him of his hard-won pleasures. Then the purported plot to stir up animosity against Muslims disturbed him even more, for most of his business associates now were Muslims and, though he did not use the name socially, it was under his Muslim name that all his various business concerns were registered. Finally, Matthew’s scarcely veiled suggestion that there was something radically wrong with all those not in the mainstream made him acutely conscious that he and his possessions could soon fall prey to a whipped up frenzy.
In some way therefore his own loyalty to the nation, and that of the community to which he now belonged, had to be conclusively established. After much thought and some discussion with his friends, Dick determined to establish a Muslim Association that would make crystal clear the adherence of the Muslims to the interests of the wider nation, and their forceful opposition to whatever it was, apart from Muslims of course, that the wider nation feared. After Matthew’s performance, it was clear that, apart from the desire of the Tamils to divide the nation that had precipitated the holocaust, what was most abhorred was the perversity propagated by Marxists and Catholics. The Muslim Association against Separatism and Homosexuality was accordingly established, with Dick as its founding President.
From its very inception, MASH proved a tremendous success. The inaugural meeting was attended by a massive crowd, many of whom Dick had not known to be Muslims, and some of whom he had thought long since dead. It was these last in particular, politicians of a bygone age, who were the most vociferous at the meeting, affirming with what seemed an intimate knowledge of the rewards awaiting all those who laid down their lives in a struggle for the true faith, heaps of dark eyed houris in paradise and so forth, the need for MASH to do all it could to preserve the unity of the nation and to provide ready supplies of nubile young ladies for all those who required them. The resolutions passed at the meeting proved so inviting that over the next few days the Association was flooded with applications for membership. All these were promptly accepted, subject of course to the essentials being observed, and mass circumcision ceremonies were held all over the island with great pomp and circumstance.
It was thus with a tremendous sense of confidence that Dick and the rest of his Executive Committee went to their first meeting with Tom. They had indeed a great deal to be importunate about. An influential proportion of the membership of MASH had suffered considerably in the recent disturbances, particularly those involved in the tourist and gemming industries, for the market had collapsed at the first signs of violence with almost all foreigners winging their way home in trepidation and without souvenirs. The restrictions Matthew had announced on foreign entry into Negombo would now put paid even to those few who were brave or motivated enough to face the situation. It was clear that emergency measures had to be taken.
The proposals with regard to arrack renting and other such activities that were held to be the traditional preserves of the Sinhalese provided Dick with the basis for his suggestions. If others were to be restrained from participating in these activities, then surely it was only just that the traditional occupations of the Muslims should be reserved for them. Dick and his Executive, therefore, proposed that tourism and gemming and perhaps one or two other things as well such as the spice trade be reserved exclusively for Muslims, or rather for members of MASH since they would be in a fit position to ensure that nothing immoral would occur. Indeed perhaps honorary membership of MASH could be offered to all foreigners as an incentive, so that they would be able to adopt liberal Muslim marriage customs and thus be in a better position to resist the perverse temptations proferred by Catholics and Marxists.
Tom did not give his consent at once. But he promised sincerely to give the matter his most careful consideration. He was in any case enormously touched by the display of solidarity that had been put forth on his behalf, several posters having appeared all over Colombo as if by magic that declared that MASH backed Tom to the hilt. Moreover, the proposal MASH had advanced appealed to his sense of order. He believed in a society in which there was order, and patterns and compartments for everything and everyone, so that you were not suddenly surprised by someone stepping out of line. What was happening all around him now seemed to him, at first sight at any rate, a step in the right direction. He was even sanguine enough, after the delegation from MASH had left, to don his uniform once more and look at himself in the mirror with satisfaction.