Image: Gnanasara forced his way in to the ministry of National Reconciliation on 17th May and confronted the Minister Mano Ganeshan; Gnanasara’s body language tells his attitude towards the Tamil Minister.
by Ifham Nizam.
The Government has come under fire for remaining silent as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) last week continued its own version of a ‘holy war’ ridiculing Muslims and even the chief prelates.
Muslims expressed concerns over the manner in which BBS General Secretary, the Venerable Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, was making open statements against the minorities which could threaten the peace between the two communities.
Gnanasara Thero last week said that co-existence is applicable only for Buddhists and not for others. He also criticised Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Christian missionaries and non-governmental organisations.
The Aluthgama and Beruwala incidents are still fresh in the minds of Muslims. Some Muslims are of the view that the Ven. Thera could speak about radical Muslims but targeting all Muslims and other religions cannot be expected in a civilised nation like ours.
Gnanasara Thera’s vigorous campaign
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, former General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Hasan Ali said that Gnanasara Thera’s vigorous campaign against the Sri Lankan minority Muslim Community has undoubtedly and firmly established its footing in the political arena in our country irrespective of any changes in the regimes.
“Whatever party that comes to power with the help of the votes secured from the poor minorities always turns blind and deaf when it comes across a cry connected with the so called ‘BBS- Buddhist Nationalistic Forces,” he said.
He added: “So much so, the indomitable constant factor that the BBS holds with pride in any government in our country is akin to what the Muslim Politicians had become another constant factor to be part and parcel of whatever government that comes to power.”
“The end result so far is that the BBS and the minority party MPs gain in their ventures when in fact the poor minority voters and the true kind hearted peace loving majority Buddhists are rendered losers, he said.
Muslim voters should therefore think seriously of changing their approach in the future to engage in opposition politics like the other minority community in order to take up challenges in a hostile way rather than becoming stooges and demeaned.
The majority of real Buddhist voters should also pay serious attention to stop the radicalisation of their religion by a minority group within their community.
“Let us all join hands to save our Maathrubhoomiya by strengthening true friendship among the communities by engaging in clean politics as taught to us by our holy leaders,” he stressed.
Reyyaz Salley, Chairman of the Islamic Solidarity Front (ISF) meanwhile, condemned a recent attack on a Muslim worship place.
“Now it is back to base and the Muslim are feeling insecure again. Up to date the Muslim Minister or official of the Muslim Department has not visited the mosque. Mosques are all Wakf property and the Muslim Department is responsible,” he told The Sunday Leader
He also said that Sri Lanka is a multiracial country and not a Buddhist country as certain extremist monks talk.
“In 2014, the Grandpass mosque was closed down in spite of having permission to relocate. UNP politicians promised during the presidential election that the mosque will be reopened but now two years have passed unfortunately to date they could not get it opened”, he said.
“The best part is the person who pelted stones at the mosque is an employee of the Muslim Department and now he has been transferred to the Ministry. We have a lethargic Minister who has given his powers to his brother to run the ministry.”
He also said that a Minister’s brother and certain radical Moulavis are planning to change the Islamic syllabus and trying to insert certain Hadith which is preached by radicals who are banned in those countries.
“We need to reform and sideline radicalism. We need to ban hate speech and arrest all people who are instigating communalism. The Minister in Charge of Law and Order should resign like in other countries he is responsible to arrest all these extremist.
We will give a ultimate to the government if no action is taken by next week we will protest against the government next Friday unless perpetrators are not brought under the law.
“BBS going to ministries and threatening ministers this nonsense should stop. During previous government also they went to the ministry of Industries. We need to put an end to all these nonsense,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, in a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena, Reyyaz Salley said that the Dambualla mosque had been in existence for nearly 70 years and now faces the threat of being relocated as the Venerable Buddhist monks in the area insist that the Dambulla temple is in need of more land allocation and that the mosque building is illegal and the land owned by the mosque belonged to the government. Muslims in the area are vastly affected by such pronouncements. Even though it has been held back, the issue has not really looked into and settled.
“Hence we most humbly appeal to you to look into this matter and settle the issue to help the Muslim communities who have faith in Your Excellency and the government,” he said.
He said the timely settlement of the dispute over the mosque at the Swarna Chaithiya Mawatha averted disastrous conflicts and sorrowful consequences by spreading to other areas.
Reyyaz Salley noted that the attack on the Grandpass mosque came weeks after thugs vandalised the Mahiyangana mosque when they threw raw flesh of pigs with its organs and parts of the body with blood right into the prayer area.
Attack on Muslims
“Widespread strong feelings among the learned and scholarly Muslims today is that these unknowledgeable Buddhist extremists are preparing the mainstream Sinhalese for a major July 83 type attack on Muslims community,” he said in the letter.
He says today the Muslim community is deeply frustrated noting that during the recent past they were subjected to several severe attacks and harassments.
“The destruction of the 400 year old Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura, under the watchful eyes of the Police was followed by the attack on Dambulla mosque. Since then these attacks are continuing unabated. However Muslims remained calm all throughout, in spite of all these provocations and physical attacks. Today there is growing feeling of helplessness and frustration among Muslims who are disgusted at the failure of the Police to arrest the perpetrators of these crimes and racial provocators. It appears that these lawless thugs seem to be having the blessings of the Police, who are compulsorily duty bound to protect the beleaguered Muslims. They are very deeply disappointed that the government has failed to condemn these attacks,” he said.
Reyyaz Salley said that even though the Muslim community had played a crucial role in bringing about a turnaround into present political culture, they are disappointed as none of these issues were taken up to date for permanent peace in the country. This makes the Muslim community very unhappy with both the governments.
“My very strong conviction is that if Your Excellency takes a strong stand, could bring about a permanent peaceful and harmonious solution amongst the majority community and the Muslims of Sri Lanka as a Justice and peace abiding nation. Further, recently Your Excellency visited a temple in Ketharama and opened a statue of Lord Buddha. These are very good gestures for religious performances and harmony. In the meantime, there is a mosque that has to be demolished as a result of a construction for a canal, on the other side of the same road. When we knew that this mosque needs to be demolished in due course, the people in the area took a building and wanted to start the mosque in the premises after getting due permission from the Muslim Department. Thereafter, tension arose in the neighborhood and underworld thugs pelted stones at the mosque. People in the area are finding it extremely difficult to pray in former small mosque and wanted permission to be granted to start prayers in the mosque premises. It is our fundamental right that every worshipper should be facilitated with places to worship,” Reyyaz Salley said in his letter to the President.
He said that today one would notice, that the uprising of extremists has taken routes to attack the Muslims and no politicians especially from the UNP is taking interest to avert the escalation.
During the Rajapaksa regime we voiced against extremism, but the UNP Muslim politicians made it as an issue in politics. But today they are silent and all these Muslim politicians especially in the UNP are petty minded and only self conscious. We had issues with the previous government and we fought back and today as well, we are agitating in order to get our rights,” he said.
BBS taking on Chief Prelates
Last week the BBS ridiculed the chief prelates during a meeting with Minister of National Co-existence Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan.
A video footage showed, BBS General Secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero stressing that there is no point in having talks with the chief prelates and obtaining their opinion on national issues.
“Chief Prelates are there just to appear before the media, look good, meet Ministers and make statements,” he told Ganeshan.
He also told the Minister that he must approach the monks and officials at ground level and discuss issues with them. A tense situation also arose when Gnanasara Thero asked if the Minister accepts that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country.
The Minister said that Sri Lanka is a place for all communities while the Sinhalese Buddhists are a majority.
Gnanasara Thero said that reconciliation cannot be discussed if the government does not accept that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country.
He also warned that Muslim extremists are operating in the East and action must be taken against them.
Gnanasara Thero said that the leaders of the government have been warned of consequences if some key issues are not addressed.
He said Muslims cannot teach monks about reconciliation or co-existence and if they confront Buddhists then Buddhists are ready to respond accordingly.