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Friday, December 8, 2023

The Buddhist Crusade Driving Sri Lankan Muslims Into Radicalism

Anti Muslim Social media add calling for rejection of famous Sinhala language vocalist of Muslim origin,  late Mohideen Beg 

The nationalist chauvinist sections of the Sinhala polity suffer from the worst form of inferiority complex. They have to be constantly a party to the oppression of another race, society or religion to feel euphorically superior. The leaders who can afford this to them can continue to be in power notwithstanding any other shortcoming however grave.

The Muslims, the majority of whom speak the Tamil language do not seek their collective identity in language or culture but in their religion—-Islam. The early Muslim immigrants were mostly traders who married local Tamil and Sinhalese women and settled down; some of the Malays came in as mercenaries during the Dutch rule. The Muslim livelihood profile had over the years evolved away from excessive dependence on trade to a range of other occupations. They do not make a distinct ethnic entity but their contribution to the political, economic, cultural and educational landscape of the country has been tremendously the richer for it. Islam is a strongly theistic faith while Buddhism is a philosophy with no belief in the existence of a God. Dalai Lama in an interview declared that he was an atheist.

The Muslims in Sri Lanka are a peace loving ethno religious group comprising a cross section of intellectuals, professionals, traders, farmers, fishers etc. Their contribution to the Sri Lankan political, economic, social and cultural landscape over the decades has been great. They are politically largely conservative and least confrontational though looking for advantages in a shifting political landscape. They do not have a defined territory as their homeland and therefore being vulnerable to attacks. They have never been given to religious extremism and their society has kept away mullahs and the likes of extremists from dominating their religious observances and practices.

Attempts have been made to dislodge Muslims from economic sectors dominated by them, beginning with the 1915 anti-Muslim riots, and yet continuing from time to time. This column, in the past, had unequivocally condemned the misguided action of the LTTE wherein close to 80,000 persons, constituting almost the entire Muslim population of the five Northern Districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi were summarily expelled from the province by the LTTE on one fateful day in October 1990. The operation was carried out so quickly and with such ruthless efficiency that there was little or no resistance. Amongst those who were evicted in this barbaric act of ethnic cleansing were some of the finest human beings.

The majority of those professing any particular religion, do so because they have been born into a society that professes it. Even in a pluralist secular society, relatively few embrace a religion or faith of their own choice of conviction. Others are otherwise pre occupied and many with little or no space to choose a faith of their own. In Sri Lanka not being a pluralist society, the boundaries are so rigid that any conversion, even voluntary, is looked upon with contempt. It must be remembered that the first Buddhist king of Sri Lanka was a convert.

The activities of the newly formed Bodu Bala Sena, a Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist organisation are reminiscent of those of the United Buddhist Front in the year 1956 and immediately thereafter led by a powerful Buddhist monk, subsequently convicted for the murder of the prime minister, was responsible for the violent attacks on the Tamils including their elected representatives, who had organised peaceful protests against the passage of the Sinhala only act. This was a precedent that was to be followed by other chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist organisations backed by the State, organising periodic race riots in which thousands of Tamils perished with their properties looted and robbed lasting till 1983. The periodic Pogroms as a form of repression were a principal cause for the emergence of Tamil militancy.

Having finished with assisting the State in almost annihilating the Tamil race, having destroyed their spirit and established a scorched earth policy in every aspect of their life, the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists under the newly formed Bodu Bala Sena under State patronage have now begun to attack the Muslims and the Christians on an organised scale as compared to the sporadic form of their attack in Dambulla on 06 April 2012, while the security forces of the Sri Lankan State look after the destruction of Hindu places of worship on a systematic basis. According to most political analysts, the Bodu Bala Sena activities are conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of defence the secretary of which is a brother of President Rajapaksa, while the president gives tacit support to its activities. Expecting reprisals from the Muslim countries in the oncoming US resolution the organisation has been asked to lie low until the resolution is concluded.

Hamid Abdul Karim in his paper “Defending Islam and Muslims” in response to an article in a State controlled newspaper smacking of chauvinism and racism says in relation to the adverse the comment on halaal foods: “Muslims have always consumed halaal foods since the emergence of Islam…….. The need for halaal labels has come about because of exports of food items and cosmetics and the establishment of restaurants owned up by non-Muslim enterprises like McDonalds or KFC or Pizza Hut…….. But what I must put on record is that it was these non-Muslim establishments that approached Muslim religious leaders to certify their products as ‘halaal’ so that they could cater to the Muslims. And the cost of the halaal certificate for each meal would not amount to more than three cents. …….By the way, I wonder if she (the author) would condemn Jews in the same way she insults Muslims because they too have this business of halaal attached to their consumption of animal products. The only difference is in the terminology. They call it ‘kosher’, Muslims call it ‘halaal’…..” Such colossal ignorance.

The Rajapaksas in order to divert the attention of the impoverished masses away from their economic realities are encouraging acts of chauvinist violence against the Muslims driving them to radicalism which can be quite dangerous to the wellbeing of peace not only in Sri Lanka but also in South Asia leading to the wanton slaughter of tens of thousands of innocents once again.

( The writer is the editor of the Eelam nation, an online journal)


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