28 January, 2021

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A Dialogue Of Religions Not A Clash Of Religions Is Needed

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

I read the article by Shenali Waduge and was greatly perturbed. Why is she stirring up hatred against the Muslims of our country? Are they not human beings and didn’t the Buddha ask his followers to show compassion to all living beings? Don’t we all have friends among Muslims? But I don’t want to preach for if 2000 years of Buddhist teaching has not succeeded how can I make any impact. I only wish to sound the dangers of this course of action.

Today the world is going through a fundamental change brought about by the revolution in Information Technology and the Social media networks. These changes have brought the peoples of the world to a much closer interaction than ever before. Isolation is no longer an option for either Buddhists or Muslims. In the past the Buddhists minded their own business and allowed the Muslims to live their lives according to their own cultural and religious life. There was little interaction which also meant little room for any clash of the cultural and religious practices. But we are living today in an increasingly globalized world. With the increased mobility of people there is a mix of people in all countries. There are significant Muslim minorities in much of Europe and in USA. It is no longer possible for each religious community to isolate itself and pursue its traditional religious and cultural practices ignoring their impact on other communities. In such interactions there will have to be give  and take with mutual accommodation.

Samuel Huntingdon gave a twist to this phenomenon of the globalization of people, through his treatise on the Clash of Civilizations. By doing so he stressed conflict rather peaceful interaction through dialogue and understanding among the different religions and culture. Are human beings of different cultures and religions incapable of interacting peacefully? To think so is a way of imperialist thinking based on the assumption of the superiority of western cultures. But unfortunately many Muslim Fundamentalists have accepted this theory and look upon the present world situation as a conflict between Islam and the West. Unfortunately it is also cast as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. But Christianity is no longer a force in the West which has instead embraced a totally secular culture where even same sex marriages have become legalized along with the taking of the life of the infant in the mother’s womb. But the USA seems to be at last realizing the futility of intervening militarily in Muslim countries even in the name of protecting humanitarian values and democracy. This has left those who take to the sword to perish with the sword in countries like Libya and now Syria.

But where will any conflicts or clashes between religions lead to. Several countries like India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea now have nuclear weapons and the West no longer has a monopoly of them. Terrorism is not easy to control as several countries including our own have experienced. So any clash of religious communities will only lead to the emergence of fundamentalists like the Al Qaeda who will resort to terrorism.

Due to the increased mobility and migration among people there are today no mono-ethnic or mono-religious nations. There are significant Muslim minorities in most European countries and in USA. They have their traditions and cultures just like the Jews. For two thousand years the Jews lived in the West preserving their own cultural and religious practices. But they did have to give up the practice of stoning adulterous women to death and also modifying some moral and ethical codes contained in the Old Testament (the Torah). A more acceptable form of co-existence between the Muslims and the secular Westerners will also be necessary. Some practices like stoning to death or cutting off hands will have to be given up and the Sharia re-interpreted or given a more liberal interpretation. The alternative is terrorism through mass killings, kidnappings and general mayhem with bombs exploding and killing of innocent men, women and children. The whole world has to deal with the problem of co-existence among different religious and ethnic communities. Those countries that failed to coexist peacefully have perished and over five hundred nations have disappeared in history.

In our own country it is no longer possible for Muslims and Buddhists to live in isolation. Where there are interactions and such interactions are leading to disputes they can and should be resolved through peaceful dialogue. Buddhists should not cast themselves in the same imperialist cast of mind enunciated by Huntingdon. By doing so and stereotyping the Muslims as enemies, the Buddhist extremists are seeking to pre-empt dialogue and instead promote conflict. But conflict is no longer an option. Instead, dialogue and genuine attempts at mutual  understanding are required without any pre-conceived prejudices. Stereotyping is a common way of thinking and is practiced freely in our society. Tamils are such and such and Muslims are such and such,  are common ways of stereotyping. But we know that there are wide variations in the values and ways of thinking of different individuals although they may be demarcated under the collective label as Muslims or Buddhists. There are good people and bad people among all communities and it is unfair to stereotype.  Good people of all religions must get together and condemn the fanatical extremists whichever religion they belong to. It is also necessary to ban hate speech and enforce such speech vigorously.

Unfortunately we don’ have a State that is neutral between religious communities. I think that in a plural Sate the State should not have a state religion. But ours is not a secular state but is required to promote Buddhism. But what is involved in the promotion or protection of Buddhism? If we define religion as a body of teaching then no protection is required for whatever is ethically good and wholesome will live forever. It is only the evil doctrines that have disappeared in history. In my opinion there is an evolution of moral teaching where love or ‘maitirya’ to all beings will be regarded as the highest moral and ethical good. Such a value means there can be no hatred or ill-feeling among peoples.

Shenali Waduge has made very fallacious arguments about the threat from Muslims. True that the Muslim population has increased. But the Muslims don’t practice birth control or resort to abortion. The argument about polygamy among Muslims is hardly relevant since only a minority of Muslims marry more than one wife. On the other hand other religionists are not confining themselves to their legal wives but often have other women too. Anyway birth control and abortion are the cause of a lower rate of increase among the Sinhala Buddhists and surely that is not the fault of the Muslims. 

With the mobility of people there are Muslims and Christians now living in areas where they were not known. Since they believe in congregational worship rather than individual worship they do need to meet in a church or mosque and it is natural that they want to build such common edifices. Does a Mosque lead to an increase in the number of Muslims in that neighborhood? What then is the objection if as a religious community spreads itself they want to build a mosque.

The world is facing a grim choice. Either the people will have to learn to live peacefully interacting with each other through dialogue or they will all perish separately. Meanwhile those people of goodwill should get together and demand a law to ban hate speech and the incitement of hatred and disaffection among ethnic or religious communities.

We want a dialogue of different religions so as to establish a humane and peaceful world order ruled by democracy and justice. There is no room for dictators or mob leaders.

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Latest comments

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    Dear RMB Senanayake,

    Very Good Article and surely she wrote it not for protecting damma or budhism but for money or to create another fight between communities.

    i have read her recent writings are not inline with any ehtical journalism.

    gentlemen ,as you validly said , it is unfair / not logical / ehtical leagl to claim that 9% muslims in sri lanka responsible for 91 % of non muslims low birth rate .rather , shenalli must make example of giving birth to some more childs to set an exmaple.

    Shennali , The greate Mahatma Ghadhi said ” An Ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching”

    Dear Shennali , after 9/11 , the spread and convertion towards islam in europe and america are phinominal , ie. suppression against muslims will allow you to achive your wican not achive your and BBS Goals.

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    Those hate mongers are not belong to any human race,but they are belong to an animal race.merely they don’t like peaceful existence.we Sri lankans committed great error by killing more than 400000 Sri lankans since independence.(we are killing our own people,while imperialists killing others).

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      Naushad,

      Please don’t insult animals by comparing them with the human race. Animals are far superior and they lead a very peaceful co-existence. They kill only when they are hungry not otherwise.

      There are many good examples we humans can take from animals to live in peaceful co-existence.

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      Naushad, Please don’t insult Animals. They don’t behave like Humans do.

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    Shenali Waduge is a prolific writer who uses her writing skills to attack other religons. So it is not surprising when she writes, or more correctly distorts the facts, to attack muslims and their religon.

    For those who want to attack muslims there is ample material available in many islamophobic western web sites. So it is simply cut and paste to attack muslims. Attacking muslims is the favourite past time of many right wing organisations as well as the zionist. The cult of Anders Brevik seems to be catching hold in the island of Sri Lanka.

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    “It is no longer possible for each religious community to isolate itself and pursue its traditional religious and cultural practices ignoring their impact on other communities. In such interactions there will have to be give and take with mutual accommodation”.

    I agree with everything Mr. Senanayake says especially the above where I quote him.

    While totally denouncing the unfounded violence against our Muslim brethren I believe that they too must make some compromise.We have lived in harmony with Muslims for hundreds of years with no problem whatsoever. They too WERE one of us Sri Lankans whose ethnicity could be identified only by their names.

    But since of late some not all Muslims have begun to embrace a different mode of attire that makes them appear very, very different and alien to the rest resulting in a psychological barrier being erected between them and the rest.

    The Muslims as a community was never known to mingle and live among the others, but this was accepted and respected as a part of their culture.

    But when they decided to embrace the Abaya, Thobe and the beard they further alienated themselves from the rest. Muslims argue that this dress code is a part off their religion. But if that is the case why didn’t their generations before also practice this dress code of their faith? Why the sudden change?

    Some argue that since the cold war ended Islam acquired a derogatory meaning in the current Western political context mainly because of the fundamentalist political resistance against Western dominance in the Middle East. And these movements aimed to create a strong Islamic identity among the Muslims for various reasons including political. As a result, Islam began to assume a larger role in public life, underlined by the increased donning of Abaya among Muslim women and the Thobe, beard and cap in the case of men.

    If this is the case why do the Sri Lankan Muslims feels the need to create a strong identity right here in their motherland? Sri Lanka is not a part of the ‘West’and Sri Lankans never identified Islam in any derogatory way until very recently when a few misguided bigots decided to do so which is NOT a posture shared by the majority.

    It’s time for Muslims to make a compromise if they want to be identified as Sri lankans along with the others. I hope sanity dawns soon among our Muslim brethren and they realise that they too need to give and take for the sake of peace and unity in this country and not insist on eating the cake and having it as well. And those diehard fanatics who don’t want to incur the wrath of their God in any way, should migrate en masse to Saudi Arabia where they can live happily ever after.

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      I’m awaiting comments from those vitriolic pundits who seem to go berserk when their faith is questioned in any way. Come on guys and gals lets have it!

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    MM

    Why cant people wear what they want to as long as it is not indecent? About 100 years back only a few educated, christianised folk wore shirt, trousers, waist coat etc. Muslim traders wore sarong with a fez cap and a big belt. Muslim women wore saree and lived in seclusion. Even their vehicles were curtained. Sinhalese wore sarong and bear bodied. Ladies in cloth and jacket, some were topless. Tamils also in a dhoti, women in saree. Burghers wore western attire, their ladies gowns. Now we have the punk hairstyles, malinga hairstyle. Beards, Musto’s, Baldie look etc.

    Times have changed and there is a greater awarness of religon amongst the muslims. Hence abhaya, thobe etc. We have the colombo jet set in short skirts and plunging necklines. Now many gents wear shorts and t shirts etc. Whats your problem? If you base your friendship on the appearance of a person thats not quite fair. All that glitters is not gold.

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      Mr/Ms Safa, with all due respect to you Madam/Sir people have the freedom to wear what they chose in a democracy.But people over the years have become accustomed to seeing others dressed in all the modes of attire described by you above and more.

      You and I know times have changed and there’s a greater awareness amongst Muslims of their religion but try telling that to the man on the street.

      The Abaya, Thobe etc., are relatively new arrivals on the scene therefore a culture shock to most other Sri Lankans. Unfortunately this extreme mode of attire appeared on our streets when Osama Bin Laden was hitting headlines as an international terrorist.

      So one can’t blame the average Sri Lankan with limited intellect who regard this attire as the uniform of a terrorist for doing so.

      The whole of Sri Lanka is emotionally recovering from a protracted war of 30 years and anything perceived as a threat to the peace we finally enjoy is regarded with fear and apprehension.

      Do you honestly believe that if there is a repetition of July 83 this time against the Muslims (I sincerely hope not)that they too would be hidden and protected from harm by the other communities like they did with the Tamils? You and I will but what about the others?

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        OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS A “HERO” TO THE AMERICANS, WHEN HE LED THE
        COMBINED MUSLIM FORCES AGAINST THE SOVIET INVASION, WHICH SAW
        THE DEMISE OF THE SOVIET UNION AND EVEN THE COMING DOWN OF THE “BERLIN WALL” THESE ARE HISTORICAL FACTS.

        WHEN OSAMA RESISTED THE AMERICAN INVASION AND OCCUPATION, HE
        BECAME A “TERRORIST” BECAUSE HE WAS FIGHTING AGAINST THEM.
        OSAMA CAME FROM ONE OF THE RICHEST FAMILIES IN SAUDI.HE COULD
        HAVE LIVED IN A LUXURIOUS PALACE, BUT HE CHOSE TO LIVE IN
        “TORA BORA” MOUNTAINS AND FIGHT ALL INVADERS. ALREADY
        SCIENTISTS HAVE PROVED 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB OF THE CIA AND MOSSAD.

        MUSLIMS WHO WEAR THOBES AND HAVE A BEARD SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED AS IMITATING OSAMA BIN LADEN. AFTER ALL A BEARD IS A SIGN OF MASCULINITY.

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        This is not a big issue. I know what you mean. Problem is the ordinary people are not being educated on living with others. I have lived and worked in half a dozen countries muslim and non-muslim. We need to learn to respect and understand others. Here too I have friends in all communities and I never differntiate. If our minds are clear we can work with anyone.

        But then I cant understand why some people make a big issue out of everything. Instead of making excuses for misguided monks like BBS / JHU, they have to be told firmly, please dont disturb the peace otherwise you will be ex communicated and thrown out of the sangha. There is supposed to be a sangha council and vinaya code, so whats happening? Even if people object to eating halal there are better ways of solving the problem than inciting a mob. I dont think this type of behaviour from a priest is acceptable in any religon. Priest are there to teach us religon not to incite to attack others. So it is really strange when people find various small issues and overlook the big one that is glaring us in the face.

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      great response!

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    HERE IS THE AUTHENTIC EVIDENCE FROM QURAN FOR THE WOMEN’S ABAYA

    “O Prophet! Say toyour wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers that: they should let down upon themselves their jalabib.”

    What is the meaning of “jalabib”?

    Jalabibجَلاَبِيْبٌis the plural of jilbabجِلْبَابٌ, which means a loose outer garment. See any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l-‘Arab, Majma‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid.

    Al-Munjid, for instance, defines jilbab as “the shirt or a wide dress—القميص أو الثوب الواسع.” While al-Turayhi, in Majma‘u ’l-Bahrayn, defines it as “a wide dress, wider than the scarf and shorter than a robe, that a woman puts upon her head and lets it down on her bosom…”[6]

    This means that the Islamic dress code for women does not only consist of a scarf that covers the head, the neck and the bosom; it also includes the overall dress that should be long and loose.

    So, for instance, the combination of a tight, short sweater with tight-fitting jeans with a scarf over the head does not fulfill the requirements of the Islamic dress code.”

    FOR MEN TOO THERE IS A DRESS CODE IN THAT,THEY SHOULD WEAR LOOSE
    CLOTHES.TIGHT TROUSERS, JEANS ETC., IS NOT PERMITTED. SO SOME
    INCLUDING MYSELF WE OPT FOR THE “THOBE”.I HAVE A BEARD!!!!!
    HOW DOES IT AFFECT ANYONE. I AM NOT FORCING MY DRESS CODE ON ANYONE

    WHY MAKE AN ISSUE OF ONLY A MUSLIM’S DRESS??????????

    WHAT ABOUT THE CATHOLIC NUN’S DRESS AND OF COURSE THE PRIEST’S
    ROBE WHICH IS SO SIMILAR TO THE THOBE.

    SHENALI WADUGE HAS A PROBLEM AND SHE NEED’S TREATMENT.

    AN I.R.A. RESISTANCE FIGHTER WAS NOT CALLED A “CHRISTIAN TERRORIST”

    L.T.T.E WERE NEVER REFERRED TO AS “HINDU TERRORISTS”

    THE J.V.P. WERE NEVER REFERRED TO AS “BUDDHIST TERRORISTS”

    WHEN AN AFGHAN, OR IRAQI FIGHTS AGAINST THE INVADERS, THEY ARE
    REFERRED TO AS “ISLAMISTS”- NO SUCH WORD IN DICTIONARY),”MUSLIM
    TERRORISTS” AND OF COURSE “TALIBAN”(ARABIC-PLURAL OF TALIB WHICH MEANS
    PUPIL OR STUDENT)

    WHEN I TRAVEL BY BUS I AVOID SITTING NEXT TO ANY WOMAN AND PARTICULARLY, THOSE WHO WEAR A “MINI” AND TRY TO COVER THEIR LEGS WITH THEIR HUGE HANDBAG”””. WHEN I TRAVEL STANDING, IF THEIR IS A WOMAN THERE WITH HER “PLUNGING LOW NECK LINE” I CAN SEE MORE THAN “TRIUMPH”,
    “MAIDENFORM” OR “VICTORIA SECRETS”.

    IF YOU WOMEN HAVE THE FREEDOM TO EXPOSE YOUR BODY, WHY DENY THAT SAME
    FREEDOM TO THOSE WOMEN, WHO WANT TO COVER AND DRESS MODESTLY.

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      Dear Ayman,

      Thank you for the information but some of us are already aware of it.

      Please try to explain this to those bigots masquerading as Buddhist priests and their followers and hope they will understand.

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        Dear mahadana Muhttha

        I am glad at least now you know the true facts of the muslims’ way of life. It is your duty to educate the buddhist people about these I quote you’those bigots masqurading as buddhist monks and their followers….’ Not us. We need not tell them we expect the sangha body to discipline the wrong doers which does not happen strangely enough. Firstly they should be taught to speak properly in the good sinhala language. sometimes when I watch these BBS speak in foul language I wonder if that is taught in the daham pasalas? hope not.

        If Virgin Mary is not found fault with for covering her head and if nuns are not found fault with why only the muslims are at fault?
        If the picture of Christ is always portrayed in a thobe why cant muslims follow that in their dress? If christ can wear a beard why cant muslim men wear it? even the older generation of buddhist priests wear beards so what?

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    For that matter, even Kithalandaluwe Dimbulagala Hamuduruwo wore a beard.

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    Some are paid to write all lies to support the rulers. They live on the crumbs thrown by the Chintayanya people. The woman from the television is one of them They will sell themselves & do anything to please the Master. AVOID those rubbish

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    It seems nobody is able to have a normal conversation about religion. The fact is that All Religions are idiotic. Better to devote energy and conscious effort to science. That way, hopefully, we’ll leave behind something worthwhile…!

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      Absolutely true. You hit the nail on the head:-)

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    Dear RMB Senanayake,

    Very Good Article,unfortunately the majority Sri Lankans read Sinhala news papers, when you read the Sinhala news papers any person has bit of knowledge will understand how this poor people are mislead. I’am convince some hardline fraction are behind this.

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    THERE IS NO BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO INTER COMMUNAL INTER RELIGIOUS HARMONY AND UNDERSTANDING SRI LANKA IS A SMALL COUNTRY IT CANNOT LIVE ISOLATED FROM REST OF THE WORLD . WE NEED GOODWILL OF OTHER COUNTRIES. TODAY’S RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS HAVE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSIONS BENGALI MUSLIMS ATTACKED BUDDHISTS IN COX BAZZAR AREA IN BANGLADESH BURMESE BUDDHISTS ATTACKED ROHINGIYA MUSLIMS IN RAKHINE STATE. THERE ARE PROBLEMS IN ACHE PROVINCE IN INDONESIA THERE ARE PROBLEMS IN LADAK IN HIMALAYAS.ALL THESE HAVE TO BE SETTLED AMICABLY BY DISCUSSION UNDERSTANDING AND BY GIVE AND TAKE POLICY.WE ARE ALL HUMANS .RELIGIONS ARE MEANT FOR A BETTER LIFE SO WHY FIGHT ON RELIGION IT IS NOTHING BUT FOOLISHNESS.WE ALL MUST RESPECT AND SAFEGUARD OUR GUESTS AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT THREATEN US.WE SHOULD STRENGTHEN OUR COMMUNITY AND RELIGION WITHOUT GOING TO CLASH WITH OTHERS ANY CLASH WOULD BRING US DOOM INSTEAD OF MORE POWER. SINGHALESE LEADERS AND SPECIALLY THE MONKS SHOULD ACT VERY WISELY TO AVOID ANY RELIGIOUS WARS IN SRI LANKA. IT WILL HAVE VERY NEGATIVE REPERCUSSIONS ON OUR COUNTRY .BE WISE BE WISE AND BE WISE.

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    Mr.Senanayake.
    You make no mention of how religions other than Islam are treated in the Muslim countries. I thought freedom to practice or carry a religious item to any country should apply to all humankind. Throughout history Buddhists around the world were tolerant, compassionate and non aggressive. There has never been a war in the name of Buddhism. But aggressive religions that killed millions in the name of their religions have taken root all over the world. Being tolerant sometimes has at times led to the downfall of peoples eg. what happened to the Buddhists and their places of worship like Nalanda in India, Bhamiyan statues in Afghanistan, etc. Shenali is only speaking the truth and is not stirring up hatred towards anyone, but the truth sometimes hurts. There always is a cause for an effect such as that she which she points out. It is the cause that has to be rooted out and that is exactly what she suggests.

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    Carl wrote: Being tolerant sometimes has at times led to the downfall of peoples eg. what happened to the Buddhists and their places of worship like Nalanda in India, Bhamiyan statues in Afghanistan, etc. Shenali is only speaking the truth and is not stirring up hatred towards anyone, but the truth sometimes hurts. There always is a cause for an effect such as that she which she points out. It is the cause that has to be rooted out and that is exactly what she suggests.

    Teachings of the Buddha
    Ahimsa – Non Violence
    Among the teachings of the Buddha to the world, the foremost was “Ahimsa” (not causing harm to anyone). Non-violence is not merely refraining from inflicting injuries on others with one’s limbs or weapons. Non-violence has to be practised with purity of mind, tongue, and body. There should be no ill feelings which is a form of violence. To cause harm to others through the body is also violence (Himsa). No one should be harmed even by speech. The speech should be sweet, pleasing and wholesome. All actions should be helpful to others.

    Could someone please explain to me why this is not a contradiction of ideas. Is Carl trying to incite violence by advocating to Buddhists to give up their basic Buddhist principles? What is his agenda here?

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    Dear carl,

    shennali is writting fanatic racism and dont try to defend shennali who is the mouth piece of Norwergian funded BBS and Champuke ranapuke.

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    Carl, what is the need of the hour in the Sri Lankan context? For arguments sake if we cede your point that there was never a war in Buddhism’s name and also give you the concomitant accolade, one may ask so what? Will this help the present situation in Sri Lanka ? Should not the dormant Professional bodies work with Community leaders under the aegis of the Mahanayakes to bring about a negotiated solution in the best Traditions of this pacific Religion? Would not the stature of our Buddhist country grow? Would it not enhance us as a civilized polity? Let us even now eschew this unrewarding exercise of blaming each other, denigrating Religions and their founders and forge ahead to cement ties and build our Nation. It will require sacrifices but with a sincere resolve and brave effort we can succeed. This then is the need of the hour!

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    Dear brother carl,

    dear carl everyone respect their religion and belives , we respect all my busdhist friends , we love my country , lets you and me not misguided and trap in the violent. we had enough in the past with LTTE , lets enjoy the life with family and friends together with all sri lankans regardless of budhist ,hindu,christian or muslim

    You comments very bad about muslims , Just read and watch

    1)How 100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim… and average convert is 27-year-old white woman
    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1343954/100-000-Islam-converts-living-UK-White-women-keen-embrace-Muslim-faith.html#ixzz2LtDtYPXI

    2)Why do Western Women Convert?
    Read more
    http://standpointmag.co.uk/features-may-10-why-do-western-women-convert-julie-bindel-islam-female-conversion

    3)Women & Islam: The rise and rise of the convert
    Three-quarters of Britons who become Muslims are female. Now a major new study has shed light on the difficulties they face in adjusting to their new life.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/women–islam-the-rise-and-rise-of-the-convert-6258015.html

    4)WHY YOUNG BRITISH WOMEN Converting to ISLAM? – BBC Documentary
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPwaJSMCGTE

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    Dear Mr. Senanayake
    Such a relief to read your position. I have been waiting for a measured response to Shenali Waduge and finally I see your piece. And the fact that you have a Sinhala name gives it much greater legitimacy– sadly. But as some other comment above stated these sorts of sentiments should be reflected in the Sinhala media as well. I hope you will write in Sinhala as well or have your piece translated. We have a wonderful country and if all goes well with the economy most of us will have a piece of the pie. Unfortunately these cancerous sentiments that our politicians have lost no opportunity in exploiting will continue to be the death of us.

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