By Mass L. Usuf –
The recent spate of events begs the question, “are we a shameless people?” Reflect on how the majority among the Sinhalese community and some of the monks conducted themselves in the aftermath of 21/4. Evaluating it through the prism of ‘collective conscious’ of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, there is a clearly an aberration in the behavioural pattern of these people. Absolutely exaggerated, irrational and abnormal. To cite an example, the harassment caused to the Muslim women who were wearing the Hejab.
Given the public sentiment heard over the years, can this shamelessness be extended to those other than the average citizen? Many would agree and the fact is publicly known that the integrity of the President, the Prime Minister, the politicians, the Judicial system, the public administration, the monks have all been put on the dock at various instances. The worst out of the lot in the prevailing climate is the media which is terrorising the people.
When analysing the extremely strange behavioural pattern of the critical mass of the Sinhalese populace, what became evident was the manifest inability of most of these people to think independently. The questioning mind was switched off and replaced by slavish sheepishness. From the ordinary guy in the street to the highly intellectual, the dominant model was the absolute surrendering of the mind to the rhetorics of certain monks and the insidiously prejudiced media.
All credit to the monks who did well by deliberately manipulating the emotions of the Sinhalese Buddhists.The monks were only exploiting their ultimate position in the monk/layman relationship, nurtured and nourished institutionally through the temples. A relationship which has created a psyche of submission in the minds of the Sinhalese Buddhist; Including a large number of professionals be they doctors, lawyers, judges etc. Ask any Buddhist, why is this veneration to another human being? The answer comes in the cliché that what is venerated is the robe that the monk is wearing and not the monk himself.
This is a form of kinesics (gesture in a non-verbal communication) and animistic (that an object possesses a spiritual essence). Harvey Professor of Religious Studies opined that animism’s views on personhood represented a radical challenge to the dominant perspectives of modernity, because it accords “intelligence, rationality, consciousness, volition, agency, intentionality, language and desire” to non-humans. (Animism: Respecting the Living World). This would be an interesting area to be explored in the light of the Kalama Sutta.
The media machinations and the often-made false statements and claims by monks and opportunistic politicians reminded me of the people of Kalama. The Kalamas asked Buddha who to believe out of all the ascetics, venerables and holy ones? They complained that they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. The Kalama Sutta is the Buddha’s reply.
Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.
Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.
Do not believe anything on account of rumours or because people talk a great deal about it.
Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.
Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordinary, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.
Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favour, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.
Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.
But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.
Month Of Ramadan
The Muslim community has just completed the month of Ramadan of the Islamic calendar coinciding with 05 June 2019 of the Gregorian year. A month that is usually dedicated completely towards prayer, meditation, charity and to borrow from the teachings of Buddha, the Muslim fast includes the four sublime states of mind: Loving-kindness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Sympathetic Joy (mudita), Equanimity (upekkha),
The fast in the month of Ramadan is a rigorous regimen in that the level of virtue and moral conduct (sila) that has to be observed by the Muslim is of a very high degree of consciousness. The day’s fasting extends to more than 14 hours and there is absolute abstinence from all forms of liquids and solids. The fasting also includes one of the ten precepts (dasa-sila) namely:
“acca-gita-vadita-visuka-dassana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments.”
Islam And Buddhism Hijacked
In this year’s calendar, April and May will be recorded as two tumultuous months, during which the entire nation was sunk in distress, anxiety, fear and panic. Both the Christian and Muslim communities suffered persecution by acts of violence, vandalism, destruction of properties, loss of lives and many left injured. The Christians from a religious perspective and the Muslims purely because they were Muslims. Pain and suffering were inflicted by extremists who used the noble religions of Islam and Buddhism to achieve their evil goals. The former was led by Western educated youth while the latter was directed by Sinhalese racists, politicians and some monks. Those who were claiming that they were in the struggle to protect this country and Buddhism were in fact, destroying it. Their majoritarian mind set deprived them of rational thinking. This aspect was clearly indicated by the multiple acts of continued violence and verbal abuse that was hurled at the Muslim community en masse.
Mockery And Impotency
Adding fuel to fire, Gnanasara Thero gave an ultimatum on 2 June 2019 to the government to unleash ‘senekeliya’ (threat of violence) if the demand of the monks is not heeded to, which was the resignation of Minister Rishard Bathiudeen and two Governors. All three Muslims. The mockery of the rule of law was demonstrated clearly at this moment, when such a threat was being levelled against the government at a time when the emergency rule is in effect. There was no action taken to arrest this monk. In contrast, under the same emergency rule, the impotent authorities heroically arrested an illiterate, poverty stricken, elderly Muslim woman from the street for wearing a dress in which was a picture of a ship’s steering. The allegation was that it resembled the Buddhist dharma chakra. Moreover, she was booked under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act, No. 56 of 2007 under which the Magistrate cannot grant bail.
Hats Off Ministers
It is in this backdrop came the resignations of the Muslim Members of Parliament from the portfolios they were holding. They had two clear messages. First, the government has failed to ensure the security and protection of the Muslim community. Secondly, they gave a one-month time period to investigate all the allegations made by the Sinhala Buddhist extremist, politicians and the monks. Take legal action against any of the Muslims Members of Parliament or the Governors if found guilty.
The resignations signified two important indicators. Firstly, that tolerance and patience have its limits and, secondly, the Muslims cannot continuously be held to ransom by disuniting the community. A sigh of relief was felt throughout the community at this great tactical step of unification. It was apparently a moment of pride for the Muslims. A moment when their confidence in themselves was reinvigorated.
Maha Sangha Failed
Holding a special discussion in Kandy yesterday, 06 June 2019 the venerable Maha Sangha representing the three Nikayas expressed disappointment over the resignation of Muslim ministers and informed them to accept their own responsibilities and fulfil duties to serve the people of the country.
What the most respected venerables failed to do is to unequivocally condemn the violence perpetrated by the Sinhala Buddhist extremists. The desecration of nearly 30 Muslim mosques. The multiple attacks and destruction of Muslim business premises, torching of houses and properties. Also, they have failed to take note of the ongoing, consistent and deliberate hate campaign in the social media. They have also not addressed the issue of the deceptive, dishonest and poisonous media which is responsible for creating fear, panic and hatred in the minds of the innocent Sinhala Buddhist people. As the Maha Sangha, the respected venerables need to give direction to the extremist monks who are destroying the fragile social fabric and tarnishing the image of Buddhism in this country.