19 September, 2018

Blog

Another Sinhala-Muslim Conflict Brewing: Government Caught Napping!

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Astrologers are no strangers to Sri Lankan politics. Sumanadasa predicted a MR victory in 2015 and later gave some interesting reasons when it misfired. There was another type of astrological prediction recently in a newspaper which was both comical and uncanny. An astrologist named Sameera Chandrasiri from Helabima newspaper in his column, in a crafty way predicted an impending Sinhala-Muslims conflict soon and attributed cattle slaughter during Ramazan time( there’s no cattle slaughter during Ramazan time!), Deforestation (reference to Rishard Badurdeen), illegal settlements (reference to Murichikutti settlements of War refugees) and humiliating/insulting and challenging the Sons of the Soil/ Maha Sangha, as possible causes/ sparks for such a conflagration, and underlined the need to remove them as otherwise it will be harmful to the country’s rulers.

Leave aside the comical aspects of the prediction itself and the possible causes, there is truth in the fact, that there is an impending racial conflict involving the Sinhalese and the Muslims in the brewing and Sri Lanka is sitting atop a social volcano waiting to explode at any moment. There is no need for an astrologer to predict this calamity, as any observer with a fine tuned common sense will and can see telling signs of this gathering storm.

Ethnic or religious clashes or conflagrations have not been anything novel or new to the Sri Lankan Dharma Dweepaya. Modern Ceylon’s first ethno-religious riots targeted not Tamils but Muslims in 1915. Then, ever since Independence, there were many ethnic conflagrations mainly between Sinhalese and Tamils. Many have argued that the rise and institutionalisation of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism in post-independent Sri Lanka bear much responsibility for today’s ethnic conflicts between the majority Sinhalese state and the minorities. Upon the heels of the end of a protracted Sinhala Tamil ethnic conflict which aggravated with the now infamous 1983 pogrom against the Tamils , there came the well-orchestrated hate campaign against the next biggest minority –the Muslims, which culminated in the Aluthgama dubbed by many analysts as a mini-1983. Sinhalese Christians were targeted too.

Drawing parallels between 1983 riots and 2014 Aluthgama riots may not be fair, but few similarities can be identified. One such similarity being not just the inaction on the part of the then-governments to act decisively and firmly on time but also shameful attempts to brand the victims as perpetrators. Post-war period under MR was a time of immense pressure for the minorities. Tamils after difficult times under the ruthless Tigers were thrown into disarray and marginalized due to the arrogant ,supremacist and majoritarian polices adopted by MR. Many were languishing in refugee camps while no plausible solutions were offered to sort out their genuine grievances .International community put Sri Lanka on the dock for the excesses committed by the Armed Forces during the last stages of the War. Muslims on the other hand went through hell when many hate groups with implicit State support, operated without fear or sanction throwing all decencies to the wind, while the silent majority watched helplessly. Muslim politicians were caught napping. Sri Lanka became once again ,almost a pariah state in the eyes of the world.

However, Sri Lanka always being a blessed country, Divine Providence intervened and Sri Lanka went to the Polls in 2015. The powerful MR regime was booted out by the people, including the racist based parties lie BJP (BBS) which focussed more on anti-Muslim hate propaganda. The incoming Yahapalana government promised many things, particularly to make promotion of national reconciliation as one of their priorities. Of course, there were positive developments in this direction and the minorities harboured lot of hope in this government delivering their promise to create an inclusive Sri Lanka. It needs no soothsayer to tell the policy makers that without national reconciliation, there is no prospect of national progress. There is an imperative need to build mutual trust and understanding among communities after decades of divisive politics and this process takes time and commitment specially from the Top, as clearly pointed in the PRC Report which summarized people’s suggestions in respect of Constitution making process.

Unfortunately, the BBS viruses and hate groups have re-emerged and begun to wreak havoc on this nation which has grown weary of decades of conflict and racist politics through hate mongering. Demagogue and the face of Buddhist Terror in Sri Lanka Ven Gananssara and his likes are roaming the streets with renewed vigour in Mahiyangana and elsewhere, spitting hate venom threatening a repeat Aluthgama, arrogantly challenging Muslims to send their petitions even to Allah through Prophet Mohamed, thus harming Muslim sensitivities.In competitio , there are other outfits emerging such as Sinhaley, and Mahason Balakaaya supported by rogue elements among the Maha Sangha spreading fear among Sinhala people at the grass-root levels about Muslim community being a threat to their existence and their heritage. These groups are making maximum use of the government’s ‘deaf and dumb’ attitudes.

Many contentious issues which arose recently such as Minaret Issue in Kandy, Bhatiya Road mosque issue in Dehiwela, are certainly not issues where battle lines should be drawn between Muslim and Sinhala communities as a whole and sorted out with knives and daggers on the streets. They were local issues which could be sorted out at the local / Police level or at worst in Courts. There were also many who tried to make CM Nazeer Ahmed insulting the naval officer into a communal issue. Wilpattu issue was turned into a communal issue rather than an issue against Minister Badurdeen , and was shown as if the whole community was plotting against the Sinhalese people. Despite public knowledge that the Muslim politicians and SLMC have lost credibility among the Muslims, Hate groups tried to blame the whole community for their unwise acts; for example ‘separate Muslim majority Muslim unit’ proposal put forward by them. It will be foolhardy to expect the entire Muslim community to offer an apology whenever a person with a Muslim name commits a crime or misdeed like what happened when a group of ‘Muslim’ drunks set fire to the Buddhist flag. It was a shameful act which should attract maximum punishment under the law.

It should help national reconciliation if the Sinhala community also acknowledge how the Muslim community has been taking more and more initiatives openly to integrate further with the Sinhalese, particularly in the recent past. They have increased their visible involvements in public amenity projects – Zam-Zam Foundation’s initiative to help poor students of all faiths, many blood donations and public benefit projects being organized at the local level, more collaboration between mosques and Buddhist temples at the local levels , active involvement of Muslims in flood relief, and the initiative taken by a Muslim to purchase a PET Scan machine were few such examples. There are many initiatives taken by the mosques and ACJU too to inculcate the need for Muslims to further integrate. Muslims are part and parcel of this country and their heritage goes back to more than 1000 in history and never advocated division and had any intentions to invade Sri Lanka. Therefore, they do not need lessons on national reconciliation and patriotism from unpatriotic hate mongers such as BBS.

The government therefore should recognize the need to put a stop to these majoritarian dog whistle hush talks and open barks whether in parliamentary corridors or in temples by openly declaring its’ policy on the nature of Sri Lanka – a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Sri Lanka and not a Sinhala State. Sri Lankan Muslims no longer can be the punching bags of these hate mongers at a time when the Muslims all over the world, are facing the brunt of a well- orchestrated Islamophobia campaign and asked to assume collective guilt for the action of the Un-Islamic ISIS. What happened in Medina should put the argument that ISIS is an Islamic group, to rest. It is the duty of the government to safeguard the dignity of Muslims ( of course all communities) by taking decisive action against those groups who are hell bent on making the life of the community difficult, fearful and insecure. All contentious issues whether regarding an illegal construction or a mosque or a conduct of a Muslim, should be dealt with in accordance with the law without dragging all Muslims into the equation. If there are concerns about ISIS infiltration in Sri Lanka, it is upto the defence authorities to take action, as the collective security is the concern of the Muslims as well.

Therefore, government should not play a waiting game to act as telling signs are already appearing on the horizon of an impending major Sinhala Muslim clash. Muslim patience in the times of the MR regime when these hate groups were at their peak, was admired even by the international community. However it does have its’ limits, as there are likely elements who may get provoked when insulting remarks are made about their religion. Cross party consensus should therefore be sought to fight hatred and religious bigotry and to promote national reconciliation. Urgent action should be taken to introduce Hate Speech Law, of course sorting out concerns of civic rights groups of the possibility of provisions being used to persecute political opponents. Legal action should be taken against all ‘Gnanassaras’ without fear or favour. A comprehensive plan of action should be drawn out to inculcate the importance of national reconciliation and the dangers of racist and religious extremism in schools, universities and Daham Paaselas of all faiths. Powerful social media should also be used for this purpose. More importantly, a mechanism should be worked out to sort out contentious racial and religious issues at the local level involving religious leaders and social activists. Civic activism is however paramount to force the hands of the government to take steps to fight racial and religious hatred and to promote national reconciliation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    2

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2
    4

    No wonder you have chosen the name; “wimpy kid”. When are you going to learn failure of LTTE Terrorist campaign. The objective of LTTE is not different from that of Racist and Fascist Muslims in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the blessed country of Lord Buddha. And the truth always prevails; That is Sri Lanka-Sinhala-Buddhist linkage is undisputable. Therefore do not ignite a calamity that will put the Muslims in Sri Lanka in a worst position. [Edited out]

  • 3
    2

    AAn open debate like the Panadura waadaya will help clear a lot of misconceptions.
    News item from Daily Mirror
    BBS General Secretary Ven. Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera today challenged former Central Provincial Council member Azath Salley for an open debate, instead of him issuing inflammatory statements.

    Ven. Thera said he was ready for an open debate anywhere in the country, or in Medina in Saudi Arabia.

    “Salley had threatened that he would blow himself up like a suicide bomber and kill me over a statement I made in Mahiyanganaya. Salley’s statement is shocking to Sinhala Buddhist society and now it will become a major controversy in the social media,” Ven. Thera said.

    The Thera had also condemned the burning of Buddhist flags in Mahiyangana on the Wesak Poya day by Muslim extremists, over a preaching of Dhamma against cattle slaughter.

    “A protest was held in the area. The extremists not even feel sorry for burning the flags. They had also had lodged a complaint with the Police IGP,” Gnanasara Thera said.

    Why not have a debate?

  • 1
    6

    In Sapugaskanda area there were no muslim people in the 1970s and 1980s. Now there are so many muslim people there. They are threatening to overrun this area.

    Same case in many cities and towns. Near Polonnaruwa there is an exclusive Muslim village of traders from Kattankudy. They are an interesting breed. They have the RIGHT to work and live and trade wherever, but can Sinhalese do the same? In Sapugaskanda nowadays it is scary to see Saudi looking black from head to toe women in Arabified Islam. Nothing wrong with there being so many muslims but you have to understand the rapid Arabification is frightening people in every secular society. Why are you so hell bent on copying Arabs ? Muslim women smoke, drink and dance in Colombo. Other muslim moderate women wore beautiful colorful clothing and a hijab. Most moderate Muslim ladies just wear the hijab. Now even the men are copying Arab dress. Why?

    • 5
      0

      Dear Sathyanathan,
      I am old enough to remember that there were Muslims in Sapugaskanda and Hunupitiya even in the 60’s. I agree that they are are taking to Arab dress though.
      On the other hand, do you not know that Nearby Kiribathgoda is a no-go area for Muslim and Tamil businesses? THAT is the reason why the Muslims are crowded into their areas.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Sathyanathan,
      I am old enough to remember that there were Muslims in Sapugaskanda and Hunupitiya even in the 60’s. I agree that they are are taking to Arab dress though.
      On the other hand,Muslims may on paper have the right to do business anywhere, but this does not apply in practice,like many other things in this country. Do you not know that Nearby Kiribathgoda and Kelaniya are no-go areas for Muslim and Tamil businesses? THAT is the reason why the Muslims are crowded into their areas.

  • 0
    2

    If somebody of other faith call you wild beast what will be your reaction.

    if you are called idiot as you worship your faith founders idol what will be your reaction

    if somebody prays for his or her god please do me all the favours but send others to fire hell as they are not worshiping you, what will be your reaction

  • 0
    4

    Our Buddhist’s flag denote halo said to be glowing around head of our teacher lord Buddha. That is what so called drunkard Muslim youth burnt. but residence in the village say some thing else. As chief incumbent of village temple delivered Sermon on futility of animal slaughter and consumption of beef. angered Muslim youth on this sermon burnt Buddhist’s flag on Wesak poya day.if thing like that happen to people of other faith, there may be huge cry from all section. so called NGO might have gone to UNHCR as well. But nobody take care of this incident just say it is childish work of Muslims youth. our so called Buddhists organisations and chief prelates of Buddhists sects too are very silence. police not taking proper actions due to bribery offered by Muslims traders.BBS only raised their voice. now so called pious Buddhists hit them with whatever the weapons available with them. in pat Buddhist monks sacrificed their lives to preserve Buddhism for us. they too were attacked by them. Muslims extremist activities are hailed. Europeans did same in the past, now their children are suffering. Capital cities of Europe just like Colombo prior to 2009. we do not want similar situation here with Muslim extremism.we want to eliminate them at any cost. weather Muslims community suffer or not is immaterial to us.that is why BBS asking debate. why Muslim clergies not accepting it. but asking police to arrest BBS leader venerable gnanasara and even trying to kill him as he raise his voice against Muslim extremist who are affiliated with ISIS. NO so called moderate Muslims. Muslims are Muslims who trying to implement verses of Koran no matter in line with humanity or not.

    • 2
      1

      whether Muslim or not, this burning of the Buddhist flag was a grave crime, It is because of this, the mosque of that area handed over those evil youth to the Police . This act was roundedly condemned by all.

      Do you take offence like this to many other insults to Buddhism by the Buddhists themselves such as

      Having liqour bars close to Dalada maligawa. Highest no of alcoholics in SL
      monks abusing young sameneras
      rogue Buddhist monks engaging in many other evils such as thuggery, womanizing, drunkards like Gnanasara
      having half naked women dancing close to the maligawa and hacing night races.

      Or do you only intervene if others people do such things?

      Hypocrisy all the way

      • 1
        1

        “Hypocrisy all the way “
        Yes, killing cattle is evil, but killing people is OK.

  • 4
    1

    There are over one million Lankans toiling away in the Middle East. Their remittances is the second most important source of Lankan foreign exchange. If agent provocateurs succeed in creating pogroms against Lankan Muslims, the lives and livelihood of these Lankans may be jeopardised.

  • 2
    0

    Would it not be best that when a silly person or an extremist of any faith behaves in a manner that the others, who hold to that same faith, deem unbecoming of their tenets, that those “sane” people publicly disassociate themselves and their religion with the said silly or extremist person; as a community make a statement that that man/woman/ youth and the action or speech has no acceptance or approval among the rest of that community. It might be even better if such a person is publicly excommunicated. Then credibility of the vast majority will be established and accepted. What say you?

    • 0
      0

      The Buddhist prelates must start this process first like in the past which helped the best form of amenity amongst all the Sri Lankan communities comprising of all the ethnicity with different religious affiliation.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.