22 October, 2020

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BBS And Vesak!

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is alleged to have warned that those who do not adhere to the BBS’s preference with respect to how Vesak should be commemorated will be caned.  The BBS finds the festivities associated with Vesak, especially the frills, the color, the play of puppeteers and other kolam objectionable.  Instead, the BBS advocates a deeper engagement with the dhamma and a temple-based commemoration.

Vesak commemorates the themagula, the three most significant life-moments of Siddhartha Gauthama, namely the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana or the ascendance to the supreme bliss of Nirvana.  Thus, if Vesak is about the Buddha, then it makes sense to reflect on the life and teachings of the All-Knowing One.  The dhamma, encapsulated in both the sutras as well as the commentaries, from the deeply philosophical Visuddimagga of Ven. Buddhaghosa to the more lyrical reflection/advocacy of the Loveda Sangharava, is replete with recommendations for wholesome life-practice as well as enumeration of things that could distract and compromise the same.

The Buddha wachana or the Word of the Buddha (Dhamma), then, is hardly recognizable in Vesak, in the glitter that its present day commercialized articulation, except as manifestation of its breach.  This is of course not to say that all Buddhists have given up on the Dhamma.  The hype is about that which has greater visibility, for example the pandols.  The visible (and the visibly large) naturally attract and make for coverage and commentary.  But just ask the BBS’s visibility and the coverage/commentary it attracts does not indicate that it represents all Buddhists in any way, the spectacle and spectator-appeal of certain elements of Vesak, does not mean that this is what all Buddhists do on Vesak.   The temples are also full of those who observe sil.  Many hang lanterns, but even they would not fail to light a clay lamp at home and offer flowers at the temple and before a Buddha statue or image at home.  Not because the BBS says ‘this is the way!’  but just that they have a different understanding of doctrine and articulation of understanding.

What is objectionable in the BBS’s Vesak ‘manifesto’ is its quite un-Buddhist response to a vulgarized celebration (different from ‘commemoration’ of course) of Vesak.  There is no ‘crime and punishment’ in Buddhism.  There is no confession and expiation.  The Buddha recommends a certain approach to life, elaborates on what is beneficial and wholesome and warns against acts that can be detrimental to the comprehension of truth, ultimate emancipation and even a peaceful journey through life.  It is up to the individual to choose with cautionary caveats about consequences.  No mention of canes and caning.

It is commendable that the BBS objects to the ‘glitter’ (from a Buddhist reading), which is but a mimicking of and even a we-can-do-better response to other ‘glittering’ of other faiths or rather the followers of other faiths (much of what is associated with Christmas is incongruent with the life and word of Jesus, for example).  The BBS’s response, however, is not only inconsistent with Buddhism but amounts to a threat that infringes on freedoms enshrined in the constitution.  The threat is in the public domain.  What say the Police and the Attorney General?   The BBS has demonstrated that they have strayed a fair distance from the Sathara Brahma Viharana (metta, muditha, karuna and upekkha – compassion, rejoicing in others’ joys, kindness and equanimity); there’s none of these in the ‘caning threat’.  This alone scripts ‘failure’ into its project(s), but the state and the law cannot wait on such eventualities.

As for Vesak, we can but hope that it inspires Buddhists to seek refuge and answer, modes of being and choices of engagement in all things in the Word of the Buddha, enshrined in the vast archive that is the Dhamma and obtainable in even a random line.  

The Nation chose the following with metta: Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhi-tatta, may all beings be happy.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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    Please bring the BBS to their senses. People give Dana according to their capabilities and talents. If someone who is good at cooking wants to give Dana of food to Monks, or someone who is good at Carpentry wants to give Dana of his talents at building a Thorana, or an Electrician wants to give Dana of his talents in decorating it, let us say ‘Sadhu’ and Appreciate how they best know to commemorate the Buddha’s Life. It is not only Monks that we can give Dana to. Little children will make Vesak Lanterns as their contribution to Vesak. Is the BBS going to Cane them too?

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    Why dont those BBS baggers stop gamling places in colombo,people schould not feed those BBS baggers,

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      Where does it say that monks can take the law into their own hands? The general decline in morals and law and order is fast deteriorating because monks are busy doing everything else BUT preach as they should be doing.

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      According to the Buddh’s teachings you can identify a good character of a person from certain physical characteristics. May be a person knowledgeable can quote the gatha’s. If these are to be applied to some of these personalities, I wonder how many will pass the Buddha’s acid test for a good character-ed person……

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    BAUDHAYAAS SAY VESAAK IS HOLY AND NOT TO KILL ANY LIVES..BUT THOSE WHO SAY THESE THINGS KILL THEMSELVES ON THIS VERY DAY……… SHAME …

    Buddhist monk attempts self-immolation in Kandy
    May 24, 2013

    A Buddhist monk was rushed to the Kandy General Hospital with serious burn injuries after he attempted self-immolation near the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy this morning.

    The Buddhist monk doused himself with petrol and set himself ablaze in front of the Wahalkada of the Dalada Maligawa at around 11.30 a.m. protesting against cattle slaughter, Ada Derana reporter said.

    Police have identified him, through a NIC found in his possession, as a resident Buddhist monk at the Porabe Viharaya in Kahawatta.

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    The BBS is a twin of the Taliban – both of them being ultra-extremists. However, it appears the Taliban are fundamentalists based on their understanding of Islam, whilst the BBS can’t claim to be even remotely connected with the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. How did these thugs come to be? What is their origin? Who funds them? Why don’t the ‘law-enforcement custodians’ treat them as equal in the eyes of the law? Who protects them?

    Maybe the Nation could do some pieces on this disgrace to Buddhism, or would this be too much to ask??

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    A good article by Malinda and points to ponder indeed by the Buddhists

    I also wonder why the BBS is not saying much about the Casino’s in Colombo,i mean the big posh ones in Col 3 area (where all sorts of vices takes place)

    i’m awaiting for Leela aka K A Sumanasekeras comments on this great article too and his views on the ‘caning’ part…..

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    Well said Malinda. For BBS to make such a public threat which goes against the constitution shows that our law enforcement is can be twisted to do their bidding and they have no regard whatsoever for the law of the land, nor for the teachings of Lord Buddha. Just power hungry wolves in sheeps clothing…or in this case, thugs disguised in robes.

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    Vesak, Christmas, Prophet Muhammad birthday celebration, valentine’s day, Mother’s day, etc. are all a joke and has no religious basis.

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    The BBS is right. Anyone who so much as cracks a smile should be shot. The world is suffering and everyone should suffer and suffer and SUFFERRRRRRRR!

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    The energy of the BBS should be diverted to fight against, bribery and corruption, night clubs, Massage Palours, Injustice, poverty, rapes and murders, crimes etc., the whole nation will cheer them. If Buddha is alive today will be happy that His true disciples are enforcing morality in the Buddhist country. BBS Rise Against all those vices which morally degrade our country. Support Virtues and Oppose Vices. All members of the BBS will attain Nirvana automatically, I promise

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    Many people see phenomena such as the BBS at face value. While proponents within that school of thought may subscribe to its ideology, the last laugh is reserved for those who benefit from their antics. If people are divided and focused on an enemy manufactured or promoted and remain diverted from their real enemies, then the joke is on the public thus misled, isn’t it?

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      correct. Not everyone take them at face value. They are deep rooted with a long term agenda unlike the hela urumaya. If people continue to be mislead they’ll play a key role in the next presidential election. Considering the norway roots their support may not necessirliy be to the current regime. People within the school of though should go back to learn their religion & history

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    “The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is alleged to have warned that those who do not adhere to the BBS’s preference with respect to how Vesak should be commemorated will be caned.”

    Laughable comment but, as usual,another nice article from Malinda. And the point he makes is well taken. We Muslims can also relate to this type of scenario with the emergence of the dreaded Wahabi sceptre imposing all sorts of prohibitions among our community in the name of Islam. These extra-religious movenments especially among the muslims are mainly political in agenda and serve the vested interests of powerful power blocks. They are a dangerous form of neo-religious colonialism with unlimited funds at their disposal, destroying the very essence and purity of the religion they purport to sanctify. The march of these types of extra-religious movements should be stemmed as soon as possible if further bloodshed and violence is to be averted, especially among communities living in a muticultural environment. Religion is certainly the opium of the masses and there is no greater example of its destructive interpretation as the latest massacre of a British Army drummer in Woolwich 2 days ago by a deranged Islamic fanatic. Brutal and animalistic no doubt. Much against the very precepts of Islam itself.

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    Bloody Bull S*** encapsulates Galabodda thero’s rantings!

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    Galabodda Hamuduruwo, what is your take on those responsible for the Matale mass graves?

    Could you please threaten to cane those perpetrators in public, instead of the innocent kids frolicking in masks and hats during Wesak!!?

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    What is objectionable in the BBS’s Vesak ‘manifesto’ is its quite un-Buddhist response to a vulgarized celebration (different from ‘commemoration’ of course) of Vesak. There is no ‘crime and punishment’ in Buddhism. There is no confession and expiation. The Buddha recommends a certain approach to life, elaborates on what is beneficial and wholesome and warns against acts that can be detrimental to the comprehension of truth, ultimate emancipation and even a peaceful journey through life. It is up to the individual to choose with cautionary caveats about consequences. No mention of canes and caning.
    (Malinda Seneviratne)

    It is my opinion that the BBS has got into trouble by issuing a Vesak Manifesto. By doing this they have dictated terms and made them “punishable offences”. Hardly any difference between Sharia Law.

    When the law of the jungle is supreme, the constitution of the country is invalid and the law makers and law enforcement officers are useless. The Supreme Court interprets the law without principle and people are left to find their own solutions to socio-economic and socio-political problems. The BBS dictating terms in the midst of this close to anarchy situation is totally un-Buddhist.

    This is the time for the BBS to draft a code of conduct in the form of guidelines for Buddhist law makers based on Dhamma. Violation should not be made punishable offences because there is no “crime and punishment” and “confession and expiation” in Buddhism as Malinda has stated. If the Buddhist law makers do not follow the guidelines then the Bhikkus and the lay Buddhists can “advise kindly” the “violators” that they have become “unsuitable” to represent the people to govern the country.

    This is also the time for the BBS to formulate a strategy to teach Pali to Buddhists enabling them to read and understand the stanzas and texts in Pali. Muslims teach Arabic enabling the followers of Islam to read and understand the Holy Koran. Christian clergy have translated the Bible into Sinhala and Tamil. So the believers and followers can understand the religious teachings in texts better. Teaching Pali in schools is now not heard of.

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    traitor remembering the constituion the police and the attoney general departments when your own freedom is resctricted. But when there were peaceful vigils, shops been burnt, churches been destroyed alll of you endorsed it including champika ranawaka and the hela urumaya as a way of protecting buddhism. Stop throwing stones from glass houses. Chauvinists portraying themselves as nationalists are at the forefront to divide this country they did in 1983 and will do it again nationalists should be able to live with all communties for the sake of thier country(like in india) but here nationalist or sinhala buddhists(minority). Want to get rid of the prosperous people who work hard to make a hay

    I stopped buying the nation because of this fellow.

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    BBS is introducing SHARIA LAW in Sri Lanka .

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    Since Buddhism was replaced by triumphant Brahminism, the eclipse of Buddhism in India was obviously primarily a result of the Brahminical revival. The Buddha was a true revolutionary—and his crusade against Brahminical supremacy won him his most ardent followers from among the oppressed castes. The Buddha challenged the divinity of the Vedas, the bedrock of Brahminism. He held that all men are equal and that the caste system or varnashramadharma, to which the Vedas and Other Brah’minical’ books had given religious sanction, was completely false. Thus, in the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha is said to have exhorted the Bhikkus, saying,

    “Just, O brethren, as the great rivers, when they have emptied themselves into the Great Ocean, lose their different names and are known as the Great Ocean Just so, O brethren, do the four varnas—Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya and Sudra—when they begin to follow the doctrine and discipline propounded by the Tathagata [i.e. the Buddha], renounce the different names of caste and rank and become the members of one and the same society.”

    The Buddha’s fight against Brahminism won him many enemies from among the Brahmins. They were not as greatly opposed to his philosophical teachings as they were to his message of universal brotherhood and equality for it directly challenged their hegemony and the scriptures that they had invented to legitimize this. To combat Buddhism and revive the tottering Brahminical hegemony, Brahminical revivalists resorted to a three-pronged strategy.

    Firstly, they launched a campaign of hatred and persecution against the Buddhists. Then, they appropriated many of the finer aspects of Buddhism into their own system so as to win over the “lower” caste Buddhist masses, but made sure that this selective appropriation did not in any way undermine Brahminical hegemony. The final stage in this project to wipeout Buddhism was to propound and propagate the myth that the Buddha was merely another ‘incarnation’ (avatar) of the Hindu god Vishnu. Buddha was turned into just another of the countless deities of the Brahminical pantheon. The Buddhists were finally absorbed into the caste system, mainly as Shudras and ‘Untouchables’, and with that the Buddhist presence was completely obliterated from the land of its birth. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar writes in his book, The Untouchables, that the ancestors of today’s Dalits were Buddhists who were reduced to the lowly status of ‘untouchables’ for not having accepted the supremacy of the Brahmins. They were kept apart from other people and were forced to live in ghettos of their own. Being treated worse that beasts of burden and forbidden to receive any education, these people gradually lost touch with Buddhism, but yet never fully reconciled themselves to the Brahminical order. Many of them later converted to Islam, Sikhism and Christianity in a quest for liberation from the Brahminical religion.

    To lend legitimacy to their campaign against Buddhism, Brahminical texts included fierce strictures against Buddhists. Manu, in his Manusmriti, laid down that, “If a person touches a Buddhist […] he shall purify himself by having a bath.” Aparaka ordained the same in his Smriti. Vradha Harit declared entry into a Buddhist temple a sin, which could only be expiated for by taking a ritual bath. Even dramas and other books for lay people written by Brahmins contained venomous propaganda against the Buddhists. In the classic work, Mricchakatika, (Act VII), the hero Charudatta, on seeing a Buddhist monk pass by, exclaims to his friend Maitriya— “Ah! Here is an inauspicious sight, a Buddhist monk coming towards us.”

    The Brahmin Chanakya, author of Arthashastra, declared that, “When a person entertains in a dinner dedicated to gods and ancestors those who are Sakyas (Buddhists), Ajivikas, Shudras and exiled persons, a fine of one hundred panas shall be imposed on him.” Shankaracharaya, the leader of the Brahminical revival, struck terror into the hearts of the Buddhists with his diatribes against their religion.

    The simplicity of the Buddha’s message, its stress on equality and its crusade against the bloody and costly sacrifices and ritualism of Brahminism had attracted the oppressed casts in large numbers. The Brahminical revivalists understood the need to appropriate some of these finer aspects of Buddhism and discarded some of the worst of their own practices so as to be able to win over the masses back to the Brahminical fold. Hence began the process of the assimilation of Buddhism by Brahminism.

    The Brahimns, who were once voracious beef-eaters, turned vegetarian, imitating the Buddhists in this regard. Popular devotion to the Buddha was sought to be replaced by devotion to Hindu gods such as Rama and Krishna. The existing version of the Mahabharata was written in the period in which the decline of Buddhism had already begun, and it was specially meant for the Shudras, most of whom were Buddhists, to attract them away from Buddhism. Brahminism, however, still prevented the Shudras from having access to the Vedas, and the Mahabharata was possibly written to placate the Buddhist Shudras and to compensate them for this discrimination.

    The Mahabharata incorporated some of the humanistic elements of Buddhism to win over the Shudras, but, overall, played its role of bolstering the Brahminical hegemony rather well. Thus, Krishna, in the Gita, is made to say that a person ought not to violate the “divinely ordained” law of caste. Eklavya is made to slice off his thumb by Drona, who is finds it a gross violation of dharma that a mere tribal boy should excel the Kshatriya Arjun in archery.

    The various writer of the puranas, too, carried on this systematic campaign of hatred, slander and calumny against the Buddhists. The Brahannardiya Purana made it a principal sin for Brahmins to enter the house of a Buddhist even in times of great peril. The Vishnu Purana dubs the Buddha as Maha Moha or ‘the great seducer’. It further cautions against the “sin of conversing with Buddhists” and lays down that “those who merely talk to Buddhist ascetics shall be sent to hell.”

    In the Gaya Mahatmaya, the concluding section of the Vayu Purana, the town of Gaya is identified as Gaya Asura, a demon who had attained such holiness that all those who saw him or touched him went straight to heaven. Clearly, this ‘demon’ was none other the Buddha who preached a simple way for all, including the oppressed castes, to attain salvation. The Vayu Purana story goes on to add that Yama, the king of hell, grew jealous at this, possibly because less people were now entering his domains. He appealed to the gods to limit the powers of Asura Gaya. This the gods, led by Vishnu, were able to do by placing a massive stone on the “demon’s” head. This monstrous legend signified the ultimate capture of Budhdhism’s most holy centre by its most inveterate foes.

    Kushinagar, also known as Harramba, was one of the most important Buddhist centres as the Buddha breathed his last there. The Brahmins, envious of the prosperity of this pilgrim town and in order to discourage people from going there, invented the absurd theory that one who dies in Harramba goes to hell, or is reborn as an ass, while he who dies in Kashi, the citadel of Brahminism, goes straight to heaven. So pervasive was the belief in this bizarre theory that when the Sufi saint Kabir died in 1518 AD at Maghar, not far from Kushinagar, some of his Hindu followers refused to erect any memorial in his honor there and instead set up one at Kashi. Kabir’s Muslim followers were less superstitious. They set up a tomb for him at Maghar itself.

    In addition to vilifying the fair name of the Buddha, the Brahminical revivalists goaded Hindu kings to persecute and even slaughter innocent Buddhists. Sasanka, the Shaivite Brahmin king of Bengal, murdered the last Buddhist emperor Rajyavardhana, elder brother of Harshavardhana, in 605 AD and then marched on to Bodh Gaya where he destroyed the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. He forcibly removed the Buddha’s image from the Bodh Vihara near the tree and installed one of Shiva in its place.

    Finally, Sasanka is said to have slaughtered all the Buddhist monks in the area around Kushinagar. Another such Hindu king was, Mihirakula, a Shaivite, who is said to have completely destroyed over 1500 Buddhist shrines. The Shaivite Toramana is said to have destroyed the Ghositarama Buddhist monastery at Kausambi.

    The extermination of Buddhism in India was hastened by the large-scale destruction and appropriation of Buddhist shrines by the Brahmins. The Mahabodhi Vihara at Bodh Gaya was forcibly converted into a Shaivite temple, and the controversy lingers on till this day. The cremation stupa of the Buddha at Kushinagar was changed into a Hindu temple dedicated to the obscure deity with the name of Ramhar Bhavani. Adi Shankara is said to have established his Sringeri Mutth on the site of a Buddhist monastery which he took over. Many Hindu shrines in Ayodhya are said to have once been Buddhist temples, as is the case with other famous Brahminical temples such as those at Sabarimala, Tirupati, Badrinath and Puri.

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    Good article.First we need to remember that religion is a very personal issue.There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THE RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD.IF RELIGIOUS LEADERS POINT OUT THE SIMILARITIES RATHER THAN THE DIFFERENCES IN EACH RELIGION I FEEL LOT COULD BE ACHIEVED TO OVERCOME THE FEAR OF ONES RELIGION BEING WIPED OUT.IT IS BASICALLY THE FEAR OF SELF PRESERVATION THAT BRINGS ABOUT NEGATIVE ACTIVITY.

    BUDHDHIST YOU HAVE A GREAT PHILOSOPHY,CHRISTIANS HAVE TO WORK ON CLOSER AND MORE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD,HINDU’S THE DIVERSITY IN YOUR RELIGION AND YET THE COMMON BELIEF IN THE ALL ENCOMPASSING GOD,MUSLIMS THE SACRED BELIEF IN ALLAH.
    LOVE AND CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER REGARDLESS OF THE NAME OF THE RELIGION IS THE THREAD THAT BINDS THESE RELIGIONS.EACH INDIIDUAL SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE WHAT RELIGION HE OR SHE WANTS TO FOLLOW-NOT AT THE COST OF HURTING ANOTHER.
    DIABOLOCAL INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE EVIL -ABSOLUTELY EVIL, USE THE RELIGIONS AND IGNORANCE OF UNSUSPECTING HUMAN BEINGS FOR THEIR OWN SELFISH PURPOSE.
    ALL OF SOCIETY CAN FALL PREY TO THESE EVIL PEOPLE UNLESS THE PRINCIPLES OF A RELIGION OR BASIC HUMANITARIAN ETHICS ARE INGRAINED IN THEM. LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF SHOULD BE A BASIS TO BUILD A BETTER SOCIETY.

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    Malinda Senevirathne:

    This is just a stupid article.

    You chose to ride the wave and gain some little cheap FAME for you.

    Instead, you should have all possible angles and directions proposed a better solution.

    Instead you chose to be cheap.

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    what do you think about preserving the Sinhala – buddhist culture.

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      JimSofty

      What you mean by “Sinhala – buddhist culture”

      Could you write an exposition on that subject.

      Many so called Sinhala/Buddhist cannot even say two sentences about it.

      Is it about new year celebrations?

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    Once we had “Grease yakkas” terrorising the villagers and pretending they were from the army in order to discredit the armed forces. Now we have BBS running amok applying their own short sighted un-buddistic remedies to real issues people have and are pretending to support Gotabaya Rajapakse(GR), in order to give the impression GR is involved in this nonsense and thereby bring discredit to him.
    GR should not get caught to this trap and the Govt should identify who is funding this organisation and then only we will know whether this is a disruptive organisation or merely a group of short sighted extremists, just like the Christian Evangelists and Born Again groups; Muslim Taliban and other extremists; and Hindu extremists groups.

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