18 September, 2020

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Contrasting Perspectives In Analysing The Easter Tragedy! – ‘Rational’ And ‘Racist’! 

By Lakmal Harischandra

Lakmal Harischandra

Covid-19 will make Easter very different for millions this year, with public liturgies suspended and churches closed all over the world. During this Covid-19 pandemic, when many are anxious about how they will come through, to the Christian community in Sri Lanka, Easter this year also brings to their mind, dark and sad memories of a barbaric terror attack which targeted many churches and killed hundreds of worshippers at prayer. The terror targets included some hotels and their guests too. 

There is no disagreement at all about the barbarity of the terror crime committed on Easter Sunday last year and the imperative need to punish them –It was a crime against humanity indeed. This deserves ultimate condemnation and punishment. However, despite many probes and inquiries, still there is not much progress in identifying those responsible for the disaster and for allowing this to happen, despite many arrests being made including the politically timed arrests few days ago. 

The Muslims in particular were demonised, making the entire community by association. The whole community was asked to plead guilty for the vile acts of a fringe extremist group which took them too, by surprise. In fact, the community felt much grieved and remorseful, when they heard that the same group NTJ which  they have already warned the authorities about many times in the past, was responsible for carrying out this monstrous but preventable attack. Even the Indian authorities have warned the government and Intelligence. Sadly the innocent worshippers and the hotel guests were made sacrificial lamb for the apathy of the authorities. 

Interestingly, an year on, the Easter Sunday Disaster, the darkest chapter in the recent history of Sri Lanka, is being  analysed through different but contrasting perspectives. To quote two examples, His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, one of the heroic characters at the time of the tragedy who saved the country from a sure ethnic war, at his Press conference looked at it from a rational and mature perspective as a Man of Religion. Then, the other one was Shenali Waduge, a renown Islamophobe who took a divisive approach, going at tangents placing blame on Islamic Jihadism and by extension on the appeasement of minorities and multi-culturism for allowing this to happen. Interesting contrasts indeed!

His Eminence the Cardinal adopted a rational approach. Cardinal clearly stated that there were clear attempts by certain forces to create unwanted tensions between various religions by destroying the inter -faith unity and harmony. There is a need to identify those conspirators to avert such recurrences in the future This probes should be transparent and those responsible for allowing this to happen should be found. There need to be a genuine effort to ascertain those who  financed and gave logistical support to this terror operation. Although the present government continuing the probes is commendable, it is also important that those who ignored tips and prior intelligence warnings should also be summoned, inquired into and sued.    Further, there is also a need to differentiate between the wrong and the wrong doers to avert such acts in the future’. Cardinal also forgave those who committed this crime. However, there is the need to identify those behind this well- planned operation and who benefitted therefrom.  

Thus, the Cardinal looked at the bigger picture beyond mere Zahraans and saw the presence of evil forces who wanted to wreak havoc on the religious unity and harmony for petty (political) gains. He thus saw Zahraans as  mere ‘balal-ath’( cats paws). Cardinal has many times stressed the need to look for the real culprits without demonising the Muslim community, who had no benefit from waging this savage attack on their religious cousins. This extremist group was used by those schemers to  create a conducive situation to achieve their nefarious political ends. As expected, the aftermath of this tragedy created much emotions which led for the people to call for a change of government which stresses on national security and a powerful leader who will not bend down to the whims and fancies of the Minorities (particularly the Muslims) with extremist tendencies. ISIS naturally got the ‘credit’ for an operation which was planned locally, specifically to achieve local political objectives, although there were reported links with and support ISIS operatives in India, who wanted a boost when their global reach were getting affected. This does not mean Wahhabi extremism is not a problem at all; it is a cancer for the Sri Lankan Muslims as well who have had more than 1000 years of amicable living with the Sinhalese. But any sane analyst will note that targeting the Christian community was deliberately planned as the planners wanted a controlled social explosion with global impact ( reason why targeted the Hotels as well). If it was an attack on the Sinhala Buddhists, then those attacks would have led to anti-Muslim attacks of un-controllable proportions. Cardinals’ intervention not to attack Muslims at the early stage frustrated the hate groups’ plans, who were waited for a positive nod from the Cardinal to start attacking the Muslims. However, it was not to be. He saw the attacks from a different but matured light.  

It is interesting to note  that the line between legitimate criticism and illegitimate bigotry is crossed when criticism of ideas or beliefs becomes transposed into prejudice about people. Shenali Waduge, (SW) never shy away from any opportunity to spread racist venom or demonize the minorities while singing hosannas for Sinhala supremacy. Thus, unsurprisingly, she made use of the Easter Sunday  to  shout from her rooftop the need to stop appeasing the minorities among many other wild accusations. Days ago, on the first anniversary of the Easter Sunday tragedy, she published an article in her own website titled ‘Easter Sunday Attack by Islamic Jihadists in Sri Lanka – A Crime against Humanity – Lessons to be learnt’ which is being circulated widely in the social media, creating distorted perspectives about the disaster. This article is best considered as a grim clutter of minority hatred (with focus on anti-Muslim hate) and  (majority) Sinhala identity politics. She did not condemn the worst type of  atrocities and genocide committed by Buddhist Myanmar. Instead she was suggesting some measures adopted by the Myanmar government  as well as the Chinese government to deal with the Muslim extremism. 

The purpose of this article is not to argue that the Muslim community is flawless and that everything that they have got wrong are due to some external factors. That is not the case. There are many areas where the Muslim community should reflect inwards and make amends. If a fair and independent probe points to Muslim sharks (apart from the sprats arrested) behind this barbaric  attacks, then certainly they also deserve the utmost punishment. The purpose of this article is to show  that the analysis of the Easter Sunday should be fair without demonising the entire community and holding the whole community to account for the acts of a vile few or a group. It is not fair when the Sinhala community was not blamed for the 1983 pogrom against the Tamils  by State sponsored (Sinhala) gangs where hundreds were massacred or for the anti-Muslim attacks from Aluthgama to Minuwangoda when (Sinhala) goons provoked by the likes of Ven Gnanasaras were carrying them out or the whole Tamil community wasn’t found fault with, when Tigers were massacring people in many hundreds, to quote another example. SW’s article was clearly missing the forest for the trees, by her misplaced arguments. As a Sinhalese activist, I feel a sense of injustice when a section of our community is being unfairly demonized, If not stopped in its tracks, this would lead to more Zahraans.  

SW’s approach and her language of hate was neither new or surprising  and has always defined who she is and is. SW said in this article; ‘All over the country people began to question the wisdom of placing trust and faith in foreign born rather than home grown propositions if the final outcome of such misplaced trust was a tragedy of genocidal proportions. .. The unequivocal cry everywhere was that there should not be any further compromise with any minority, ethnic or religious, pursuing an Agenda, aimed at undermining at any level the control and management of this country by the elected representatives of the majority. Enough is enough. Time for experimentation with ideas more applicable in a foreign context no longer mattered’ .Is this what should be a logical inference out of that tragedy?

Then, SW goes on to interestingly draw some lessons from the tragedy. It is intriguing how these lessons arise out of a tragedy which has wider political dimensions than Zahraan’s bombing as remarked by the Cardinal. She draws strange lessons such as No more appeasement of minorities (minorities have enjoyed making unfair and unreasonable demands. The rulers were following an un restricted appeasing line), and the multi-culturism should end (though Sri Lanka is the homeland of all its citizens a special place has to be reserved for the Bhoomiputras -sons of the soil – those who built the nation). Sinhala Buddhists are the undisputed Bhoomiputras of Sri Lanka. Finally, she proposes some steps to establish a Sinhala Buddhist State, including the absurd suggestion to develop Population control mechanisms such that no minority community, religious or ethnic, will surreptitiously indulge in achieving high birth rates and thereby through natural increase of their flock compete with the majority to dominate and rule the country’. This is the type of racist poison being circulated among the grassroot levels of the Sinhala community which consequently leads to ethnic tensions and violence. If this is not hate speech, then what is?  

What is this appeasement of minorities and usurpation of rights of the majority she refers to? At most, those who may have been appeased were the Muslim or Tamil political opportunists and not the communities. Although minorities should enjoy the same rights as the majority as equal citizens under the constitution, it is only an illusion. Still both Tamils and Muslims are being marginalized in the Post-war era, by the Sinhala supremacist government where racism is institutionalized and majoritarian policies are deeply entrenched. Muslims are being demonised and the racist sections in the political establishment, Maha Sangha and the Media are enjoying immunity (impunity has gone to crisis proportions in Sri Lanka). The position has become more precarious for the minorities now with Rajapaksas back in action and will get worse after if  a  2/3rd majority parliament becomes a reality. The rights referred to by SW regarding some laws only for the Muslims, are the personal laws. Kandyans too enjoy some laws peculiar to them. 

However, as a result of the hate speech of this kind, our brotherly Muslim community has been facing a climate of fear and insecurity. Hiru, Derana, Diwaina and Lankaadeepa are well known for fake news and demonization of the minorities which is enjoying immunity from any forms of prosecution. Impunity of the highest order! Often repeated, these types of tirade of hate and venom appear to have a lasting impact on the psyche of youth people, making them unfairly look at the Muslims suspiciously. This does not augur well for the future of a united Sri Lanka. We know what can happen when political leaders, media outlets and writers of this type, single out certain groups of people as less than human and demonise them. Today, the leaders of powerful nations use dehumanizing language in describing certain groups of people. In Rwanda, we know what happened due to dehumanizing language. Years of cultivated hatred led to death on a horrifying scale. The radio station RTLM, allied with leaders of the government, had been inciting Hutus against the Tutsi minority, repeatedly describing the latter as inyenzi, or “cockroaches,” and as inzoka, or “snakes.” The station, unfortunately, had many listeners. The genocide was one of the worst ever. 

Be it as it may, the subject under analysis, is the Easter Sunday tragedy and the factors which led to it. As Cardinal stated that there is a need to do a fair probe and punish those responsible. The hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities will only be a diversion. Failure to hold perpetrators to account for all forms of ethnic violence (Easter attacks and those before)  has strengthened the hate groups. It is time for Sri Lanka to vigorously adopt measures to protect the rights of all people and to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their ethno-religious background. 

Besides, Sri Lanka needs religious leaders of the likes of Cardinal, Ven Galkande Dhammadanda Thero and Ven Bhaddiya Thero. Contrastingly, avowed hate peddlers like SWs, Gnanasaras and Iththeekandes who get the moral comfort of having someone else to blame for our nation’s failures should be confronted without observing silence. There is a need for those of us, as non-racists, to kick out those of the likes of SW intellectually , or lock them up in their cocoons. As Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz Survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, stated ,’We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented’

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 11
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    I have seen many tamils condemn their own people
    I have seen some sinhalese (like this author) condemn their own people
    But not seen a single muslim condemn their own here.
    This author suggests that there are problems in the muslim community and that muslims should reflect and correct it. They wont!
    All you see muslim authors here do is play the victim and blame everyone else. And their mindset is a reflection of their community in SL as a whole.
    Muslims in Sri Lanka are being arabised. Arabic version of islam is not compatible with the rest of the world and violence and conflict is guaranteed. Its expansion also has to be stopped forcefully or it will take over the host like the way a parasite does.

    • 8
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      People like Shenali and Potta Eagle should reflect on where they would be today, if Pakistan, a Muslim country, didn’t send MBRL’s 20 years ago to save Jaffna. Sinhala Buddhist racists have short memories and suffer from ingratitude.

    • 10
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      Do you want the Muslims to blame their selves for being victims of injustice?

      • 1
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        How about religious minorities (buddhists, hindus, christians, sikhs, jews, parsis, jains, atheists, ) muslim majority countries (buddhists, hindus, christians, sikhs, jews, parsis, jains)? Any thoughts on how they treated in those countries?

        • 1
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          When our sinhala Buddhist spread hatred, what do you expect the minorities do. To get small favours, blame their immunity.
          I do not think as far.as I have heard and known from my Tamil friends, no one blames LTTE for anything. They treat them like their saviours. I have not heard any of their politicians including EPDP blaming LTTE, except of course Ranils boy Sumsnthiran occasionally.
          Similarly Ii am sure after Aluthgama, Ampara,Digana, Muslims also may feel some justification with Sahran. If they feel so we.can not.blame.them.
          We need to.blame.ourselves who funded them like the President who when he was defence secretary funded them and may have even tacit approval last April as Strategy for his Presidential Election. It.is.not.new to the Family paid Tihers to get elected very well knowing that.could result in death of our soldiers. Poor Tiran got some trouble and.good.money for himself

        • 0
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          VADC …. Have you lived in Muslim majority countries … please visit then you will find all are treated equally. My long expetience in Kuwait convinces me that. If you commit crimes you will face justice no matter which religion you belong to even Muslims. If you abide by rules you will live in peace.

        • 0
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          VSDC ….. We will move to Arabia after you all move to Nepal or N. India, the birth place of Buddha and Buddhism. Give us a call from Dambadiva then we will start packing to go to Saudi.

    • 5
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      Hmm … this indeed is our nation’s problem. They want minorities to accept any garbage thrown on us while they believe they have immunity against any racist garbage against minorities.

      We are equal citizens in this country. Such people create hatred by their statements … when we mention how our Masjids, homes and shops were burned down and people are murdered in racist attacks they think its unreasonable for us to complain about it. We have lived here a thousand years. We are Sri Lankans 100%. No one has the right to make us in to second and third class citizens. We pay the same taxes when we buy a kilo of sugar as others do. Please stop your false utterings and come in to the realistic world to move forward altogether. Listen to our genuine complaints and try to find solutions for them. That’s more humane.

      • 0
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        Muslims are just an invaders in south asia, don’t matter how many years they have lived in here, we all know how once most prominent religion in the region went to decline, we all know about nalanda genocide, when bakthiar khilji razed monastery, it had 12 000 monks all were massacred, burned 9 million irreplaceable buddhist books, similar monastery cum universities were in what now called pakistan all were destroyed namely taxila, wickramashila, etc. Bamiyan buddhas are just one example for how buddhism florish in the region and how it brought down by barbarian invaders.

        • 0
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          So you were perfectly happy when Pakistan sent you rockets to save your sorry ass from Prabhakaran? Or didn’t they teach you in school that Pakistan is a Muslim country?
          Why not get an education before you use a keyboard?

        • 0
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          Muslims ruled India for 1000 years. They left every temple in place as Islam teaches. Hundred million Hindus and Buddhists embraced Islam with conviction. Islam doesn’t permit vandalism like what happened to the library in Jaffna.

    • 5
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      Muslims have all the rights to dress as they wish. If it hurts you if they Arabize their dress can’t Muslims feel hurt when others westernize their dress codes going in semi nude attires.

      • 2
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        Simply you can just move back to your arabian desert and wear your gonibilla dress as your wish, first of all it’s not westernized when we wear liberal clothes, south asia is the region where jains were roam freely in naked according to their concept “ahimsa” which means non violance, they were never subjected to persecution by hindu or buddhist rulers and tolerated, but when invader barbarians came to subcontinent in 7th century there are records jains too are subjected to discrimination under islamic rule, ancient indian subcontinent was full of philosophy and wisdom just like greece rome and egypt, but that civilization began to collapse when Muhammad-bin-Qasim an Umayyad general conquest the sindh, personally thinks that religion of peace tagline is more suited to jainsm or buddhism than this warmongering cult.

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          VSDC ….. We will move to Arabia after you all move to Nepal or N. India where your religion was born.

      • 0
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        Not just Muslims, everyone has the right to wear anything and eat anything as long as it is legal in SL. And everyone must be governed by one law. No different laws for different people.

    • 4
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      The Muslims warned the Sirisena government about these extremists many times, but the government did nothing. You must be selective in your reading. The majority of Muslims condemned this vile act.

      “The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka on Sunday strongly condemned the multiple bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed a total of 207 and wounded over 400 people.

      “The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) condemns the attacks on the places of worship of our Christian brothers and sisters on their holy day of Easter, as well as on the hotels in Colombo,” the group said in a statement.

      It described the attackers as “the extremist and violent elements who wish to create divides between religious and ethnic groups to realize their agenda”.

      The attack was deliberate and aimed to create panic and disrupt civil life, the statement added”

      You like making trouble in Sri Lanka, don’t you? Also learn to research, it will not make you look ignorant, and open your closed mind.

    • 4
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      Jegan,

      There are some things in life that can never be corrected. The Muslim mindset is one of them.

      Total annihilation is the only alternative.

      • 0
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        Shamal Perera. you are an insult to the Army. I am not sure why CT is allowing mental patients of the likes of this rtd man in uniform to be here. He is nothing else other than being an avowed Islamophobe in Gnanassara’s payroll

      • 0
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        I think Rt Lt Shamal Perera should use his Retirement period to learn about Islam before looking at Muslims. Yes, Muslims are different and exceptional to all other religious groups.
        If I explain it in a nutshell its because the seriousness that we assign to teachings of Islam. Muslims strongly believe in the ultimate consequence if such teachings are ignored.
        But unfortunately other religious adherents give a step motherly treatment to teachings of their Teachers.
        Just take one example. Liquor is a simple prohibition in one sentence in the Quran revealed at the darkest era of human history to an unruly society in Arabia 1450 years ago. Liquor was part and parcel of their daily life. They had 360 varieties of it with them. Yet when Q Ch 4 Verse 43 saying “… there is some benefit but the evil is much more … so avoid it … ” was revealed, the drains in Medina was flowing like a stream with liquor. Never did Muslims touch it again. Today Muslims are so called Tea Totallars of the world.
        Now look at Buddhists and Christians … tell me can you find one person who has not taken Alcohol in his life time.
        Isn’t this part of Punchaseela and part of prohibitions in the Bible. Sorry to say, such people take the teachings of their religion on merits.

      • 1
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        Peaceful and non-violent exclusion like Japan and Israel is a better option. If you propose violence there is no difference between you and them.

    • 1
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      When our sinhala Buddhist spread hatred, what do you expect the minorities do. To get small favours, blame their immunity.
      I do not think as far.as I have heard and known from my Tamil friends, no one blames LTTE for anything. They treat them like their saviours. I have not heard any of their politicians including EPDP blaming LTTE, except of course Ranils boy Sumsnthiran occasionally.
      Similarly Ii am sure after Aluthgama, Ampara,Digana, Muslims also may feel some justification with Sahran. If they feel so we.can not.blame.them.
      We need to.blame.ourselves who funded them like the President who when he was defence secretary funded them and may have even tacit approval last April as Strategy for his Presidential Election. It.is.not.new to the Family paid Tihers to get elected very well knowing that.could result in death of our soldiers. Poor Tiran got some trouble and.good.money for himself

  • 9
    3

    O’ Shenali, its intriguing to know your extreme racist mentality that you have evolved into. What the hell is the matter with you. Don’t you see the big political hands behind this heinous crime of Easter Sunday? What did Muslims as a community have any animosity against Christians and unrelated foreign nationals. It’s the Muslims who had been warning the authorities at highest level for over 3 years, long before RAW gave the upcoming doom with names, time and locations a good 2 weeks ahead.

    It was Muslims who gave information aftermath of the attack to quickly apprehend the remaining culprits. Won’t your racist mind recognize such vital service of Muslim community! It’s people like you who become the catalyst to push people in to extremism on both sides, Sinhala and Muslim. Please change! it’s better for a united Lanka to take our nation forward. Enough is enough! We have built up bridges with vast majority of Sri Lankan masses. Let’s keep building it by joining the band. Its hard to forget the memories of our friendship perhaps a decade ago.

    • 0
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      SL cannot go forward if terrorists are not removed from the society. Most people don’t want to be united with terrorists.

      • 0
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        Sathguna …
        No Muslim approved NTJ cult. All terror groups including NTJ cult, racist groups who attacked Muslims in Aluthgama Ampara, Digana, Minuwangoda, Kattankudi, Eelam terrorists etc should be banished from this land.

  • 7
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    I truly appreciate the balanced view of Lakmal H. We need such writers who could vision a bird’s eye view beyond prejudice making positive impact on the society. Addressing an issue with its merit is vital for a multi cultural nation like ours. Racism promotes lying as we saw how our leading media giants did in the recent past. They were exposed in no uncertain terms to prove the victimization of minorities for political gains, Muslims in particlar in this instant. The irony is when such hate speeches are spewed by such media they are given immunity from prosecution. A nation cannot move forward on such racist fuel.

    • 1
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      When some country’s muslim majority it’s islamic country (like in pakistan, bangladesh malaysia and even in lebanon where muslims only form plurality not even majority and religious minorities should lived under islamic sharia and subjected to cruel laws like blasphemy) but when muslims are just minority it’s just a multi cultural, multi faith country like india (not hindu), uk, us, australia, europe (not christian) and sri lanka (not buddhist).

  • 5
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    The Muslims in particular were demonised, making the entire community by association.

    Why was the terror attack not blocked before the blast having , Was there any warning,
    adequate precautions were not taken, all new the group is not known to have a presence in the country after the mawanalla insident.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 1
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    Terrorism cannot be whitewashed. All involved in the terrorist attack on 4/21 and those who follow that dogma must be punished.

    What happens in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. is karma. Thank god there is karmic justice because there is no government justice.

    • 0
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      Rs 500 million bucks a day is lost by Govt due to closure of Liquor shops as per news. This means a collosal waste of Rs 225 billion a year from the parent’s pockets of Buddhists and other minorities other than Muslims. If you add up brothels and casinos …. what a waste … a trillion I suppose.
      Thank God Muslims use that money on our children and families. Due to this Muslims are able to give enormous amounts in charity as we see today …. hundreds of millions worth food packages are given to the helpless by Mislims alone being a mere 8% of the population in SL. This is a great blessing from God Almighty for avoiding Pork, Liquor, Prostitution and Gambling by Muslims as per teachings of Islam. Yet Muslims are considered the worst by racists.

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