18 October, 2017

Disarming The Juggernaut Of Religious Intolerance

By Sachin Parathalingam and Kavindya Tennakoon on behalf of the youth discussion forum, Dynalogue –

Sachin Parathalingam

The youth of Sri Lanka express their dismay and alarm over the apparent surge in religious intolerance and communal discord that has permeated our society in the post-LTTE era and particularly in recent months. It is a pity that the  ‘infamous’  “Grandpass incident”, a subject of intense political drama a few weeks back, was neither “isolated “ nor “random”, as some conveniently assert. Research conducted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) indicates that from May 2009- January 2013 a staggering 69 attacks have been directed at places of religious worship   While the majority of these cases pertain to the Christian community, particularly non-traditional churches, this does not preclude other major religions, with reports indicating at least 10 Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques came under attack in the period under survey.

What is truly fueling this juggernaut of intolerance is not the inter-religious attacks or the impunity the perpetrators of these attacks appear to enjoy. The members of this forum hold the view that these attacks, which are undoubtedly deplorable,  do  little to alter the mindsets of the so-called ‘moderate thinkers’ or fuel deep communal hatred or majoritarian insecurity in that sense. The driving force behind this phenomenon of intolerance is largely the virulent hate campaigns against certain religions and religious groups propagated via the online and social media. For instance a recent infographic on a Facebook page, asserted that the growth rate of the Muslim population is over 80% and if the Sinhalese are not careful, the Muslim population would supersede that of the  Sinhalese by 2014. Another infographic likened the practices of Islam such as “Halal” to that of the “Taliban”. To correct the ‘peace-loving’ groups behind these sentiments, the Muslim community constitute a mere 8%( approximately) of the total population, a fact that the followers of our forum need little reminder of. Consequently it is obvious that assertions such as those highlighted  above are nothing more than a farce, as any reasonable mind would comprehend. But when ‘sugar-coated’ with colorful images and potent rhetoric, sentiments such as these, expressed in  social media can mutate into a viable and potentially lethal propaganda tool , a tool that if left unchecked could have limitless and  dangerous consequences for communal harmony.

The “majority” are NOT intolerant 

Of the many prevailing conflicts on religious lines, perhaps the most prominent of all is the apparent clash between the Muslim community and certain groups who act under the slogans of “ safeguarding Buddhism” and “ protecting the majority”.  The members of this forum seek to stress that attempts made by groups promoting malicious propaganda and religious discord to create the impression that they are through some delusion,  executing “ the will of the majority”, paints a picture of the Sinhalese speaking Buddhist majority which is  simply untrue. Attempts made to project these groups, as “guardians of Buddhism” are also highly inaccurate as a true Buddhist would no doubt understand that Buddhism preaches the “middle path” and Lord Buddha himself sought to invoke ideals of  tolerance and harmony amongst his disciples.

The members of this forum note that historically the majority of the Sinhala Buddhist citizens, including those in the deep South have been tolerant and accepting of other religions and their beliefs. They have experienced first hand the effects of protracted ethno-religious disharmony  – a 30 year long conflict which claimed thousand of lives , destroyed hordes of property and hindered any hope of development. They have absolutely  no intention of seeing a repetition of this ordeal. The fact that the recent wave of ‘anti- Muslim’ sentiments occurred almost spontaneously, with no gradual progression in the ‘anti-Muslim discourse’, is testimony to the fact that groups propagating these sentiments are actually a minority voice. Their strategy could perhaps be interpreted as attempting to whip up religious discord as a majority Vs minority issue  ,  masking the fact that it is only a small proportion of people that share such intolerant attitudes.

During the recent visit to Sri Lanka of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay , she raised concern over the surge in religious intolerance with top officials  including The Minister of Justice and The President. In light of the High Commissioner’s concerns it is the observation of the members of this forum , that the ‘anti-Muslim’ sentiments paraded by these groups are largely media-driven , and acquire their legitimacy via publicity in  the vernacular print media. This forum urges the mainstream print and electronic media , especially the vernacular press to exercise caution in publicizing and affording prominence to the actions and sentiments of groups ill disposed to notions of religious tolerance , which could create unnecessary communal discord and stir up hatred. It is crucial for the media to understand that groups promoting agendas of discord , draw their relevance from a naïve media, which provides their views and sentiments with the traction they so desperately require. By ignoring and dismissing these sentiments , especially in light of the fact that they represent only a small cohort of individuals , the media is automatically snuffling out the sentiments of these groups and  rendering them politically irrelevant. Playing into the hands of these groups by affording them much-needed media attention is a poor strategy will not yield any long-term benefits , unless you count a polarized society as something to be venerated. 

Rule of Law: The best disarming tool

The lackadaisical approach of the law enforcement authorities to arrest the perpetrators of the attacks on places of worship and more importantly the complete and utter failure  to implement the relevant sections of the penal code dealing with issues of religious intolerance is shocking. While there is considerable lacunae in the current legislation governing hate speech and communal violence , implementing the current legislation indiscriminately is essential. The prevalence of the rule of law is the most plausible and effective method of disarming groups promoting discord, as it will send an overt message – that such acts are not permissible under any circumstances and consequently the religious tensions that prevail under the current environment would fizzle out. It is important to note section 219A of the penal code, which states, “ Whoever with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person shall… be punished with imprisonment or with a fine or both”. Furthermore with Sri Lanka having ratified the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) we are obliged under international law to enact the necessary domestic legislation to address issues of religious intolerance. The ICCPR notes in this regard “ any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”

Our national anthem states “Eka mawekuge daru kala bawina”. This sums up the need for religious tolerance in a nutshell , for a true democracy is one which respects the beliefs of all its participants, shunning the discriminatory behavior which can erode the inter-religious harmony Sri Lanka has traditionally enjoyed in the past. The link between ethno-religious harmony and economic development is unquestionable and becoming the ‘miracle of Asia’ requires us to do far more than building roads and airports, as social development must accompany physical development, for true economic progress to be achieved. Ultimately disarming this juggernaut of intolerance requires a dual approach- a commitment to Rule of law and a willingness on the part of the collective media to act in the interests of promoting harmony. We the youth have presented these solutions. I suppose the question that remains is what , if anything the decision makers are going to do about it?

*Dynalogue is a non-partisan, a-political ,youth discussion forum founded to discuss burning social /economic and political issues affecting the citizens of Sri Lanka. The views expressed in this article represent a spectrum of youth with divergent political and economic outlooks. The forum members can be reached via email at exco.dynalgoue@gmail.com . To learn more about Dynalogue and to follow our discussions visit our website at www.Dynalogue.org or Facebook page facebook.com/dynalogue8.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Thanks for the article on religious intolerance.
    You have completely ignored the intolerance shown to Hindus.

    Just one example Attacks on Hindu temples escalate http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=4839 .
    Four Hindu temples ransacked … http://onlineuthayan.com/english-news/uthayannews/y2143363h1h1r2p2

    Thanks to CPA https://www.colombotelegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Attacks-on-Religious-Places.pdf

    More than 1000 temples were destroyed http://www.tchr.net/religion_temples.htm

    • 0
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      Anpu,

      RE: Sachin Parathalingam and Kavindya Tennakoon on behalf of the youth discussion forum,

      Religion is False, says Chris Hutchens- The Curse of mankind, over the past 3,000 years.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cumCZ4bAXZA

      Christopher Hitchens on Science vs Religion

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv6U2BtdFGc

      Christopher Hitchens talking about science versus religion and how incompatible they are.

      Due to the high volume of requests asking where the full version can be located, try typing ‘La ciudad de las Ideas 2009 Hitchens’ into the search facility and you should find it.

  • 0
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    Sachin Parathalingam has to be congratulated for a great article.

    However, in reality religious intolerance is fostered and nurtured by the Ruling junta, may be with an ulterior motive. Who will bell the cat? Try as you will, and be crushed as in Weilweriya.

    Youth can start an island wide protest similar to what the students of Tamil Nadu did some time back in support of the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka with striking results.

    Do the youth have dynamic leaders who can rally the youth for such a protest against racial/religious intolerance. Even if they do, they will be up against an authoritarian state formed by Sinhalese extremists headed by Mahinda Rajapakse.

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    Rule of Law is superceded by the Rule of/by PTA.
    This obnoxious piece of lgislation permits the propping up of authoritarianism.
    Authoritarianism covertly encourages religious intolerence.
    The PTA needs abolition urgently, to allow Rule of Law to prevail.

  • 0
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    Dear Sachin Parathalingam and Kavindya Tennakoon on behalf of the youth discussion forum.

    In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Theravada Buddhism is Immoral.

    Thank you for bringing this Monk-Priest Hegemony bringing to the surface. This is in support of the statement, Religion is the Opium of the Masses and the tool for Monk Priest Hegemony, exploited by rulers.

    Sharpton / Hitchens Debate – Can Morality Exist Without God?

    Skip the ad, and go to the core of the discussions.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWt8a1aMkZ4

    “The youth of Sri Lanka express their dismay and alarm over the apparent surge in religious intolerance and communal discord that has permeated our society in the post-LTTE era and particularly in recent months”

    1. Year 1990: Terrorist Mahavereran Velupillai Prabakaran we request that you not expel All Muslims living in the North of Sri Lanka, the “Eelam”, as they have been living there for generations ans speaking Tamil.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MASigQJTgaQ

    4. Year 1990; We request that the Terrorist Mahaveran Vellupillai Prabakaran stop killing Muslims in their houses of worship in the Mosques, and request that you respect the places of religious worship was ignored.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW0vE7rmpTI

    5. Year 1990: The request that the Terrorist Mahaviran Vellupilai Prabakaran stop attacking places of Religious Worship of Buddhists. If the terrorist wants to attack the Buddhists or the State, please attack the military installations and economic installations only.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYItQwy0jog

    6. Now the Terrorist Dictator Rajapaksa and his Brothers have trained have trained the Terrorist Buddhists BBS , the “Buddhists” to do the same. They have the terrorist Organization BBS, Budu Balu Sena now attacking or repeating your actions of 1990′s, with State Sponsorship, instead of LTTE Mahaviran’s sponsorship.

    Buddhist Mob Attacks Mosque In Sri Lanka

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN-xEY4S8y8

    in Sri lanka , Dambulla city Muslims Mosque attacked by buddhist m

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTchxH8RKJw

    Maha Sangratnaya? Balu SANGARATNAYA, Sadu Sadu Sa.

    they follow the Mara, the Devadattas and the current Maras.

    This shows that Theravada Buddhism is the Curse of Lanka.

    They do Pan Sil, and then do the Pan- Kill.

    See what the MAHA SANGARATNAYA , THE SO CALLED TRIPLE GEM, THE THIRD GEM IS DOING. BUDDHISTS, IS THIS YOUR RELIGION?

    Buddhism The Great — Part 1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNOfTGSADdY

    Buddhism The Great — Part 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcs2PSze0I

    Child Abuse by a Monk in Habaraduwa

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNSC93mPs4I

    Please translate to Sinhala, Tamil,with English Print and Distribute.

    DeJa Vu.

    • 0
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      Amarasiriya is a terrorist and a Jihadi.

      • 0
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        I am no muslim – we are happy you are not one of us, because a low life form such as you can certainly not measure up! :)

        Just that you know, we believe in equality, sharing, on compassion, values your parents,friends and teachers failed to inculcate in you!

    • 0
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      The original meaning of Theravada is Thiravidavada and Teevravaada, other than the literal meaning “the Teaching of the Elders”.

  • 0
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    Dynalogue, thanks for your efforts.

    WE need to have a systemic change in our country:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/158649137/Sri-Lanka-Must-Transform-Its-Education-for-War-Into-Education-for-Peace

  • 0
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    Muslims are using the Western system of democratic rights to install their system. After that, see how the muslims countries are treating other religions.

    Church is using Various NGOs and human right groups to expand their faith. Church is also sending many youth groups to deliver the god’s message to other religions.

    Modern values and standards should not be used to subjugate millennia old civilizations and to install new systems.

    • 0
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      JimPissa:
      It truly is surprising that one human being can contain so much unadulterated s…t!

      The authors of this article:
      “The “majority” are NOT intolerant” might be true. But they keep electing a TOTALLY INTOLERANT gang to persecute the religious minorities.

    • 0
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      What civilization Lanka possess, other than the false claims of ruins shown to the international media as the hereditary heritage of Lanka. What’s the mightiness in showing off the potsherds from Dankotuwa assimilated to be the ruins of disintegrated dead old cattle-herd societies. Do you know that archaeology is an obnoxious business unscrupulously wasting the public money.

    • 0
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      So the only “Sudanas” in these sordid criminalization of society are the “Sin-helas” according to Jim Pappa?

  • 0
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    Well done Kavindya & Sachin.
    And we must try to take an action against the racist Facebook groups and pages. They’ve been spreading false information on religions and spreading hate between religions. We must disarm these campaigns and save our country from so called patriots.
    Keep the good work up. All the very best.

  • 0
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    Sachin and Kavindya and the Dynalogue Youth Forum
    It is heartening to read about of the attention that you a paying to our present national predicament.More power to your efforts! Some comments that I would make:
    Majority are NOT intolerant……
    I heard this in May 1958 and also in July 1983 and yet we all know the terrible consequences that followed. It is simply not good enough for the ‘majority’ to say or think this and do nothing. The evil minority carry out their despicable deeds because they know that the majority of good SLankans will close the front doors and not get involved. We must try harder to educate people that evil must be confronted – not sidestepped.
    The Rule of Law – The best disarming tool
    Correct. But this tool is in the hands of the ruling party right now and they are using it to create chaos in our island. The task is daunting when the forces of law and order look the other way as the barbarian and the criminal have their way with impunity.
    Youth leaders are invaluable in educating and influencing their peers in the fight for their future. We need this in ALL three languages, simultaneously.

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