15 August, 2022


Grandpass And The Tolerance Of Religious Intolerance

By Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

At a recent press briefing the new Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya reportedly warned of attempts by the Tamil diaspora to tarnish the country’s image ahead of several important events — the impending visit of Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, the upcoming Northern PC elections, the UNHRC session and CHOGM.

In view of recent developments, however, it’s hard not to conclude that the Tamil diaspora (and for that matter the NGOs, the Opposition, the human rights crowd and all the usual suspects) won’t have to work very hard at their usual pastime of tarnishing Sri Lanka’s reputation. Perhaps they can all take a rest, seeing that the Government of Sri Lanka is doing such a good job of it itself.

The tensions whipped up at the Grandpass mosque over the last weekend have thankfully been defused peacefully, through a rational discussion among community leaders, members of the clergy and political representatives. The old mosque that had been marked for demolition was restored to the Muslim community for their religious activities.

The removal of the bo-tree that was obstructing any expansion the mosque began with the blessings of the Buddhist clergy in the area. They even went so far as to invite the Muslims to use the temple’s ‘dharma salaawa’ in case they ran short of space to conduct their prayers. This generous gesture of the monks is symbolic of the reserve of goodwill at the people-to-people level that enables communities to live together for generations, in central Colombo as in other parts of this multi-ethnic, multi-religious country.

As far as the ‘country’s image’ was concerned, the damage was already done. The agency reports, the TV news flashes, the online videoclips of CCTV footage showing a stone-throwing Buddhist mob attacking a mosque in Sri Lanka had circled the globe. Where did that mob come from? Who led them? Why were they not apprehended, in spite of the police having been at the site? Were they politically affiliated, and politically protected? What has happened to the country’s law enforcement apparatus, that such acts of impunity take place unchecked, with such monotonous regularity? If the GoSL is not responsible for this state of affairs, then who is?

The spate of attacks on Muslim places of worship and business establishments has been going on for over a year now, and a clear pattern has emerged in what is undoubtedly a hate campaign targeting Muslims. Mosques have been attacked and/or removed in several places including Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Mahiyangana and now Grandpass. Muslim-owned business establishments have been attacked in Colombo suburbs. These crimes are committed in full public view and in the presence of police who are seen doing nothing to apprehend the culprits.

In the case of Grandpass, a Reuters report said “CCTV footage taken from a nearby house, and seen by Reuters, showed people attacking the mosque despite the presence of police.” The Sri Lanka Muslim Council in a media release said the attack took place “in the presence of a large number of police personnel including some senior police officials.” Minister Rishad Bathiudeen is reported to have handed over a DVD with this evidence on record to the IGP, and to have demanded a high level investigation into the police failure to disperse the mob.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these developments is the apparent governmental tolerance of these acts of religious intolerance. There has been no statement of condemnation as might be expected from the highest level of government. This, combined with the apparent police inaction, rightly or wrongly, gives the impression of state complicity in these crimes. The question needs to be asked as to why the police behave in this manner, and who has instructed them to do so.

Meanwhile hardline Buddhist organisations continue to make vitriolic and inflammatory speeches targeting other religions at public meetings. These same groups immediately come forward when an ‘incident’ takes place, to make denials of having had anything to do with it. The incidents and the denials invariably appear together like pepper and salt. Are these denials made in the safe knowledge that there will be no questioning by law enforcement authorities in order to ascertain their truthfulness?

Another habit of the hardline Buddhist organisations and their fellow travelers in political parties is to make oblique references to Sri Lanka’s peaceable Muslims as if they were militant Islamic fundamentalists, biding their time to destabilise the state. Now, if Sri Lanka’s Muslims harboured militant fundamentalist elements, one can be sure the United States would be the first to track them down. But US embassy cables disclosed by Wikileaks in fact say just the opposite. For instance a cable written on 17 Sept 2007 by US ambassador to Colombo Robert O Blake said:

“In Sri Lanka there is no intelligence to indicate that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are interested in conducting attacks against western targets inside or outside of Sri Lanka and there is little to suggest that Sri Lanka’s Muslim population harbors extremist elements.”

Another dated 9 April 2006 signed by US ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead said:

“There was general agreement that the possibility of increased radicalization of the Muslim population in Sri Lanka, especially on the east coast, exists given that the community is marginalized in many ways and has suffered during the twenty-five years of fighting between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). That said, there was also general agreement that there are no concrete signs that “jihadis” are gaining ground in any systematic way and that the government tended to overplay the possibility in the knowledge that it is an issue more likely to catch the eye of G8 after 9/11. ”

The ongoing attempts by Buddhist hardliners to ‘demonise’ Muslims through hate speech and acts of violence are akin to spreading the diesel before tossing the match. The Muslim community has demonstrated admirable restraint in the face of provocations. In Grandpass last Saturday it may have only taken one small retaliatory act on the part of area residents, in the heat of the moment, to have ignited another July 1983. One can be sure that in this age of instant communication the repercussions of such a conflagaration today would be very different from three decades ago, with the world community watching.

A recent opinion piece in the ‘Saudi Gazette’ observed that “It is becoming increasingly obvious that following the 30-year war with the Tamil minority, the Sri Lankan rulers have not learned their lesson,”

Today, they are busily spreading the seeds of discord against another minority; the island’s Muslim Sri Lankans. They are clever enough not to openly support a reign of terror directly. Instead, they quietly look the other way while terrorist Buddhist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) do their dirty work.”

If the government does not act swiftly and decisively to curb the new scourge of ethno religious fascism that has reared its head in this country, it will have much more to worry about than just an ‘image’ problem.

Courtesy Sunday Times

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Slowly but steadily the effect of these extremist organisations is taking hold in Sri Lanka as well as abroad.

    In Sri Lanka there are an incraesing number of attacks on mosques with incidents in Mahiyangana, Gampaha and Anuradhapura. Also there has been attacks on beef stalls at various locations. The main protoganist is now the Sinhala Ravaya organistion which goes on facebook as ‘International Buddhist Council Sri Lanka’. This web site is full of hatred and abuse against muslims.

    Outside Sri Lanka there is heightened awareness of this trend with even an editorial in the Arab News a few days back. Government inaction is being condemned. There is no doubt that the opinion regarding the Rajapakse govt is hardening and in time to come this will manifest in the diplomatic and international arena. These things take time and our Govt too is not in much of a hurry. The ball has been set rolling.

    • 0

      Rajapakse regime is very childish & narrow mind or one international coup working inside house of Rajapakse. Any fool never cooperate to communal issues if country had burning issues internationally with the Tamil diaspora, right organization & economic burden. They are lead in all the ways.They had the best relation with the international leaders & organizations. The poor Rajapase never had skilled education or experience to overcome the image of srilanka, International relation (even India)& Tamil Diaspora. They calling the explanation who attended the seminar of Tamil Diaspora from the university dons.Freedom of speech & freedom of travailing are most respected right of all. Even president son had the link with the LTTE link people in UK. Its photographs publish in media internationally. They call any explanation.Rajapakse is very near to end in politically.

  • 0

    A Kenyan asked me yesterday whats going on in Srilanka?
    He further said ‘We thought the terror was over, what is your government is up to, we read that even the government is behind those Church and Mosque attacks’.
    So the world is watching.
    In Srilanka some under the impression that we can challange the USA or India militarily now. Thats was image given to the public by the regime. Poor people think that Mahinda Rajapakse is as srtong and famouse as Winston Winston Churchill, some others think that MR is another Gandhi, his ardent supporters think that he is from the King Dutugamunu. What a dramatic Tamasha is this. Most of us in Sri Lanka are frogs in SL wells.
    The longer we keep this family in power the poorer we get. We are in HOT ALERT right now. True patriots must join hands together to get rid of the fake patriots. Lets tear their masks to show their real faces to the world.
    Oppositions must organise more & more protests and demostrations often.

  • 0

    This is nothing but sodomizing of the sovereignty of the Lankan people, as it were, by the ruling family clique with absolute impunity and arrogance, at tax-payer expense.

  • 0

    What you want is what you get.

    From 1948 the Sinhala society has acquired bad karma. Now the karma is playing it out.

    Hopefully it doesn’t acquire more bad karma further subjugating the ethnic/religious minorities.

  • 0

    the so -called GRANDPASS MOSQUE was a WAREHOUSE. So, were the many mosques that muslims here are talking about. Muslims have been real parasites when it came to others worshipping places or territory. That is what they did in Turkey, Spain and many other countries.


    The conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques occurred primarily during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under historical Muslim rule. As a result, numerous Hindu temples, churches, synagogues, the Parthenon and Zoroastrian temples were converted into mosques. Several such mosques in Muslim or ex-Muslim lands have since reverted or become museums, such as the Hagia Sophia in Turkey and numerous mosques in Spain

    Mosques were regularly established on the places of Jewish or Christian sanctuaries associated with Biblical personalities who were also recognized by Islam. This practice was particularly common in Palestine.[citation needed] The Caliph Umar initially built a small prayer house, which laid the foundation for the later construction of the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism, possibly by the Umayyads. The Dome of the Rock was also built on the Temple Mount which was an abandoned and disused area. Upon the capture of Jerusalem, it is commonly reported that Umar refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.[5] for fear that later Muslims would then convert it into a mosque in spite of a treaty guaranteeing its safety.[6]
    The mosque of Job in Ash Shaykh Sa’d, Syria, was previously a church of Job.[4] The Herodian shrine of Cave of the Patriarchs, the second most holy site in Judaism, was converted into a church during the Crusades before being turned into a mosque in 1266 and henceforth banned to Jews and Christians. Part of it was restored as a synagogue after 1967 by Israel.

    The destruction of Hindu temples in India during the Islamic conquest of India occurred from the beginning of Muslim conquest until the end the Mughal Empire throughout the Indian subcontinent. In his book “Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them”, Sita Ram Goel produced a politically contentious list of 2000 mosques that it is claimed were built on Hindu temples.[7] The second volume of the book excerpts from medieval histories and chronicles and from inscriptions concerning the destruction of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. In Indonesia, where popular conversion from Hinduism to Islam was more widespread, it is believed that the minaret of the Menara Kudus Mosque, in Java, was originally part of a Hindu temple

    • 0

      Jim softy,

      Not only in Spain many mosques have been converted as museums in southern Ukraine as well under communist rule by Lenin/ Stalin. I have visited personally for those places 15y back.
      But today it is changing again. many churches have been converted to mosque in Europe (Especially in UK). So, you can understand failure in Christianity. Even in Sri Lanka the Buddhists monks reported many temples are being closed due to shortage of monks. more than 80% of monks went away for the social life. I wanna ask you the question, is it failure of Buddhism? because, I watch in the state news channels mostly every week many rape cases/ child molestations are happening by monks. Why these monks are not allowed to marry in Theravada Buddhism? Don’t you think it is and Abrahamic faith?
      But Load Buddha had married and had children in his life.

  • 0

    terrorist Buddhist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) do their dirty work.

    Miss Lasanda K:

    Only the church and the Mosque are allowed to terrorize the world.

    I think, Church loves what the BBS too. Probably, they may have supported it indirectly who knows ?. No one will tell.

    Church is a business and Islam is a cult.

  • 0

    What all these people including this author are supporting is the destruction of the INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND THE CICILICATION by the foreign Cultures and civilizations such as the THE CHRISTIANIRY AND ISLAM.

    See how Europeans, British and Africans and even Americans are opposing islamization of their cultures.

    Why muslims are so protective of their culture by not allowing their women to marry from other cultures, not allowing muslims to even think against the Islam or why no one can criticize islam ?

  • 0

    Hi, Jim!

    “why no one can criticize islam ?” So what are you doing my friend? You speak about many countries, but Sri Lanka, where BBS and Chambika do exactly what you say that Christians and Muslims did in other countries. Are you agreeing with the writer of the article?

  • 0

    what is the probelem with us having Church , mosque, temple and Kovil. worshippers are going there and worship, are they doing any wrong illegal things like sex, gambeling, drinking arrack etc there ? why the BBS getting irritation about mosque? please someone tell me ?

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