By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
The conflict with the Muslims throughout Western democratic countries including some Asian countries has taken a new dimension due to the impact of Wahabbism with the creation of ‘no-go zones’. While the short-sighted policies of the Sri Lankan politicians laid the foundation for Sri Lanka to march towards a religious-centred State, the rise of Muslim fundamentalism made it a complex issue after experiencing the intolerance of Tamil militants. Meanwhile India which was aware of the new developments of the Muslim fundamentalism eventually stepped into Sri Lanka with the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. The consequences of razing Kathankudy by the IPKF saw the rise of Muslim fundamentalism with the formation of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
Conflicts have arisen between faiths in countries practising pluralism and Religious-centred countries after the 2nd World War. In religious-centred countries, the rights of the minority religious community will be a questionable issue. However the recent establishment of the so-called ‘no-go zone’ carried out by a specific religious group have become a challenge to democracy in countries where pluralism is practised. Conflict do arise when a specific religious organization is criticized and amounts to hate propaganda. But there is justification when allegations are found to be true and made in good faith in the best interests of avoiding the threat that are likely to cause damage to the sovereignty of a country.
While the UN ensured the rights of the minorities, Europe also saw the formation of a European Union by which democracy was strengthened with the enshrinement of Human Rights. However, Asia confronted the problems of the emergence of Islamic political movements in the Middle-East countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the impact of which had affected the democratic countries in Asia, Europe and America. Such Islamic political movements gave birth to the Religious-centred State like in Iran and eventually culminated as Theocracy against Democracy.
In Sri Lanka though the constitution provides safe-guards to all the religions, the government created a separate Ministry for Buddhism for the preservation of Buddha Sasana. Lord Buddha established the Sasana for the benefit of all human beings who aspired for liberation. This is a concept that upholds human freedom and dignity in substance and eschews superficial distinction. Lord Buddha was a great preacher of equality whose teachings displace all social barriers of race, language, class and religion. He treated all alike and found for them a way of release from suffering. It is unfortunate that Buddha Sasana failed to show any concern for the murdered innocent Tamils (who surrendered) by inhuman political leaders in Sri Lanka something similar to the massacre of Zoroastrians in Iran by the Muslim invaders. One ponders whether it is the impact of democracy or theocracy?
However, there are some contradictions when it comes to practice of the Buddha’s teachings. The word ‘Sasana’ in Pali refers to the existence of Buddhas’s teachings. Generally Buddhists are a peace loving community. But religious and political figures throughout Buddhist history has justified many violent exclusionary acts by claiming to be acting ‘in defence of the ‘Sasanna’. Religious and political leaders have also employed ‘defence of the Sasana’ arguments in contemporary contexts in order to justify an anti-democratic policy, especially violence against non-Buddhist religious groups perceived as a threat to Buddhism. For instance, Buddhist monks joined Dutugemunu’s army and went to the extent of disrobing.
While the Sinhalese political leaders were busy in engaging their policies towards a ‘religious-centred State’ in spite of the guarantees in the constitution, the Buddhist extremists and the average law-abiding citizens confronted the establishment of ‘no-go zones’. The creation of ‘no-go zones’ by Islamic extremists have become dangerous for non-Muslims to enter which was witnessed when the Vesak procession went through a street in Kandy in 1917. Even when the Twin Tower was attacked some roads in Colombo in front of the mosques were closed on Fridays in support of the attack led by Bin Laden. This is not scare-mongering or intolerance, but alertness of a forthcoming restlessness in countries where democracy is practised in its true perspective.
Such creation of ‘no-go zones’ are unacceptable in the eyes of the law abiding citizens. No-go zones are viewed with suspicion as it implies an autonomous Islamic micro-State under Sharia Law at a time when Muslims behave themselves as a self-alienation community. Moreover, the lack of control in such areas would eventually become urban war zones as occurred between the Wahabbists and the moderates in Sri Lanka. One ponders when people from Sri Lanka are going abroad as refugees, the presence of 141 Pakistanis in Sri Lanka and their over stay has been a questionable issue. Further, the arrest of a Pakistani citizen at Chennai Railway Station prompts any ordinary citizen to think whether these foreign nationals were masquerading in the ‘no-go zone’. If this is the situation, even the ordinary Buddhists will have a fear whether such creation of ‘no-go zone’ which are suspected to provide safe-houses for Islamic terrorists and eventually have the force of taking over those countries and end up in Islamic micro-State.
Though it is a debatable issue as to the existence of ‘no-go zone’ in Sri Lanka, there is a fear that such ‘no-go zones’ are likely to promote Talibans who are detrimental to the national interests of Sri Lanka. This fear of being threatened is due to the impact of some reported incidents where in East London a Muslim named Abu Izzadeen challenged the Home Secretary John Reid with the statement ‘how dare you come to a Muslim area?’ together with the protests staged by the Muslims in support of Sri Lanka Muslims in England and an incident where an innocent British soldier was chopped to death by a Muslim. Even France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden have witnessed such ‘no-go zones’ because of the concessions gained by the Muslims who have gradually encroached on democratic freedoms with the motive of establishing Sharia Law. Such creation of ‘no-go zone’ for Islamic terrorists tend to pave way to encroach in democratic countries on false names with the view to cause destruction. The Boston Bombing and the sabotage of causing damage to railway tracks and trains are some cases in point. In addition, Libya’s Gadaffi once stated that Europe would become Islamic, it tempts to think whether Islam is a religion or political ideology. One ponders whether these attacks implies that the goal of Islam is to infiltrate in every country that practises pluralism and subverting to Islam.
The attack on the Mannar Magistrate’s Court, which is similar to the incidents of pelting stones at the patrolling Police in foreign countries, need to be scrutinized for the maintenance of law and order. Such ‘no-go zones’ have the force of promoting violence. The root cause for creation of ‘no-go zone’ was to allow the Muslims to remain segregated. Upon a consideration of the aforesaid incidents everyone is aware that the goal of all political Islamists is a State founded upon a version of Sharia Law that systematically discriminates against women and other religious communities. Hence there is reasonable justification for the Buddhists to fear about the evil interests that germinates in those ‘no-go zones’, would be a challenge to Sri Lanka’s national interest.
The behaviour of Muslims as a self-alienation community is complacent with the attack by the Islamic Terrorist Organization, thus making themselves as part and parcel of the Islamic extremists and not as innocent by-standers. Sri Lanka Police cannot be blamed fully when there were attacks in the Muslim areas because it was alert in not losing its control over their calculated and systematic move in introducing the Sharia Law which paved way for the march towards theocracy by the Muslims. Mention should be made that an honest Police Officer was transferred from Colombo to another Province no sooner he detected the activities of the Islamic terrorists on the instruction of a prominent Muslim Minister. As Provincial Police are aware of the whereabouts of the people within the Province, the Provincial Police in collaboration with the Federal Police with its motto ‘to protect and serve’ can weaken the religious extremist group in the ‘no-go zone’ with its power and call for transparency and accountability of its activities with the view to prevent terrorism and violation of human rights.
The failure to speak up against the activities of the BBS by the Maha Sangha sends the message that ‘religious-centred State’ is been encouraged by the Buddhist political rulers. Perhaps Maha Sangha would have recollect the incident of shooting an innocent Sinhalese youth who was in the Perahera procession (considered as a national event) which went through a street (considered to be a no-go zone) in Kandy. Here lies the vital issue of whether such a silence maintained by the Maha Sangha tantamount to preserving the Buddha Sasana, leads to the path towards religious-centred State. There is also justification on the Buddhist Sinhalese fearing a conflict between Buddha Sasanna and Sharia Law, which will eventually cause confusion with the passage of time. Simultaneously, the maintenance of silence of the Muslims also signals harbouring of the idea of encroaching into areas of other faiths. Therefore, when Islamic radicals create evil for them to rally around all Muslims, a careful ethically based ideological strategy to create a unifying vision of peace is required, which is possible only in Federalism. Federalism stands as a checkmate for ‘no-go zone’ where the Provincial government denies any group to isolate themselves from the mainstream society and prevents disaster.
Moreover if the mission of the BBS were to succeed, it should have abide by righteousness, patience and courage together with the creation of an atmosphere to weaken its opponent. But the attachment to the Buddha Sasana and its struggle to preserve it appears to be a suspicious issue. The vital issue is whether BBS had achieved their objective in a justifiable and reasonable manner. Since the BBS had carried out their mission with the aid of State machinery, it had failed to carry out their objective with righteousness, patience and courage as it failed to seek the advice of the Maha Sangha. Neverthless the silence maintained by the Maha Sangha implies that their blessings are in favour of religious-centred State to be carried out by the ruling politicians, demonstrating a message that Sri Lanka is on the verge of marching towards ‘religious-centred State’ on the pretext of democracy. The concessions gained by the Muslim politicians created a fear in the minds of Buddhists because they have encroached on democratic freedoms with the motive of establishing Sharia Law. This is where the ‘protection of the Sasana’ is twisted with the call to ‘defend the motherland’
Federalism has the force of educating the people of all races and faiths to love and show compassion towards others from their childhood and not to hate. Radicalism, which has no place in Federalism, is detrimental to the interests of a country would be wiped out from the minds of the people, because such radical ideologies give birth to self-alienation from the rest of the community. Radicalism has the force of fuelling terrorism and supremacist ideologies. Both military dictatorship and religious extremism undermines the concept of rule of law and gives birth to a culture of violence. Both the BBS and the Islamic terrorists impose their own brand of politics which they falsely attempt to justify on the pretext of their respective religions. Federalism is certain to prevent the fracture that will be caused to Sri Lanka by the religious extremists. Federalism promotes and recognizes the right of co-existence which symbolizes the sense of unity. The march towards ‘Theocracy’ or ‘Religious-centred State’ should not be an obstacle for the right of co-existence. The march towards ‘Theocracy’ or ‘Religious-centred State’ becomes a blind path leading to destruction. It is this march towards ‘Theocracy’ or ‘Religious-centred State’ becomes a challenge to countries where pluralism is practised, but can be neutralized in Federalism. India, Canada and a number of Federal countries stand as examples where Federalism remains as a checkmate to approaches towards ‘Theocracy’ or ‘Religious-centred State’ and fulfill the right of co-existence.