By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
The rise of extremism and violence against minorities signals the threat to peace and harmony. Compromise has no place within the philosophy of religious extremism. The noble philosophy of the religious teachings are blind folded when extremism march towards its goal of destruction. Recent conflict between the Buddhist extremists and the Muslims in Sri Lanka have demonstrated that human values are fully ignored and the laws of jungles prevail with the entry of political and religious extremism.
The ongoing tussle between the Buddhist extremists and the Muslims have demonstrated religion as a cruel killer, and not as a healer. Both parties have failed to see that religion has the force of compromising towards each other to endorse harmony with other communities embracing different faiths. The behaviour of both factions deviating from the concept of righteousness, have only demonstrated that they were preaching false religions, similar to some type of Cult organizations. Cult organizations and religious extremism have the same characteristics of a violent organization. Those engaged in propaganda of false religions failed to realize that realization of the divinity is the purpose of life which is the essence of religion and that it does not consist in erecting places of worship merely to show that this is a land of a particular faith. They failed to see what religion is about. Religion is the manifestation of the divinity already within man. The idea of realization is common to all religions. This is where religious extremists make blunders and mislead the people.
Various people from various countries with difference languages and culture search for God in pursuit of peace of mind. It is at this juncture the question arises as to how the mind roams about in search of God. The search for God revolves around the issue of spirituality. Places of worship represent as the meeting places where people could direct their minds towards God by way of meditation and the priests and preachers are there only to guide.
According to Lord Buddha ‘Goodwill toward all beings is the true religion; cherish in your hearts boundless goodwill to all that lives’.
According to Swami Vivekananda ‘There was any religion or yours, my national religion or your national religion; there never existed many religions, there is only the one. One Infinite Religion existed all through eternity and will ever exist and this Religion is expressing itself in various countries, in various ways.’
Religious extremists in Sri Lanka have to pay more attention to the statements of Lord Buddha and Swami Vivekananda. It is time to realize for all religious extremists to realize that all religions are like a garden of different flowers where each religion retains its unique nature as stated by Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa.
Fanaticism denotes lack of tolerance. The idea of extremism is linked to politics while the idea of fanaticism is linked to religion. In the case of BBS, they are filled with excessive and single-minded desire for an extreme religious or political cause. After the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lankan ruling politicians have become warmongering sadists and appear to follow the path of political fanaticism as occurred in Russia, China, Cambodia, Ruwanda, Iraq and Libya, resulting in the death several millions of people. However, in Sri Lanka it appears that both political and religious fanaticism are blended together. The behaviour of the BBS demonstrates that political fanaticism is itself religious fanaticism. Their action has the force of nullifying the civil liberties which are enshrined in the constitution.
Though it appears that the Muslims have never openly antagonized the Sinhalese, the failure to speak up against terrorism makes the Muslims to isolate themselves from the mainstream society in all aspects, which is known as self-alienation. If they fail to speak up, they will wake up one day to find religious fanatics own them and the end of their world has begun. Peace loving Muslims should not pay attention to the religious fanatics who threaten our way of life. Moreover, the economic opportunities created in the Middle-East paved way for a new brand of imported Islam. The religious perception of the Saudis and other Middle East countries influenced their isolation from the main stream society. The self-alienation of the Muslims appears to be a new development, signalling the deviation of the country on the wrong direction – a fact suspiciously viewed by the main stream society when it comes to national events. For instance, Muslim schools operate on a different calendar though there were separate schools for Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Such a concession to the Muslims which was granted in 1950, was not a far sighted thought when considering the turn of events. Such a concession nullified the interaction of the Muslim with other communities, because at national events Muslims fail to hoist the national flag in front of Mosques and schools. One ponders about the contribution of Muslims at national events. Prior to 1970 and after 1970 after the introduction of Wahabbism, a difference in their dress code can be seen. One ponders whether such an attire has anything to do with Islam. Such a sudden change compelled the Muslims indirectly and gradually to voluntarily alienate themselves from other communities. Perhaps this was the situation in Myanmar (Burma) where the Buddhists had viewed the Muslims with suspicion on account of the sudden change with the introduction of Wahabbism.
In addition, after the attack on Twin Tower, it was common in Muslim countries (also in Sri Lanka) that Imams at Mosques were using sermons to promote Jihad. Such sermon will deny the hope of winning the hearts of law abiding citizens. They brain wash the young into supporting violent extremism. Apparently Muslims are not happy in their own countries, but are happy in the Western democratic countries. But Islamic terrorists want destruction in the Western countries.
There is a saying ‘if there is a beginning, there should also be an end’. Accordingly, if an individual starts committing acts of unrighteousness, he will also have to find out an end to justify his actions whether it is destructive or constructive and face their consequences. Similarly, even Imams using sermons to promote Jihad or promote actions of Islamic terrorists, should first realize the fruits of their actions in brain washing innocent Muslims into supporting violent extremism. It is the Muslims who will have to re-visit their extremism in the best interests of the country. Similarly Buddhist extremists using emotional slogans will also have to think of their actions when taking the law into their hands. Both factions will have to renounce their egoism which will eventually destroy themselves. Such emotional slogans will never win the hearts of law abiding citizens.
The behaviour of Religious extremists promoting and/or instigating destruction of properties and places of worships of other faiths cannot be justified. Such cowardly behaviour of religious extremists are detrimental to the best interests of the country. A man’s consciousness is distracted by senses and eventually lead to egoistic thinking or selfishness. The unstable minds of the BBS and the suspected Muslim politicians characterize their egoistic thinking and desire ridden actions. It is the lofty religious values which can help to expand human consciousness resulting in the renouncement of hatred and cultivation of love and compassion that will lead to peace and harmony as stated by Dalai Lama.
After the defeat of the LTTE, sporadic incidents in the Eastern Province and the recent incidents at Aluthgama and in other parts, speak of the ugly face of religious extremism. People of other faiths have never destroyed places of worship and killed their people. They do not even call for Jihad and death to all Infidels. Briefly Islamic terrorists failed to ask ‘what they can do for humankind before they demand humankind respects them’. This has been the outcome of Wahabbism. Simultaneously, the creation of BBS for political gain has also brought tension and conflict in the country resulting in damages to property and lives. There is also suspicion whether the creation of the BBS was to promote family bandysm of the ruling politicians on the pretext of attacking the Muslims.
Religious fanatics can only create conflicts and tension among the communities which is not a healthy sign for any country practising pluralism. Such man made conflicts can only be solved through human effort, mutual understanding with a sense of brotherhood. It is noteworthy mentioning that Canada which was insignificant about 150 years back today gives due respect to other faiths and is considered as a developed Nation, observes the path of Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha and Swami Vivekananda. But it is unfortunate to observe that Sri Lanka which boasts about 2,500 years of Buddhist heritage failed to observe those paths at a time when Buddhism is considered as a religion which teaches people ‘to live and let live’. The difference between Sri Lanka and Canada depends on the attitude of the people, moulded for many years by education and culture. In Sri Lanka both the Buddhist extremists and Muslims want to take advantage over everything and everyone. As a result their attitude can only push the country backward.
After the 2nd World War, wars have been fought to remove the obstructions for the restoration of righteousness. Victory in wars are not celebrated for suppressing the legitimate rights of the minority communities. Wars are fought to avoid the conflict arising from demanding for equality of rights by the minority communities. Tension can be defused by way of peace and exposing the merits of righteousness. This is what happened when Emperor Asoka realized his fault after listening to a sermon by a Buddhist monk. But today the rise of Wahabbism and Buddhist extremists have shattered many countries including Sri Lanka and posed a threat to peace and harmony.
The message of all Prophets and sages irrespective of any Faiths or Religions are same. First and foremost thing is that an individual should acquire a deep knowledge of his or her own religion, before understanding another religion. Thereafter an individual should understand each religion in its own distinctiveness and assess its own contribution to the unity of mankind. Every religion has universal human values and basic message for human beings.
It is time to realize that we belong to each other, though we embrace different faiths. A smile is a common language of love and not hatred. As the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation, Lord Jonathan stated ‘God has provided one world with many faiths in which we all have to co-exist’. What is required is an interfaith movement to raise consciousness about the need for tolerance and mutual understanding between different cultures and religions. The urgent necessity is to establish an Interfaith Foundation is to defeat any religion being a militant in its nature. The issue is whether adequate measures be taken to ban all organizations engaged in spreading false religion to mislead the people, with the view to lay the foundation for the formation of an Inter-Faith Foundation.