By Kapila Abhayawansa –
The article “The Black Abaya & Majjhima-Patipada” – (CT, 27. 11. 2015) by Mr. Mass L. Usuf tries to give the impression that the article is a clarification of his views that were not correctly understood by me when I responded (CT 21. 11. 2015) to his first article “Cultural Invasion – In The Wake Of The Abaya”. I don’t think that there were very deep views expressed by Mr. Usuf, that cannot be understood even by anyone except one who is illiterate. Though he says that he explained the universal principle of modesty with the example of the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun, to those who read his article it was not a secret that his sole intention was to promote black abaya justifying it by way of Buddhist teachings.
His example of the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun itself proves that he is trying to compare the dress that covers head and face with the dress of the Bikkhuni and the Christian nun in order to consolidate his opinion on balck abaya. Therefore, I don’t find any difference of his intention even in his second article “Black Abaya & Majjhima-Patipada” from the earlier one rather than an attempt to reestablish it.
Anyhow he starts his response to my article with the half way wrong translation of the 2nd verse of Dhammapada. The first part of his translation namely, All we are is the result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thought. is incorrect. Ii is completely a misrepresentation of the teaching of the Buddha, In the correct way it should be All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. There is a vast difference between the translation shown by Mr Usuf and the correct version of it. It is very wrong to use misrepresentation of Buddhist teaching to prove one’s own selfish idea.
Distinction of Dress form of abaya does not depend on its colour. But it must say that the black colour further strengthen its distinction. Mr Usuf points out that The Professor says that the people would perceive the dress-form of covering the body as extremism. Based on this logic, we have to accept that the bikkhuni is also an extremist. She also covers her body just as the Muslim woman does; the only difference is the colour. I think that Mr. Usuf is not blindfolded to see the difference between the dress that covers from the head to the feet and the dress of the Bhikkhuni. The dress of the bhikkhuni is not a blockage to her face. Buddhism is not an extremism to the extent that it intends to control the desire of people by means of dresses. It is possible that the hidden head with face can produce the curiosity of the mind of the people. That itself would be a danger to women. It is proven truth that sex crimes are comparatively, occurring more in the countries where women are restricted in their dresses than in the countries where women are given freedom to choose dresses on their own accord.
It is reported in the Their gathā that there was a bhikkhuni who was said to be an arahant by the name Subhā Jïvakambavanikā lived at the time of the Buddha and plucked one of her eyes and handed to a youth who was mad in sensuality seeing her eyes. Even on such an event the Buddha did not ask bhikkhunis to wear a garment similar to Abaya which covers the entire body,
On my statement that Sri Lankan social context is different, Mr. Usuf asks a question as to a bhikkhuni visiting another country change her colour of her robe. In fact, she does not want to change the colour or pattern of her robe because of the reason that people can easily recognize her as she is not covering her face. On the other hand, it is wrong to compare the dress of the religious priests whether of female or male to the dress of the ordinary females or males. They are a particular group. They have a uniform which can represent their religious priestly group. People do not expect the change of that uniform according to the social context.
Mr. Usuf highly evaluate the Buddhist principle when he says: The Professor speaks about the Middle Path and also speaks of ethnic squabbles. Wonder what happened to the Middle Path? In a country that is preaching Metta: loving kindness, Karuna: compassion, Mudita: sympathetic joy and Upekkha: equanimity, how can the Professor who should be promoting peaceful co-existence even suggest the “disturbance of ethnic harmony leading to squabbles and harm to the whole society”. I really admire Mr Usuf’s interest in Buddhism. But I would like to ask him a question: when I said that by way of the introducing strange cultural form to another society, it might be a cause to damage cultural harmony, how can it be against the middle path which promotes the peaceful coexistence. Middle path also suggests not to do anything which break the common happiness of people.
“The black abaya per se is not the issue. The prejudice which creates the wrong perception is the problem. This is what the Buddha taught”. Says Mr Usuf. Though he says now that black abaya is not the issue, it of course ,was the issue of his first article. Prejudice does not arise for nothing. If one does not create a background on which prejudice arises, there wouldn’t be both prejudice and the resultant misconception. Therefore, it is the duty of any one who earnestly expects social harmony, not to create an environment on which prejudices come to be and also to avoid prejudices as well.
Lastly I must say that I have no intention to drag this issue to a debate. I wrote this article too for the reason that Mr. Usuf directly addressed me through his second article.
May social harmony prevail throughout entire humanity.
AVB / November 30, 2015
“expressed by Mr. Usuf, that cannot be understood even by anyone except one who is illiterate. “…. typical SB response to insult somebody …
After arguing about correctness of one of very famous Dhammapadha verse (and giving ugly translation using English words of his choice), prof says “Prejudice does not arise for nothing”… and wish to create environment which does not arise individual prejudice??? Does this Prof knows meaning of prejudice (preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience ). Obviously Prof tries to solve the wrong problem.
Reviewcric / November 30, 2015
Very good reply. I really feel the full face cover is one that really must be questioned and investigated. Religious faith, piety is all good but covering your face is certainly going to another extreme. If people generally cant see what you are I dont know who you are how can one simply be at ease. Is it not a security risk?
Native Vedda / December 3, 2015
“Religious faith, piety is all good but covering your face is certainly going to another extreme.”
In fact all men should cover their ugly faces and be forced to wear chastity belts.
Mohamed Fahad / November 30, 2015
So aren’t we fighting for women’s rights these days telling that they can wear anything they like..so women choose themselves to go half naked and we men have no problem looking at them and enjoying it sometimes aren’t we? Do you dare to tell them cover your boobs they are half out??? You will be hated among them if you did so…they will cite women’s rights and back off mind your own business if you are uncomfortable with it look away and keep moving will be yelled at your face agree???
but if a women choses to cover her face, it becomes a security threat all of a sudden.. And you are all dare to argue and remove it, even though you are sure that Itz not a security threat, you dare argue it citing extremism and security threats.. Law enforcement have the full right to demand identification and even those women do agree to the fact, should the need arise… So would you dare mind your own business please?,??
Jim softy / November 30, 2015
What muslim women wearing is not what they want, what their men wants.
Men can rape even the servant girl.Because, children become muslim.
On the other hand, their wives have to cover up everything.
that is the quran’s teaching.
Your prophet had even underage children, and so many wives, that is why he was oppressing women.
Salma Junaideen / November 30, 2015
Abaya means a dress covers the body excepting the hand and the face. Nikab is the one that covers the face. Just a clarification
Sylvia Haik / November 30, 2015
Your clarification is helpful but don’t you think this is a recent phenomenon introduced in the last 15 – 20 years to the Muslims who have lived in Sri Lanka for a thousand year. I suspect it is to appease the Saudis with their massive fund of petrodollars that is funding the Muslim Community. Sadly, the money is not being used to alleviate the abject poverty amongst some Muslims but to observe the ubiquitous Wahhabi doctrines which is unjust, unfair and barbaric. Even now, a poor Sri Lankan is facing death by stoning for adultery.
Salma Junaideen / November 30, 2015
I made the clarification on nikab and abaya, because the discussion seems to discuss nikab mistaking it for abaya. My opinion is given below in quotes. I wrote as a comment to another article in CT by Mr. Usuf
However women have a right to wear whatever they please. It can be abaya, or revealing clothes, bikini etc. with the exception of nikab for security reasons and for e.g. I have a right to know whom I am seated next to in the bus
To answer Sylvia Haik- I notice that people of different faiths have become more religious in the last two or three decades than before. It is not only Muslims. I am not aware of petro dollars funding the Muslim community and I would like to know how you arrive at your conclusion that money is coming and it is to promote Wahabism. To be honest, I am not aware of such funding and as you say if it is so it could help to alleviate poverty of Muslims and non Muslims.
I do agree that the horrible punishments are imposed on women. Two years ago Rizana Nafeek, a child was ” murdered” by the Saudi Government and now another to be stoned to death. An Indonesian woman was also stoned to death. I don’t think this woman was aware of the punishment, otherwise she wouldn’t have confessed. According to Islamic law, four witnesses should testify the crime of adultery so it is difficult to convict a person but in this case she has confessed. I am wondering whether she confessed under coercion, were the lawyers were present in courts etc etc.
We should stop sending women to these countries particularly Saudi. Apart from state imposed punishment, there are lots of things that happen to women- they are beaten, nails are inserted.
” Abaya is not prescribed in Islam. Quran says “cover your bosoms with a veil” . If Allah had wanted it he could have ordered women to cover their heads. Again the quotation 35:59 cited above is contextual. This was revealed at a time when Muslim women were harassed and this sentence was revealed to protect women from being harassed. in fact during 9/11days, there was fatwa(opinion)given by certain renowned ulemas like Badawii for women not to wear the abaya as muslim women were targeted in US and In th UK. What Islam prescribes is modesty in dress for both men and women. They are expected to cast their eyes down. There are verses in the Quran which are contextual and some verses are eternal. For instances verses related to slavery is not relevant any more. But verses on forgiveness and mercy are eternal.. Some Quranic verses and saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were answers to the problems at that time. Even sentences on treatment of non Muslims are quoted out of context. This creates a lot of misunderstanding among non Muslims. Most of the Muslims agree that these verses are contextual but they are very reluctant to agree that verses related to women ar contextual..”
November 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm
Coconut Republic / December 1, 2015
Salma …you are spot on! A appreciate your fitting replies.
Mr Mass….you can come for classes to learn better from Salma. She is very logical and speaking reality
Jim softy / December 1, 2015
Abaya and niqub are one and the same for onlookers only variations in name.
Zaneera Farook / December 1, 2015
You must be blind otherwise you will see the face of the woman wearing abaya and the face cover on the woman wearing nikab
justice / November 30, 2015
Do not women too, lust after handsome sexy males?
Should not men too cover themselves appropriately in order not to arouse feelings in women?
Why compel women only, to “cover up” in various ways?
maali karunaratne / November 30, 2015
Actually if the women’s clothing disturb men, men must take precautions and not force the women to be in abayas and face covered clothing. I agree with you as it makes sense.
Funlover / November 30, 2015
Leel / November 30, 2015
Viagra is selling heavily in all Muslim countries.
priyangika / December 1, 2015
I hope you can quote statistics to support your argument. But what is the problem if viagra is selling fast in those countries. What is the relevance to this article
Here it was a sold to an old Senior minister from the suburbs of Colombo ( reported in Daily Mirror ) and he had to be hospitalised with the support of the bed mate.
Marwan / November 30, 2015
Islam is a complete way of life, each and every aspect is designed by our Creator to advance happy, healthy communities and ease the path to eternal bliss in Paradise. In today’s society modesty is seen as a sign of weakness or insecurity. This is not the case in Islam, where modesty is seen as a sign of respect for oneself and others.
The shyness or shame that every human being is born with is seen as something to be treasured. To this end Islam has a dress code for both women and men. Its purpose is to protect the society as a whole and promote modest dressing and behaviour. It creates a barrier between the sexes and allows us to conduct our lives with modesty, dignity and respect.
Islam holds women in very high esteem and the Islamic rules of covering are intended to protect and guard her dignity and honour. The word used most often in regard to covering is hijab. All qualified Muslim scholars throughout the history of Islam agree that fulfilling the conditions of the dress code is an obligation on all Muslim men and women.
The Wisdom in the Islamic Dress Code
There is great wisdom in the Islamic dress code. In order to see and understand it clearly one must be aware of a few basic concepts. First and foremost, that Islam was revealed for all people in all places, and suitable at all times. Thus what is in or out of fashion is not relevant. Secondly, Islam is a holistic religion concerned with humankind’s physical, spiritual and emotional health, and not just for each individual but for the community or society as a whole. This involves respect; for Almighty Allah, for each other and for oneself.
Secondly, a dress code is ordained for both men and women, Islam does not put the responsibility entirely on one gender, and in fact the verses referring to men were revealed first in the Holy Quran. However both men and women are commanded to lower their gaze and protect their modesty; and both men and women are expected to create a healthy social environment with constructive morals, manners and values.
The term hijab, is more than a scarf and more than a dress code. It is a term that denotes modest dressing and also modest behaviour. For instance, if a Muslim woman was correctly covered but at the same time using bad language, she would not be fulfilling the requirements of hijab. If a Muslim man was covered from the navel to the knee but walking around in public calling attention to himself or behaving rudely would also not be behaving in an appropriate manner.
Women who wear hijab point out many benefits to be gained from adhering to the Islamic dress code. Some describe wearing hijab as being “set free” from society’s unrealistic expectations. They are no longer thought of as sexual objects, but are desired for their intellect. They are no longer valued for their good looks or body shape but for their personality and character. Women wearing hijab report that it minimizes sexual harassment in the workplace.
Many women report that people (both Muslims and non Muslims) are more inclined to show good manners towards a woman in a scarf. Men open doors, give up seats on public transport, apologize for any bad language, and offer to carry groceries and many other small kindnesses that were once a normal part of life in most western communities.
soma / December 1, 2015
“Islam is a complete way of life, each and every aspect is designed by our Creator to advance happy, healthy communities and ease the path to eternal bliss in Paradise. “
These happy and healthy communities are called Islamic hell holes. Why is that Marwan?
Indra / December 1, 2015
Heard of the saying “casting pearls before swine”? But then who can blame Marwan for assuming swine will not be reading Colpmbo Telegraph?
soma / December 2, 2015
Thanks Indra, you gave me a clue to find an answer to my own question. They are called Islamic hell holes because given the option a Muslim would migrate to a farm of swine than to another healthy happy community.
Mohamed Fahad / December 1, 2015
When the jeans dominated Asia , when the mini skirt dominated, and now the legging or whatever it is, it is not cultural invasion it is modernism… But when somebody choses to wear an Arab garment, it becomes a cultural invasion and extremism… How surprising dear human beings!??? Animals are more modern than human since they wear nothing aren’t they??? Well if you are a man you don’t have a right to know who is the woman seated next to you in the bus, ethically and without her consent… Even she is covered or not if we try to identify the person seated next she can still complain of me trying to flirt or abuse.. But if you are a woman, yes those veiled woman have no problem talking to you and even showing their face to you. Because it is allowed. My wife doesn’t wear a viel but it doesn’t mean that I should oppose everyone who chose to wear it. Many people who wear it by choice and their may be cases men forced them to do so. That is a problem with those men’s interpretation and has nothing to do with the religion.. Such as we see a lot of bars, rapes, abusing happening in this country has nothing to do with Buddhism or other religions.. Very simple. The problem here is intolerance, misinformation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding and so on..
Jim softy / December 1, 2015
Islam is an oppressive religion. Muslims try to justify it and they don’t tell the holy truth.
Muslim men, Including Prophet Mohamed Could marry any woman he wanted including little children because they were females.
At present, Muslims are the first class womanizers or adulteres in the world. They say, they need the permission of the first wife. That is true because who wants to be starving and homeless. So, the first wife gives husband the permission to bring another young wife or in that sense, any number of wives.
Muslims men also can bang their Servant. That is Ok with the Quran.
On the hand, Woman has to cover up totally and muslim men different names to that cloth Abaya, Niqab or what ever else.
Muslims men are very dishonest and lie as much as they can in order to protect their religion. They don’t want to accept they become DUMB in order to protect the religion.
There are no brave muslim men who can think for they themselves. They are slaves of unknown Allah.
halal / December 1, 2015
“The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘Prayers will be neglected, carnal desires will be pursued, transgressors will become leaders, it will not be possible to distinguish the faithful from the false, telling lies will become desirable, payment of Zakah will be taken as a burden, the believer will be deemed the most disgraceful and he will be pained at seeing evils all around and his heart will melt as salt in water but he will not be able to say anything. Rain will do no good; it will fall out of season. Males will commit adultery with males, and females with females. Women will dominate. The offspring will disobey their parents, friend will treat his friend badly, sins will be taken lightly. Mosques will have external decorations and beauty and there will be worshippers too but there will be hypocrisy and mutual enmity in their hearts. Then will appear a people from the West who will dominate the weak among my people. People will produce copies of the Holy Quran in letters of gold but will not act upon it. The Quran will be recited in a melodious way. Usury will become rampant. Human blood will have no value, religion will have no helpers. Singing women will be on the increase. The rich will perform the Hajjas as a pastime, the people of the middle class will do so to conduct business and the poor to beg for charity.”
BBS Rep / December 1, 2015
Prof Kapila Abhayawansa,
So we have to agree that you are the frontrunner in translating the Dhammapada?? Do I see any humility anywhere??
You say ‘It is very wrong to use misrepresentation of Buddhist teaching to prove one’s own selfish idea.’ Hmmm, I reread Mr Usuf’s articles in question but cannot find anything therein that he is pushing his own selfish idea.
Another question that keeps cropping up to disturb my chain of thoughts is; if it is right to use correct representation of Buddha’s teachings what difference has it made on the ground. This country that we so proudly announce is the ‘thrice blessed country’, blessed by none other than the Buddha himself, has not benefited at all from all the correct interpretations by all the self appointed experts in the field. Per capita we Sri Lankans may possibly be the leaders in corrupt practices. Per capita we may be the highest imbibers of alcohol if you add Kasippu and the other home made brews that don’t get added up in statistics. Per capita we may be the greatest killers fuelled by racism and bias. With regards to men ogling at women and making crude sexual innuendos in the open without hiding the lasciviousness in their wretched faces one could conclude that we Sri Lankans qualify for the world crown of ‘aseelachara’ behaviour.
Basically Buddhism has done nothing to make Sri Lankan people good. Why is the good professor getting worked up like so many of my countrymen over any errors in the translation of the Dammapada.
As for the Nikab, Abhaya or Hijab loving Muslim men like the Buddhist counterparts, if given half a chance would all take the fastest possible transport to the Bikini loving countries. All humans are humbugs and the worst are those who beat one religious drum or the other.
Pissa / December 1, 2015
BBS Rep, Spot on! Thanks. Should have added one more ‘virtue’, that is unparalleled corruption spread like a cancer across this so-called “Buddhist” country.
There is no dearth of temples, mosques, Bodhi poojas, meditation retreats, or know-alls splitting hairs about the fine points of Dhamma, Bible or Quran but given a half chance most of us will not hesitate to cheat or engage in the worst form of corruption. That is because we’ve been told that with enough “pinkamas” or “praying” or whatever in our account, we should be fine in our next abode.
Abdul / December 1, 2015
I don’t understand, why do non Muslims bothering about Muslims’ women dress code instead of minding their own business and take care of their own family women’s dress code? You (non Muslims) women are wearing Western ppl introduced dress code , which is not related to Bhikkuni dress code.
If face covering is the problem to maintain security of nation then find an alternative way to identify the face covered women by taking their finger mark .(even portable finger Mark matching machine available in the market)
Nowadays ppl in srilanka struggling to eliminate poverty but you guys fighting for dress code of Muslims’ women in front of smart phone/computer screen. Guys just get together to build our country and eliminate poverty.
Just be strong enough to maintain your religion faith instead of entering nose into other religions.
Coconut Republic / December 1, 2015
True, but inform Mass yousef, not to write crap and provocate the non Muslims
maali karunaratne / December 1, 2015
We are in a multicultural, multiethnic state. I as a woman or as a man should know who is seated next to me in the bus. It can be a ” a he” and IRC. In Katugastota a man wearing a nikab had entered a bank and in Mawanella a politician had murdered a person wearing nikab.
When I speak to someone, I wish to know non verbal expression on their faces. Any communication expert would tell you the importance of non verbal communication.
Also I agree that we do not say cultural invasion if we are flooded with western clothes such as blue jeans, but it it is abaya it is called cultural invasion by saudi. It is double standards
Having said all this I defend the women’s right to wear what she wants (excepting nikab). It is not anybody’s problem if a woman wears shalwar, saree, jeans, low necked blouse etc etc
Ahmed / December 1, 2015
This prof’s portrait shows him in shirt and tie which are from the west. His religion is from Nepal. He has no reason to cover his body and wear a neck tie in the humid weather of Sri Lanka. The problem with SB is that whatever they adopt from abroad, they think, are their culture and everything else as invasion. grow up.
Jim softy / December 2, 2015
Don’t talk stupid.
the problem is one muslims saying wearing Abhya is like buddhist – middle way and democracy.
What BS ?
Don’t confuse yourself.