29 November, 2022


Rushing To Ignite A Religious War

By Tisaranee Gunasekara –

“We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts” – Patrick Henry (Speech at the Second Virginia Convention – 1775)

Until now, those who incurred the wrath of the Rajapaksas were unsafe only when they ventured out of their homes.

That last refuge of the persecuted might be vanishing. Faraz Shauketaly of The Sunday Leader was shot in his place of residence.

The three gunmen escaped, naturally. In Sri Lanka, some criminals never get caught.

Why was Mr. Shauketaly shot? The answer will be revealed by the manner in which his case is handled. If the crime is non-political, the culprits will be apprehended. But if Mr. Shauketaly was shot because of his journalistic investigations, the perpetrators will remain as free as the wind, as free as those who killed Lasantha Wickremetunga four years ago.

And the Shuketaly-shooting will mark a turning point. In future, Rajapaksa-enforcers will not have to lurk in some street-corner for their victims.

They will come home.


Sri Lanka is one of those fortunate countries which never had to experience the indescribable horrors of a full scale religious war.

That millennia-long run of luck might be coming to an end. If the criminally irresponsible activities of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) are not nipped in the bud, legally and democratically, Sri Lankans may soon know what it is like to be killed for a religion.

Buddhist extremist group Bodu Bala Sena starts grand convention at maharagama | Pic by Dharisha Bastians

In a country where four (or five, according to unofficial reports) women are raped daily, child abuse is rampant and even Buddhist monks falling victim to violent crime, a handful of Sinhala-Buddhist extremists have managed to manufacture and enthrone a wholly artificial issue as ‘The Problem’. Ordinary Sinhala-Buddhists who should be concerned about such real-life issues as violent crimes, sky-rocketing prices and falling living standards are being hoodwinked into worry about non-existing problems, such as ‘Halal’ and the ‘Sharia Law’. The country and its people are being held to ransom by a small cabal of fanatics, while the Rajapaksa regime looks on, as benignly as a fond father.

A full fledged anti-Halal campaign is to begin at Maharagama, on February 17th. Other meetings are to follow. Eager to benefit from the rekindled fires of religious mania, the JHU too has got into the act, with the recently demoted Minister Champika Ranawaka giving time till April to ‘resolve’ the ‘Halal problem’. Afterwards these self-declared protectors of Sinhala-Buddhism are to take ‘action’.

A recent report is indicative of the way things are headed: “At least 50 Muslim shop owners in Narammala in the Kurunegala District, have received death threats by mail. They have been warned to close their shops by March 31st of face death….” (Colombo Gazette – 17.2.2013).

The JHU is a spent force, politico-electorally. It is reasonable to assume that the absolute majority of Buddhist Sinhalese are unaware the very existence of the BBS; or that ‘Halal’ is a far more important issue than the cost-of-living. The JHU and the BBS are succeeding in imposing their deranged agenda on the rest of the country not because they are strong.  The main reason for the phenomenal success of the BBS and its anti-Halal mania is the benign tolerance accorded to them by the Rajapaksas.

The regime, possibly for reasons of its own, is allowing to BBS to break the law of the land with impunity. It is possible that the Rajapaksas see a considerable use value in these fanatics. They might believe that by conjuring an ‘Islamic Terrorist threat’ they can win over Washington, London and Delhi, save the Hambantota Commonwealth and enthrone themselves as the new saviours.

From the JHU to the BBS: Politics of Hatred

The JHU was a child of opportunism and intolerance. It rampaged into politico-organisational existence in order to benefit from the outpourings of public grief (part orchestrated by the media which competed with each other to turn the funeral into a bathetic circus) over the untimely demise of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero. At that time, the Sihala Urumaya (SU) was mired in electoral failure and acrimonious squabbles. In his last years Soma Thero had espoused an extremist, intolerant creed, first against Muslims and then against Christians. The SU jumped to claim his intolerant legacy, as a way to regain political relevance. The SU leaders donated their party to the Sangha and the JHU was born, on an anti-Christian wave.

The vainglorious JHU monks went to parliament promising to create a Dharma Rajya in 6 months; instead, with their ignoble conduct, they bought discredit upon the great religion they claimed to represent. Almost a decade later, the JHU has nothing positive to show for its existence. The party sank into dissension and irrelevance when its anti-Christian hysteria was rendered unaffordably irrelevant by the outbreak of the Fourth Eelam War.

Historically, enhanced identification between religion and politics has rebounded on the religion, discrediting and dishonouring it. The arrogation of political power to themselves by Buddhist monks during the Koryo dynasty led to the decline of Buddhism in Korea. Other famous examples include the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution and of the Italian Risorgimento. When religion seeks to become a secular force, secular powers tend to treat the religious in like manner, as the atrocities committed on monks and nuns by the troops of very Catholic Emperor Charles during the 1527 sacking of Rome demonstrate.

When the line of demarcation between religious and secular is breached, it endangers the basic rights of all citizens. The Catholic Church was able to cover up its child abuse problem thanks partly to its capacity to dictate to political authorities. This week, the Irish Prime Minister accepted the Irish state’s complicity in committing 10,000 women and girls to the now infamous Magdalene laundries run by nuns, where they were forced to work under inhuman conditions, without pay. It is no accident that two of the most repressive countries in the world are theocracies:Saudi Arabia and Iran. And their main victims are not foreigners but their own people.

If the BBS and the JHU have their way, they will not stop with suppressing non-Buddhists. They will dictate to Buddhists as well, telling us what and what not to eat and wear, study and think. They will seek to takeover our lives and corrupt our minds.

Racial/religious tolerance is not a permanent state of mind which, once achieved, will last forever. It is something which needs to be renewed and reaffirmed every day, not through outstanding acts of heroism but through ordinary decency, kindness and honour. The propaganda of those who advocate intolerance in the name of race/religion is so insidious that it can get at us in dark secret places we did not know existed within ourselves. We are living in a society in which the language of suspicion and fear and the teaching of contempt are thriving. Even the most anti-racist of us would not be totally immune to the resultant toxicants.

In that context, constant reminders of our common humanity cease being a cliché and become a lifeline to evade the bloody-quagmire of a religious war.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    I have for the first time in my life been embarrased to call myself a Buddhist, when I recently watched TV along with a muslim friend, a man in monk’s robes pour vitriol on the religon of Islam. I had to walk away due to this unsightly scene causing me such pain of mind when a representative of a philosophy I great respect behaved in this manner. These are the people whom we worship and whom we invite to our homes after symbolically washing their feet! Where did that massive crowd come from, how are they betraying the very fundamentals of the teaching of the Buddha. Why are the authorities allowing this to happen, when clearly these men are breaking the law. Section 219B of the Penal Code to be exact. Will someone save us from these nasty bigots?

  • 0

    Is halal the same as kosher? If so, then halal should be banned. Kosher (the Jewish form of preparation) meat is obtained via extensive torture of the animal, e.g. lamb or cow. It is simply not humane to treat an animal in such a way.

    • 0

      No Lester the Jews do not accept halal but Muslims accept kosher. I confess I do not know how the Jews slaughter, but for the Muslims there are stringent rules to cause as little pain as possible.

      • 0


        The intensive research conducted at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover University in Germany was headed by Professor Wilhelm Schulze. He was assisted by Dr. Hazim.
        The results showed that the slaughter of an animal with a sharp knife is the least painful and most humane of all methods of killing, even more humane than the stunning method.
        In the study several electrodes were surgically implanted at various points of the skulls of all animals under experiment, touching the surface of the brain. Some animals were then slaughtered, according to the Islamic method, by making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck cutting the jugular vein and the carotid arteries as well as the trachea and esophagus. Other animals were stunned with the aid of a ‘Captive Bolt Pistol’ (CBP).
        During the experiment an electroencephalograph (EEG) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) recorded the condition of the brains and the hearts of all the animals during the course of slaughter and stunning.

        The results were as follows:

        Slaughtering with a knife (The Islamic Method)
        1. The first 3 seconds from the time of the slaughter (in the Islamic Method) as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any recognisable pain during or after the incision.
        2. During the following 3 second, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep-unconsciousness. This is due to the large quantity of blood gushing out of the body. The sudden and profuse bleeding from the incision on the neck causes a shock resulting in a state of unconsciousness due to severe shortage of blood supply to the vital centers located in the brain.
        3. After the above-mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all.
        4. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving out a maximum amount of blood from the body, thus resulting in hygienic meat for the consumers.
        Captive Bolt Pistol (CBP) Stunning Method
        1. The animals were apparently unconscious soon after stunning.
        2. But EEG showed severe pain immediately after stunning.
        3. The hearts of animals stunned by CBP stopped beating earlier as compared to those of the animals slaughtered according to the Islamic method, resulting in the retention of more blood in the meat. This in turn is unhygienic for the consumer.
        It is evident from the above-mentioned study that the Islamic slaughter of animals is a blessing to both the animal and not a pain. It may, however, be mentioned in this connection that the Islamic method insists on several measures to make the slaughter lawful.
        The holy Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) emphatic declaration in this regard should be mentioned first. The holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you slaughter: sharpen your blade to relieve its pain.”
        According to a tradition transmitted by Muslim, the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) ordered a horned ram with black legs, a black belly and black round the eyes, and it was brought to him to be sacrificed. He told Bibi Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) to get the knife, and then told her to sharpen it with a stone. When she had done so he took it, then taking the ram he placed it on the ground and cut its throat.
        The Islamic method indeed demands that the knife to be used for slaughtering animals must be sharp and used swiftly. The swift cut of vessels of the neck disconnects the flow of blood to the nerves in the brain responsible for pain. Thus the slaughtered animal feels no pain. The movements and withering of the different limbs of the animal after the incision is made are not due to pain, but due to the contraction and relaxation of the muscles deficient in blood. The convulsions are due to the contraction of the muscles in response to the lack of oxygen in the brain cells.
        The Islamic method of slaughter is, therefore, the most humane and least painful method of killing animals.

    • 0

      Lester, it is clear what you intend to pull off. A loaded question, mixed with misleading allusions on the rules, or should we say established guidelines on animal slaughter, be it Jewish Kosher or Islamic Halal methods. It can be inferred that you as a Buddhist, profess to oppose all forms of animal slaughter, and therefore don’t consume any meat, fish or eggs in any way or form in any of your meals, which makes you unworthy to inquire about animal slaughter. If you do eat that stuff, then you are violating a principle tennet of your ‘great’ religion, and consider yourself a failure to honour, uphold and maintain true Buddhist values. Your name in these forums is synonymous with contempt and ridicule of the Islamic teachings, whilst you have so much putrefying rubbish flowing from your own backyard. There are plenty of websites that explain both concepts, and none mistreat or harm their animals before slaughter. Another way is watch the slaughter being performed on youtube to clarify your doubts.

  • 0

    – Both Muslims and Buddhists are hypocrites.

    – Muslims say God said it is OK to kill and eat animals while Buddhists say Buddha said it is OK to eat meat if you don’t know how the animal died.

    – The fact of the matter is these guys just want to eat meat and make excuses for their blood thirst. Humans are omnivores and are therefore carnivorous by nature.

    – There is no way you can KILL humanely. Any whichever way you look at it KILLING is painful, dirty sadistic business.

    – Just do it f you want. But don’t give excuses.

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  • 0

    American Mama,
    Before you conclude Buddhists are hypocrites, you should have known at least first percept of Buddhism and logic behind it.

    Theravada Buddhists say that a violation of the first precepts involves five factors. 1)There is a living being. 2)There is the perception that the being is a living being. 3)There is the volition thought of killing. 4)The killing is carried out. 5)The being dies.

    You should understand that the violation of the precept arises in the mind, with the recognition of a living being and the wilful thought of killing that being. Now, ordering someone else to do the actual killing does not mitigate responsibility for it. It must be said, a killing that is premeditated is a graver offence than a killing that is impulsive, such as in self-defence.

    Keeping that in mind, if we go back to Buddha’s time, first monks obtained all their food by begging, and the Buddha taught his monks to eat whatever food they were given, including meat. However, if a monk knew an animal had been slaughtered specifically to feed monks, the meat was to be refused.

    So, there is no simple Halal and Haram for Buddhists as you seemed to think. Today there are more than 3,000 Buddhists serving in the U.S. armed forces, including some Buddhist chaplains. Buddhism does not demand absolute pacifism.

    • 0

      – I know all that. Heard it before.

      – Eating the flesh of another animal is just the habit of carnivores. There is nothing compassionate about it. Buddhism is supposed to be about compassion and loving kindness.

      – Buddhists know very well that these animals are killed because they eat meat.

      – No one knows what the \buddha actually said. It is based on oral tradition

  • 0

    No justice,
    You said; “This land was at one time the land of the Tamils.” You and your fellow Tamils are free to believe it is true. However, if you want we Sinhalas to believe it, you must come up with better logic. Why had those Tamils become a minority when there were three major Tamil kingdoms existed for over thousand years next door? Tell us, which Tamils (Lanka or Indian) first came to being? How come a new race (Sinhala) arose from nowhere in so-called ‘Tamil Land’ and become the majority. If your story is true, Tamils (Lanka and Indian) would have swamped this land assimilated Sinhlas like present day koviya in Jaffna. One other thing; how come such an ancient Tamil nation speak the same language of a nearby country without evolving it into a new language like elsewhere. Tamil being a very rich language is it not puzzling why Tamils do not have a chronicle like Mahawamsa that list things that Medalankara and his crowd the JHU’ you claim to have destroyed.

    Come, come, modern archaeologists and many of them foreign have explored Lankan monuments, rock edits and etc a long time back and have written many thesis. But they haven’t written abut anything near what you claim. Even the doctoral thesis by Professor Indrapala Kathiragesu stands opposite to that of your opinion. Hence, your suggestion that ‘Medalankara and his crowd the JHU’ may have destroyed Tamil monuments, rock edits and etc is absurd for they came in to the seen only a few years back.

    Next, according to the translator of Vissudhimaga, Ven Nanamoli, Oxford scholar Osbert Moore, there is no evidence whatsoever to show Buddhagosha is Tamil. In chapter XX111 it mentioned ‘I (Buddhagosha) have lived in Kancipura and elsewhere with a well known elder named Jothipala. The fact that he has mentioned in it that I formerly lived in ‘Mayurasuttapattana’ is identified as Mylapore and is located near Madrass makes some Tamils to claim Buddhagosha a Tamil. Still it does not prove your point that Lanka was a Tamil Land. On the contrary, it proves that Madrass was the Tamil Land even then.

    If one tries to understand why Buddhagosha came to Lanka in the 5th century during King Mahasen he will accept that this land was Sinhala even at that time. Nanamoli wrote in his introduction that Buddhagosha heard there were many valuable Sinhala commentaries of tripitaka and he came to Lanka to read them and compile them into one volume of Pali commentary and take it back to India.

  • 0

    LTTE is funding the monks with the blessing of Rajapakse, this happend before when LTTE was given arms and money under Premadasa , the fools will do anything to hold on to power

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