That ‘Halal Controversy’

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By Malinda Seneviratne -

Malinda

Malinda Seneviratne

Certain sections of the Sinhala Buddhist population are up in arms against what they call ‘Islaamikaranaya’ (Islamization) or ‘Halalkaranaya’ (Halal-ism).  The more virulent elements of this group have indulged in the most distasteful of anti-Islam hatemongering especially in social media sites such as Facebook.

The initial objection has been to non-Muslims being forced to play participant to a Muslim religious dictate pertaining to meat, i.e. the slaughtering of animals as per Islamic doctrine.  One can argue that if it’s meat that is desired then the ‘how’ of slaughter should not really matter.    It is not that non-Buddhists consuming Halal meat are automatically converted to Islam, after all.  On the other hand, perceived intrusions (there have been instances, we note, of Muslims legitimately and systematically purchasing properties to turn formerly ‘Sinhala’ villages into Muslim-dominated entities) can act as cultural trigger where those who talk the religion but may not practice it preying on natural social fears.

The Buddhist response would be to treat things with compassion, which would require Buddhists to draw on the principles of tolerance and empathy.  If wisdom is also employed, as is required according to Buddhism, then the wise thing would be stop eating meat altogether.  Consumption of meat is not necessarily forbidden, but since animal turns to mean only consequent to slaughter, and since slaughter does not sit with the Buddha Vacana (May All Beings Be Happy), then abstinence is a choice that takes a culturally unpalatable situation and turns it into a reason for walking closer to prescribed path.

The attacks on Muslims and Islam, and especially the vilification on sites such as Facebook are quite antithetical to Buddhist teachings of tolerance and equanimity.  They have been quite rightly condemned.  Some of the condemnation of course comes from those who have an axe to grind with Buddhism and Buddhists, ever ready to vilify but extremely reluctant to point error in other religions, their churches or followers.  Such people use the erroneous and misleading blanket descriptive ‘Sinhala Buddhists’  which is as bad as conflating Tamils and the LTTE.  The criticism, however, remains valid.

If these so-called ‘Buddhist’ groups are in error in their vilifying thrusts, so too, sadly, are some of their detractors, many of whom believe that only the majority community needs to be rebuked fearing perhaps that if other communities are found fault with (as collectives or partial entities or individuals) it amounts to being racist, chauvinistic, religiously intolerant etc.

A classic case is that of the furor over allegation of Tamil versions of the Law College Examination being leaked.  Now this is a competitive examination and the facts certainly raise questions that compromise the integrity of the examination in ways that are far more serious than a leaking of an Ordinary Level examination.  And yet, this has been a touch-me-not issue for almost all commentators who have intervened in the ‘Halal Controversy’.

If Sri Lanka is to be a nation of less paranoid communities it is imperative that each individual and each community looks within.  Sinhalese and Buddhists have shown exemplary tolerance in years gone by.  In Europe the only ‘religious’ holidays are Christian and in countries dominated by Muslims there is even less recognition of other faiths.  The intolerance of the Swiss is a well concealed fact that came out when a referendum was held about mosques.  There’s nothing in Sri Lanka akin to the issuance of Fatwas as are common in Muslim countries.  These are good things to think about.

In the end though, deeper reflection on faith and an abiding by the relevant doctrine would make for better engagement with religious others.  In the end all human beings, regardless of faith, share the same will to live and the same apprehension about death.  If a symbol of co-existence is required, take any mosque in any part of the island and the chances are there is a Bo sapling coming out of some crevice.  It doesn’t say anything about either faith, but the togetherness is a lesson that can be learnt.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

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28 Responses to That ‘Halal Controversy’

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    I am confused! Buddhism prohibits eating meat. So why are the Buddhist worried about Halal meat which they are no suppose to eat? Those Buddhist eat meat should not be worried about Halal or how the animal has been slaughtered. In Sri Lanka the main problem is the constitution where Buddhism is given special preference in the manner it has been mentioned.There should be clear separation of state and religion as in developed democracies. Further Buddha preached “ahimsa”, then why are the Buddhist monks attacking other places of worship. A place of worship is an immovable property, hence if some one is attacking a place of worship, then that person or persons have come to the place of worship and should be imprisoned without bail until the courts decide on the case. Whether its a Buddhis monk or any other person the law should be amended that the person or persons attacking a place of worship should be locked up until the case is heard by the courts without bail.

    Park
    January 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm
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      Buddhism is Pagism/Animism and most of the Buddhist monks are nothing but thugs. One of them killed our Prime minister in the 50s. When it comes to eating meat, the Buddhists in SL are not second to the Veddas.

      Minarat
      January 5, 2013 at 10:35 pm
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        Animism is the belief that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Buddhism does not believe these.

        dgd
        January 12, 2013 at 2:46 am
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    Reigous tolerance or intolerance does not make one above the laws of the land. It must be the rule of law that prevails. Hate mongering, inciting violence and engaging in violent acts cannot be condoned or permitted. The big question is that when these are perpetrated against a particular community why are these being tolerated? The answer cannot be on religous grounds as no religon including buddhism condones acts of violence against innocent people. The answer is political, since it is convenient for the govt to remain silent or look the other way. Also since the govt derives its support from such elements. It is easy to quote conditions in other countries but cannot justify the same here. Sri Lanka is more multiracial and multi religous having larger spreads of the different religons and races. So an equitable application of the law is a must.

    Safa
    January 6, 2013 at 2:28 am
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    “Sinhalese and Buddhists have shown exemplary tolerance in years gone by” Maybe this is true up to a point, but there are also instances where the GOSL has taken it on themselves to dictate to others of different faiths what they should or shouldn’t eat and drink on days that Buddhists deem to be important or ‘holy’. One could argue that if there are objections to the ‘halal’ situation by “sections of the Sinhala Buddhists”, then why not consider objections from non-Buddhists to the restrictions on the sale/consumption of liquour and/or meats on days that are supposed to be of religious significance to Buddhists? If the “Sinhala Buddhists” don’t want to consume meat or liquor – great! But why force others to also abstain when the particular day holds no significance to them at all? That’s being rather ‘intolerant’, don’t you think?

    java jones
    January 6, 2013 at 3:30 am
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    The way to go Malinda! However, your racist slip is yet showing. I take exception to your statement and I quote “Sinhalese and Buddhists have shown exemplary tolerance in years gone by”. Do you mean that the minorities are testy, that they border on pushing Buddhists to their limits that they have to draw on the principles of tolerance and empathy”? Think again Malinda! You err again about religious holidays. I quote “In Europe the only ‘religious’ holidays are Christian and in countries dominated by Muslims there is even less recognition of other faiths”. Please look at examples closer home like India instead of Europe. Then again religious holidays should be pragmatic and not based on political expedience as in our country. I don’t see why a whole country should shut down for a religious holiday of a small minority. What is required is the right to keep away from work on recognized religious holidays without being reprimanded. I would rather have the rest of the country working during most religious holidays other than those who are affected. I applaud you because I see a thawing of your steadfast Sinhala Buddhist line and encourage you to embrace multiculturalism with vigour.

    Nabil
    January 6, 2013 at 7:36 am
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    The problem is that the minorities are more racist than the majority

    das
    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am
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      Read Das Capital

      Karl Marx
      February 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm
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    At a pola I saw a van with a loud speaker inveighing people to sign a petition against slaughter of cattle.A passerby made a comment – do not eat beef but eat chicken. Nayaka hamuduruwos may enjoy a meal of roast chicken.But do they realize that the fattening agent given to poultry contain Asenic, yes ARSENIC?

    capucine
    January 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm
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    If each minority community want their way there will be no rule of law. Recently France banned Hijab which is the right thing to do. the black dress the muslim women wear is so ugly and does not suit the climate perhaps is a disease carrier. Some wear this dress which sweeps the road as well. How do we know if the dress is clean? They come to restricted places in hopitals wearing this dirty dress.

    toombray
    January 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm
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      You bray! Thank god we don’t have to take you seriously

      M Y Foote
      January 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm
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      @bray, I hate making the comment below. But you asked for it. Your argument that the Hijab, is unclean, unhealthy, and that the black colour of the Hijab is ugly didn’t merit comment. However since it is blatantly racist, I want to put this argument to you. What if I put to you that your women by the exposure of the female body are promiscuous? What if it is done with the intention of sexually arousing men? What if this behaviour is thought to be the cause for rampant rape in this country? Just because one can put a point across doesn’t mean it is true. Similarly what you have done is expose your moral depravity by saying despicable things about another religion. You are not even willing them to give them the space to be what they want to be. Muslims accept your way of life. Please learn to accept their rights as well. Here is a quote that you might want to ponder “Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832),

      M Y Foote
      January 7, 2013 at 3:50 am
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        “Muslims accept your way of life. Please learn to accept their rights as well” Thet wont accept any other way of life if they were the majority.

        das
        January 10, 2013 at 7:54 am
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    @malinda, the rising religous intolerance is truly alarming. The gov has not taken the right steps to curb these actions. If u check FB the level of racism is horrifying. If the authorities really want to take action it is not difficult. Some of these orgs, like BB display their phone numbers in public to attract more supporters. Lets look at why these things happen. True there are povocative elements in all sides. SL is a small country and it has a buddhist heritage. Also we have a hindu, christian and an islamic heritage. We need to acknowledge these things. Letting every Tom and Dick to erect religous institutions everywhere is wrong. Things should be regulated. We need to register every religous institute. If a certain area has sufficient number of religous institutes of a certain religion, we should not let them built more. All the religouns are in a race to showcase their religion in public, especially buddhists and muslims. Instead of a religoun based education system we need a secular education system that helps the formation of a multi cultural country. We need laws against racism. We need to develop intellectual wisdom in this country. That will save us from further trouble.

    sach
    January 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm
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    buddhism is a turd religion. it stinks like turd. i couldn’t give a toss about mongolian buddha. mongolian buddha should stick to mongolia. oi mongolian buddha, please don’t come to our black countries.what’s halal. does this geezer malinda or whoever eats halal pork. what’s he moaning about. who gives a monkey how the animal is killed as long as dead meat is in dinner plate. i being a vegetarian , all this talk on halal is a load of bollocks. buddhism is an imported religion into sri lanka like islam and christianity. what’s so big about buddhism. why are these sinhala geezers going mad about buddhism. in my opinion and in the context of sri lanka, buddhism is a barbaric and savage religion. sinhala buddhist is the worst form of buddhism found anywhere in the world. mahanadi- ask and bikkus are a waste of space. unless these parasites are eliminated , sri lanka will always remain a third world poverty stricken country as it has done for the past 2,500 years. the golden period in the last 2,500 years was the 500 years of white rule. why does the state have to protect sinhala dialect and buddhism. is there a genuine fear that unless protection is afforded , these two will disappear from earth. whether protected or not these two can’t last last too long. the simple reason being the inherent weakness of these two.

    Rama
    January 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm
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    In the context of Arab countries not allowing the observation of festivals of other faiths in their Nabil states “Please look at examples closer home like India instead of Europe” Can he clarify where India has laid her open for criticism in this regard. My take is India is know for many concessions to its large Muslim population. I am afraid Rama, carrying a name suggestive of being a Tamil/Hindu, is far too harsh on Buddhism. Almost the entire Tamil Hindu nation in the country will not identify with his bigoted views. We have nothing against universal Buddhism or Sinhala Buddhism (either as a religion or a set of tenets) Buddhism is a tributary of Sanatana Dharma – often called Hinduism. Gautam – the Buddha, came from a princely family following this religious tradition. Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    January 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm
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      @Senguthuvan, I pointed out India as a secular inclusive example closer home. Her multi linguistic, multi-religious credentials is something we Sri Lankans can draw from………..

      Nabil
      January 7, 2013 at 3:10 am
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      Sangotoven. You ask any clergy of Mahavamsa that Buddhism is at par with Hinduism based on Santana Dharma. The answer will be shunya. Read, to reason not to be a Parakeet.

      Lee Kwan Yew
      March 4, 2013 at 10:44 am
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    I made a mistake in a comment 2 days ago on the recent GoSL publication of the population census. While the figures of the rise of the Muslim population 1981-2011 should read constant as 73.7% the statistics for the Sinhalese should be read as 34.7% and for Tamils as 34% I cannot quite recall the article to which I responded. Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    January 7, 2013 at 2:12 am
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    All the major religions practiced in Sri Lanka are imported from outside and customized according to the Sri Lankan culture. All the ethnic groups (other than Veddas) are also from outside. Since Buddhism is the oldest and followed by the majority, it is given a foremost place in Sri Lanka, but has 2500 years of Buddhism in Sri Lanka influenced any major changes in the Sinhala society in terms of attitude, character, behavior, morality and so on or has it failed miserably? Are the Buddhist monks practicing Ahimsa (non-violence), Karuna (compassion), Metta (affection), and Maithriya (loving-kindness) towards fellow humans (irrespective of race/religion) or are they in the name of Buddhism promoting ethno-religious chauvinism and hatred? In a centuries old multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural country like Sri Lanka, all religions and races should have equal rights. Both Sinhala and Tamil were spoken in Sri Lanka for many centuries and the four major religions were also practiced in Sri Lanka for several centuries. Unfortunately, the majority in Sri Lanka (including the religious leaders) is uncivilized and behaves like barbarians. They including the government only follow the law of the jungle, the big and strong (majority) gets the foremost place and the weak (minorities) are threatened, intimidated and are not even allowed to practice their religion properly. Hindu temples, churches and mosques are being attacked and demolished. Buddha statues are planted in places where there are no Buddhists. The Sinhala majority has converted Buddhism into a barbaric religion.

    The Minaret
    January 7, 2013 at 4:54 am
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    NO RELIGION TEACHES ANYTHING BAD. THOSE WHO FOLLOW THE VARIOUS RELIGIONS ARE TO BLAME FOR THE PROBLEMS. WE ARE ALL HUMANS, AND IF WE LEARN TO BE JUST GOOD AND TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO TREAT YOU, THERE WOULD BE NO PROBLEMS. IF WOMEN ARE FREE TO GO SEMI-NUDE, WHY DENY THE FREEDOM TO DRESS MODESTLY TO THE WOMEN WHO WISHES TO DO SO. BUDDHIST MONKS WEAR SAFFRON AND SHAVE HEADS. CHRISTIAN CLERGY WEAR WHITE HINDUS APPLY ASH ON THEIR FOREHEADS. MUSLIMS HAVE NO CLERGY. LET US RESPECT THE RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF OTHERS,AND PUT AND END TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS. THOSE DISTURBING THE PEACE ARE CRIMINAL ELEMENTS, WHO BENEFIT BY CREATING DISSENSION MAYHEM AND VIOLENCE.

    AYMAN
    January 8, 2013 at 5:49 am
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    mongolian buddha was born in mongolia. he had a mongolian face and his colour was yellow. why do the sinhala black monkeys claim that buddha is the god for hybrid mongrels. when black wickeramanaai- ake went to japan to attend buddhist centenary, he was detained at the airport as the japs thought he was an illegal immigrant. japs didn’t believe him when he said he was a buddhist i mean a black buddhist. why do the black sinhala monkeys erect statues for mongolian buddha all over the place. do the hybrid mongrels have to market mongolian buddha. before impeaching the judge, mahanaai-aks have to be impeached. hybrid mongrel black monks should be rounded up and sent sub saharan africa. mahannai-aks should be sent to saudi arabia for beheading. kill them all and chop them down.

    Rama
    January 9, 2013 at 10:39 pm
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    i think this geezer malinda .. We acknowledge criticism of the articles we publish, but will not allow persistent misrepresentation of the Colombo Telegraph and our journalists/contributors to be published on our website. For the sake of robust debate, we will distinguish between constructive, focused argument and smear tactics. For more detail see our Comment policy http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    Rama
    January 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm
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    “All the major religions practiced in Sri Lanka are imported from outside and customized according to the Sri Lankan culture” misdirects himself this The Minaret, who is clearly a once low-caste South Indian Hindu converted to Islam. He should study a little more of the island’s history when he may learn he commits the sin Oscar Wilde wrote of viz:- “those who cannot learn take to teaching” Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    January 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm
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    It is I am opposed to Halal Certification Based on these two factors 1) This certification is not base on any scientific fact , If manufactorer needs to standadize their products they should look for more secular standarsds like ISO. 2) This certification is not free , and they charge for it. There are many religions practice in Sri Lanka. But only Muslims has seggregate products ny saying , if any body wants to sell products to Muslim community they should take permission by paying money and getting a certification from their leaders. As long as it does not occur violance , I’m Ok with protest against Halal. There will be three groups 1) for Halal – Who insisted that all the products consums should have Halal ceritification In Sri Lanaka this is called http://www.halaal.acju.net/ They insisted all people should buy Halal foods 2) anti-Halal who insisted that people should not buy any product with Halal certification 3) Neutral – Who really don’t care about it. As long as these three groups accept the fact that all people have right to have their own opinions and do not harm other group. I don’t find any issue. But the Promlem with oue fellow citizens are rather than taking opinion based on facts. They just started arguments based on their feeling. When I read the most of comments are not on Halal or on this anti-halal campaign . Those are just hatefull comments from both sides. we should avoid that both Muslims and Budhdhist are responsible.

    Hari
    January 11, 2013 at 4:21 am
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    I agree with you hari!, the problem is not about the religion,…people are free to accept any religion and live peacefully,.. the problem is about PAYING for Halal certificate,why cant they issue it free of charge so that everything will be fine?

    AJ
    February 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm
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      Halal is not a paid certificate to eat a beef or chicken. It’s a printed matter prominently highlighted mostly in Sri Lankan food exports to the Middle East, Africa & some european countries, sometimes printed vaguely on rice packs, salt, coconuts and tampons too. Halal does only mean “acceptable” in arabic as a word . Most of the times, this labelling could help the truely living Buddhists when consuming gelatine added/coated products (dairy/chocolate)etc., conforming the avoidance of pork gelatine. In this case Buddhists could rephrase a new word to suit the conformity of non-pork products classified to their very specific norms eg: “tutthijanaka”, “adeyya”, “bhakkhiya”, “bhojja” or “adya”, “bhakSyavastu”, “bhakshaniya”, “pAkya”, “prAzya”, “mizrAnna”, “supAnAnna” (eatables & drinkables), “citrazAkApUpabhakSyavikArakriyA” (sweetmeats), with proper translation in Sinhala on each product labels approved by the relevant ministry. —————————————————————- NB: There was a controversy, or a recorded fact that The Buddha himself is reported to have died from eating tainted pork. certain excerpts as follows says: P.345 dhism, the eating of flesh was permitted, except under certain exceptional circumstances. The Buddhist monk must refrain from eating meat if he ‘knows, hears or infers’ that it has been killed specially for him(1). The latitude allowed was very great; for example, it was considered wrong for a monk to go to a house and ask for meat, unless he was ill. But he might ask for it if the householder said to him ‘Is there anything else you could fancy?’ It was therefore not in the least suprising that in commenting on the Diigha-nikaaya’s account of Buddha’s last meal, Buddhaghosha (beginning of the 5th century) should have been quite content to take suukara-maddava as meaning pork. But the commentary on the Udaana(3), in dealing with this passage, says: suukara-maddava in the Great Commentary(4) is said to be the flesh of a pig made soft and oily; but some say it was not pig’s flesh but the sprout of a plant trodden by pigs; other that it was a mushroom growing in a place trodden by pigs; other again have taken it in the sense of a flavouring substance. One’s first impression on reading these ‘vegetarian’ explanations is that they are pure sophistry, dating from a time when the idea of Buddha’s eating flesh was so unacceptable that the commentators felt obliged at all costs to twist the passage into another meaning. excerpted from: http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-MEL/waley.htm

      FaHsien
      February 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm
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