By Rifai Naleemi -
Do we really need to response to the provocations and hated campaigns of this tiny group of extremists in Sri Lanka? Much has been said and written about them in various news papers and TV broadcasting. It has been highlighted in recent media presentation and press release. Reading through what has been said and written about them I could notice that there are two schools of thought in our response to the provocations and activities of this group. One school of thought argues that BBS should be left on its own and we should not response to their provocation and activities. It will meet its doom day naturally.
The more we response to them the more they will be encouraged to provoke Muslims and therefore, it would be better to leave them alone to shout as much as they like. This school of thought is maintained by some of highly respected academic and venerable monks in this country. It is noted that one of the venerable monks remarked that BBS will be eliminated within the periods of two Poyas: In a sense, this observation is right and timely needed observation. I partially agree with this highly respected academic and venerable monk. The BBS will shout for some times and after a short period when they will calm down and even disappear from the scene.
Such notion is somewhat acceptable given the human nature and habit of majority of Sinhalese people. it is true some of them get emotions then after sometime they forgive and forget all what happened. Most of Sinhalese people are pure in their hearts and they do not hide enmity and hatred at all. Most of them are honest and open minded people. They do not have any hidden jealously in their hearts and for that reasons I could convincingly say that BBS agenda would not get grounding among Sinhalese people.
The second school of thought on the matter is to challenge and encounter BBS, to challenge their ideologies, to encounter their vigorous criticism, face them intellectually and academically, psychologically and spiritually. Not to be silent but to face them and encounter them rationally, morally and politically from different platforms. Initially, I was skeptical and of two minds, whether to challenge unfounded accusation of this handful people: Some of them do not have any academic backgrounds and some of their arguments do not have any academic or intellectual credits. Why should I waste my time and energy in responding to all these allegations? Of course, most of these allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated with logical or rational evidence. Yet, it came to my mind that I do not reply to these unfounded accusations and allegations, the ideological philosophies of BBS could influence and shape public opinions and they could give bad impression about Islam and Muslims in this country so that I was compelled to pen down my response to their allegations and accusations.
Muslim community is under attack in Sri Lanka. Muslim community and Islam are under attack in Sri Lanka politically, spiritually, psychologically and even physically and to be silent at this crucial juncture would be moral bankruptcy of Muslim intellectual if any Muslim intellectual did not reply to these false allegations. It is imperative that Muslim academics and intellectual should respond to them with rational arguments. To be idle and do nothing in the face of these barrage of hostile and hatred campaigns against Muslims and Islam would be moral crime. Moreover, if there is no intellectual responds to BBS ideologies and activities from Muslim perspectives what would happen for public perception of Islam and Muslim in Sri Lanka? Moreover, silence of Muslim intellectuals could send many negative impressions about Islam and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Moreover how do public know the truth about Islam and Muslims? And public would not have alternative sources to know about the true picture of these allegations if Muslim intellectuals provide them with clarifications and explanation,
For these reasons, I shall try to write series of articles in responding to some of the allegations made by BBS. I shall try to be objectives in my writing and I shall be making some constructive criticism: It is not my objective here to damage communal harmony in Sri Lanka rather to enhance communal harmony and peace between communities in Sri Lanka. We should use our brains and gauge these issues and problems logically and rationally. We should try to understand different cultures and ways of life. This is in the greater interest of all communities in Sri Lanka. When I write this I do not intend to offend any one or any religious faith or doctrines. It is my humble request to Sri Lankans irrespective of their religious attachment to read my articles completely until final parts to come to some solid conclusions;
BBS and its Ideological philosophies
The historical origin, motives and philosophies of Budu Bala Sena should be examined and analysed in the context of its concerns and emotional feeling. Every one knows that it has been pouring its sensational emotions since its inception. The psychological, moral, political, and socio- religious mindsets of these people should be examined in light of sociological and historical perspectives. Why these people are so emotional and why these people are so angry? What makes them so angry? Why do they feel that their cultural, religious heritage, customs, traditions and way of life are in jeopardy? Is it really because of minority communities or is it because of the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to protect Buddhism in this country or is it because of the failure of religious leadership of Buddhist clerics to reach out to Sinhalese public in professional and scientific ways and methods with Buddhism? Or is it because of the western influence in Sri Lankan.
With modern technological advancement and intrusion of internet and Web culture young generation goes away from religious faith and practices not only in Sri Lanka but also all over the world. This is a general trend in all communities and communal and socio-religious values and principle are peril in all countries. This is a reality of the world we live in and Sri Lanka is not an exceptional to this general rule.
These are some of genuine questions and we should examine them in light of modern development in Sri Lanka. Rather than challenging or debating these clerics it is the duty of each and very Sri Lanka to try to understand their problems and their worries. I think that it is a collective duty of all Sri Lankans. Their worries and problems would affect all Sri Lankans in one way or another. Today live in Sri Lanka as a one family unite and we can not ignore these problems at all.
We should understand problems and worries of these people objectively without any bias with sympathy and empathy. What went wrong with Buddhism in Sri Lanka to make these people so angry? Why that Buddhism is is in decline as it is claimed by some of these monks? Who is responsible for such decline/? One wonders whether these people are trying to follow Anagarika Dharmapala who tried to revive Buddhism in Sri Lankan in early 20th century. It seems that these people have been using same slogans and mottos as Anagarika Darmapala did. It is often said that he succeeded to some extent to generate nationalistic feelings in his days. One wonders as if history repeats itself now in Sri Lanka today.
In one of his TV interviews the President of Budu Bala Sena venerable Kirama Vimalajothi clearly outlined BBS’s objectives and missions in Sri Lanka. He said that he and his fellow members were worried and concerned about the status of Buddhism in Sri Lanka right now. He said that he was worried about alien cultural intrusion and influence among Sinhalese Buddhist communities. He argues that 2000 years Buddhists culture is in peril and has been threaten by different cultural invasion and influence. Particularly he contends that since independence Sinhalese community is subjected Christian missionary onslaught of converting poor Sinhalese people from Buddhism to Christianity. He claims that hundreds of NGO are working day and night in Srilanka with hidden agenda of converting Sinhalese into Christianity. He claims that these NGOs are working in disguise as Montessori, nurseries and charities as missionary agents with the intention of converting people.
He said that Sinhalese Buddhists are losing their cultural identity. Western way of life is intruding in Sinhalese community. For instance he lamented that Sinhalese are celebrating “Mothers day” in Sri Lanka now. It is a western concept and how did this intrude into our culture. We care and love our parents 24 hours a day and 365 days in year unlike western people. He further lamented that alien languages, food, songs and even Cinemas are dominating Sri Lanka. Sinhalese people like to wear as westerners wear. They like to eat as westerners eat and they like to behave as westerners behave. Venerable Monk says if this trend continues what would happen to our culture and our way of life. Where does this country of ours go? What would happen to our people and our culture? He says that some patriotic Sinhalese people are asking these genuine questions. He further noted that a lot of people today are worried about this new trend.
Hence it could be said that BBS was instituted primarily with the objectives of purifying Sinhalese Buddhist community from alien cultural and religious influences. Venerable Kirama Vimalajothi clearly said in his TV interview that their primary objective was “to clean our garden from all types of dirt and filth”. Therefore, BBS main concerns and worries are not wage wars on other religious faiths and practices as it is assumed by some its followers.
Venerable Monk says that we had 30 years of wars and we do not want to create any more problems in this country and we know how much we suffered during these thirty years. We are here to protect our race and our country. We are not racists and we do not have any racist agendas. We are not against any race or any religion. We are here to speak on behalf of our people and we are here to protect our community. These are some of worries of these monks. I personally do not see any problems in these concerns and these are really genuine concerns and worries. No one should doubt about it. Yet, how these address these concerns and how do they try to find solutions to these problems and concerns.