Sense over nonsense in Dambulla
Posted on April 29th, 2012

Courtesy Lakbima Editorial

What’s called for in the immediate term in the Dambulla mosque brouhaha is for the top level leadership of the government to issue a statement reassuring the Muslim community of the Dambulla sacred area environs that their constitutional right to practice the religion of their choice will not be traduced “”…” and that efforts would be made to ensure that the controversial mosque would be retained in its original location, if it can be ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that this place of worship has been in existence in Dambulla for the last 50 years, or thereabout.

Beyond that, an unequivocal condemnation is necessary, of the violent and unbecoming behaviour of a baying mob that entered the mosque, with or without the concurrence of the area leaders of the Buddhist clergy. The Buddhists of Dambulla, or at least those of them so-called who made their way rudely into the mosque and commandeered those premises, may or may not have a legitimate grievance, but their modus operandi is inexcusable irrespective of the nature of their loudly-hailed claims.

The entry into the mosque by a baying raucous crowd chanting what were said to be ‘religious incantations’ was a slur on the majority Buddhists in this country, who are tolerant, compassionate, and insofar as they are so disposed, follow the teachings of the Buddha scrupulously, in contrast to the tub-thumpers that entered the mosque as if by right.

We daresay that the strict application of the ‘sacred area’ concept is by itself flawed, and particularly in instances that places of religious worship have existed for decades, they must be allowed to remain where they are, irrespective of the declared nature of the scared enclave — or religiously significant precincts. That a Catholic church exists cheek by jowl with the Dalada Maligawa, the sacred temple of the tooth does not stop that holy place being considered the most hallowed and venerated by those millions of devout Buddhists in this country, is an inspiring situation that speaks for itself.

That’s Buddhist tolerance at its admirable best, and should be an object lesson to all those who seek to establish unrealistic religious enclaves in the mistaken notion that declared sacred areas are so sacrosanct that they cannot have any places of worship sacred to other religious within their demarcated spaces.

Sacred areas should not be contaminated by presence of booze taverns, vice dens and abattoirs for instance, but the sanctity of any declared sacred space is certainly not lost but enhanced on the contrary, by allowing places of any sort of religious worship that have long been in existence within their boundaries. This verity should be a simple rule of thumb position that is considered a given in any Buddhist sacred area — a clear exhibition of the tolerant and compassionate tendencies of the Buddhists who were the first adherents of the moral philosophy of live and let live that is now being preached to us by some Western based NGO types as if the Buddhists in this ancient island are all alien to these ‘new-fangled’ concepts of co-existence.

A forcible or a clumsy and intrusive establishment of a mosque or any other place of religious worship in a Buddhist sacred area is another matter, as it would then be a deliberate attempt to alter the religious demographic of the sacred area, and its core character as a sacrosanct turf reserved for a particular religious persuasion.

But all available evidence in the case of the Dambulla mosque under contention indicates that this is an institution that has been in existence for years, as area government MP  Janaka Bandara Tennakoon has vouchsafed for with admirable forthrightness and clarity.

Besides, there is evidence of the mosque’s existence for decades in these precincts in the form of documents of archival significance, and other more mundane records such as utility bills including electricity bills, etc.
However, the government is correct in the position that all parties involved should be dispassionate and calm in the face of an issue that has explosive potential of stoking unwanted religious discord. It is absolutely correct that there ought to be restraint on all sides as the process of investigation goes on under the good offices of the prime minister to determine the exact circumstances in which the mosque came to be situated in the declared sacred territory of the Dambulla Vihara.

That notwithstanding, what is as important is to stress that special tolerance and fortitude is called for from the majority Buddhist community, which should make no repeat of the spectacle of mob rule that was evidenced when the mosque premises were encroached on, two weeks ago. What’s called for on the other hand, is an apology concerning this act of obdurate intolerance. It behoves the government to take the lead in such an effort of fence-mending and bridge-building, considering the hurt feelings of at least some elements of the Muslim community, manifest in the form of protest and haratal campaigns in the Eastern Province, beginning from Kalmunai.

The government and the majority community of Sinhala Buddhists have to ask themselves seriously whether they want, at this stage, post-Geneva, when there is an unfair spotlight cast on this country’s long-standing pluralistic and democratic bona fides, a wholly unnecessary situation of possible ethnic polarization between two of the most amicably pulling along ethnic groups in this island, the Muslims and the Sinhalese, that have co-existed splendidly in a spirit of comity and comradeship,  literally for centuries?

6 Responses to “Sense over nonsense in Dambulla”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Editors can preach from their table and the desk.

    They have to investigate the world.

    They have to think about our past, our present and if we go this way what would the future be.

    Knowing that there was a problem and there was some thing was being cooked our behind where was these politicians and where was these new paper editors to talk about these.

    Politicians are always silent and avoid any responsibility though they are supposed to leaders and editors talk only when things go wrong or they are always there to ride the wave.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    We should look at what really happened and take the bigger picture. What really happens in practice – it is the injured party who are called to defend their actions however inappropriate. In Sri Lanka it is usual for the Sinhalese to wait until a situation becomes gangrenous to act.

    If the mosque is situated within land that belongs to the Rangiri Dambulla Vihara, then this should be investigated first and how it came to be. There are multitudes of such encroachment taking place elsewhere in Sri Lanka sometimes in collusion with corrupt politicians. Kuragala rock caves is a case in point among many others. If there are no laws at present to prevent such future occurring, then such laws should be passed in Parliament and put into effect.

    Muslims do not stand for peace. Their blood splattered history and their actions today all over the world is a testimony to what they are. When they are not killing others, they are killing each other! They encroaching into others living space by all means available.

    When Col Gadaffi came to Sri Lanka to attend the 1976 Non Aligned Conference, his admonition to his fellow Muslims was to multiply as fast as possible and to buy land along side main highways and byways. You can see both put into practice and happening today. Most of the Capital city is being bought over by the Muslims. This they are doing road by road in a systematic manner with the profits they earn by re-selling the produce of others and acting the middleman. The future doesn’t bode well for Sri Lanka and her majority population the Sinhalese, unless politicians foresee the what’s in store in terms unfortunate conflicts that trigger due to our aforesaid weakness of allowing grass to grow under our feet!

    Capital city Colombo is beautified, with tax payers money, for whose benefit will be question the nation will have to ask eventually, if it were to end up in the hands of the Muslims and racist Tamils! For once the land is in their hands it will never be allowed to go out of their grip.

    Already Tamil Racists openly advertise their houses in Wellawatte – NOT FOR SINHALESE.

  3. Vijendra Says:

    I agee with mostly of what is said in this editorial and it is good to see that there are at least a few sane people who have the decency and capacity to see things impartially.

    In my humble opinion, the editorial did not address adequately a few things though.

    First, the editorial did not identify the possibility that this could jolly well be the work of some forces behind the scenes and as such the root cause must be carefully analysed and eradicated in a transparent manner, giving the same sort of publicity this incident had.

    Another aspect missing is the need to take those responsible for this type of religious riot to task and put them behind bars, irrespective of their civil status, whether layman, Buddhist monk or Muslim imam.

    Still another thing is that, just because there is a church just next to the “Dalanda maligawa”, it does not mean that that should be the norm and every religious body should be allowed to construct their own mosque, kovil or church next to a Buddhist place of worship. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and some areas are delimited as sacred areas. If this mosque is an illegal construction, those who were responsible for its construction should be taken to task and it should be relocated at their own expense.There should be no room for anyone to be above the law in a true democracy. GOSL needs to show that it is a true democracy to the the Sri Lankans and the rest of the world.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    As I always maintained,

    1. Building or expanding a mosque in this area is WRONG.
    2. It must be peacefully dismantled.
    3. But dismantling it must be done by the authorities. No one should be allowed to take law into their own hands. No burning whatsoever.
    4. Perpitrators must be punished.

    Muslim barbaric mobs took the law into their hands in Puttlam over a mythical “grease devil” and killed a Sinhala policeman.

    Now Buddhist mobs took the law into their hands in Dambulla over a mosques and destroyed it.

    Same thing except the fisrt incident is MORE barbaric than the second incident.

  5. nandimitra Says:

    Disenfranchisement of the Sinhala buddhists have been continuing because of the weak leadership in the country that is allowing unfair advantages to the minorities for political reasons. They have been sacrificing the rights of the Sinhala Buddhists for their own preservation. The sane voices of the majority is surpressed by various means of propaganda such as Buddhist hegamonism , Mahavansa mindset,etc and political violence. This unfortunate episode is only a reflection of the state of despair of the Sinhala Buddhists. Until such time the rulers have a sense of fair play this can only lead to violence and repitition of the above.

  6. AnuD Says:

    Nandimitra:

    Did you or have you ever read that any Muslim or even a Christian acknowledging that they have ever done any wrongs. I havn’t read anything like that.

    Though Buddhists don’t have a such history, we criticize our people as soon as they make a mistake or do some wrong.

    MAy be it is a Sinhala habit, personally, our stomachs may be empty. Yet we talk and, at least, pretend it is full.

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