Buddhist-Muslim impasse must first acknowledge wrongs without raising slogans of communalism
Posted on March 27th, 2013

 Shenali Waduge

Response to Hameed Abdul Karim

 The series of exchange of writings between myself and Mr. Hameed Abdul Karim has at best revealed the human nature of most to adapt the tactic of insult and ridicule in order to evade accepting errors made. The situation has led to such an impasse that the root issues are purposely shoved to the background by the slogan “anti-Muslim”. Not a hum is made about the incursions by Muslims that brewed up over a period of time to create the current situation. All problems can be solved if and only if the root causes are put out into the open, acknowledged and corrected. An introspective exercise is urgently needed on the part of the Muslims before matters get out of hand. Hiding behind the smokescreen projecting “anti-Muslim” without acknowledging faults that have led to the situation needs to stop. A sincere attempt is required to put things right. None of Mr. Karim’s diatribe can change these facts:

 Proliferation of mosques

 Over a period of time there has been a deliberate and planned effort to increase the number of mosques in the country over and above the actual needs and totally out of proportion to the percentage of Muslims in the country. The takaran shed put up in Anuradhapura in close proximity to the Sacred Bo Tree is claimed as “historical” but without proof and evidence to establish a legal title.

 Anuradhapura is the citadel of Buddhism in the country. It is the equivalent of a holy city to Buddhists. Large areas of land in Anuradhapura have been granted to the Buddha Sasana by the Buddhist Kings in the pre “”…” colonial period. They are now known as “ƒ”¹…” Sacred Areas’ For example, Maha Mevnaa Uyana. They are effectively “ƒ”¹…”no go’ areas, and meant to be used only for Buddhism related activities. No one has authority to allow a takaran shed now argued to be a Muslim shrine to be built in any “ƒ”¹…”sacred area’ allocated to the Buddha Sasana.

 If a Muslim were to erect a takarang shed in a Buddhist sacred area under the pretext of establishing a Muslim shrine, without prior approval from the relevant authorities, then it is a direct incursion on the religious space of the Buddhists and tantamount to aggressive and provocative conduct.. Imagine a Buddhist Temple being established in Mecca. How would the Muslims react? In the first place they will be very hurt. “”…” would they not. The same feelings apply for the Buddhists.

 When non-Muslims are not allowed to set a foot in Mecca, the holiest place of Muslims, is it morally correct for any Muslim to put a takaran shed and claim it a mosque in sacred areas of a historical Buddhist city i.e. Anuradhapura.  As much as Muslims are heavily protective of their religion Islam in countries under their control, they must learn to respect the right of non “”…” Muslims to protect their religions in pre “”…”dominantly non “”…” Muslim countries. Muslims must learn not to demand more than that they are prepared to concede to non “”…” Muslims particularly people outside the Book such as Buddhists and Hindus.

They must learn to understand the religious and cultural ethos of non “”…” Muslims particularly Buddhists and respect the latter’s sensitivities. Muslims must accept that the world is not meant to be a one way street to serve only the demands of Muslims. 

 Loudspeaker usage

Mr. Karim has conveniently avoided commenting on the use of loudspeakers at Mosques daily five a times a day and force feeding and harassing non “”…” Muslims with sounds of Islam in violation of their fundamental right to silence and quiet enjoyment of property, The loudspeaker usage continues to violate the Supreme Court interim order. It is also an insult and contemptuous disregard for the privacy of all residents when the Government has already facilitated the requirements of Muslims with a dedicated radio channel for Muslims to listen to Azan. The Interim Order specifically states that the loudspeakers must be pointed inward and amplified at a low decibel  level that is relevant only to those inside the mosque. Is there a message that is being conveyed by purposely pointing the loudspeakers outward?

 Azan over Loudspeakers at Buddha Gaya

Bodh Gaya is the most holy site of Buddhism. It is the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Today the meditation of peaceful Buddhist monks at the venue is deliberately disturbed five times a day beginning at 5. 00 a.m. in the morning by prolonged playing of an amplified pre-recorded wailing from the nearby recently built Mosque. This noise from that mosque has disrupted the Monks own existence, their own necessary quiet, as the amplified wailing suppresses any possibility of silent contemplation  by Buddhists gathered at the Maha Bodhi Temple.

 The sound emanating from the loudspeakers as the “ƒ”¹…”call to prayer’ is in fact far more offensive than that. It is an assertion screeched over the Buddhist holy city of Bodh Gaya stating that Islam is the only true religion, that the Prophet is a greater spiritual leader than all others, and that everyone should worship Allah.

 It is a deliberate ‘in-yer-face’ insult and humiliation to Buddhists. The muezzins wail is an intolerable display of triumphalism.

 How ethically and morally defensible is such aggressive and intolerant conduct?

 If Buddhists or followers of any other religion were to indulge in such type of conduct in Mecca, Medina or Karbala, how hurt would Muslims be?

 Mr. Kareem has failed to say anything on this issue apart from making the general statement that Muslims in Sri Lanka are not accountable for the conduct of Muslims overseas.  But he can still denounce and condemn such conduct as morally unacceptable. But so far he has not done that only to say the Taliban is a lunatic fringe.

 Halal / Halal Certificates

Muslims in order to cover the realization by the majority of the people of this country  that an extortion racket in the name of Halal had been taking place has found a perfect cover in projecting the image that Buddhists are anti-Muslim and now engaged in preventing Muslims from eating halal food.  Muslims had been eating food, purchasing meat for centuries without any halal certificate and many Muslims too feel that the hype of a halal certificate has gone overboard given that halal logo are even placed on toothpicks “”…” even Muslims do not know to explain why this is so!

 If contamination is the argument then it is impossible for Muslims to live with non-Muslims who are eating and touching haram stuff. Let’s be a little pragmatic and practical. 9% cannot dictate eating habits to 91% of the population along the lines of religion when among themselves they practice selective halal/haram. If the entire cycle of food production (including industries- cosmetics/pharmaceuticals) to be halal has to be through a Muslim that means non-Muslim products cannot be sold alongside these items. It also means that non-Muslims cannot even be part of that chain. Muslims are permitted to buy meat from people of the Book but not otherwise “”…” this means no purchasing from Hindus or Buddhists. Who are bringing these non-existing laws to Sri Lanka, why are Muslims agreeable to following them if they want to co-exist peacefully with all of us? What are the practicalities of all these sudden nuances in reality “”…” It is time Muslims seriously think of the repercussions likely to arise by taking the radical course and  helping external forces manipulate them because Muslims are ready to accept anything associated with their religion without questioning motives.

 Mr. Karim will jump to add that there are Buddhists who don’t follow Buddhism. The difference in Buddhism is that the person has the choice to decide right/wrong/good/bad and it will end up deciding his karma. We take responsibility for our sins or good. There are no sets of rules that we need to strictly abide by and the repercussions are certainly not public lashings, stone throwing, cutting off fingers or beheading for apostasy.

 Mr. Karim will next say these are not Islam because Islam is a peaceful religion. That may be true, Islam is peaceful but there are many Muslims who are following unpeaceful methods and who are going to change those “”…” do Muslims come together and demand an end to tribal practices unsuited to modern times? We can’t be functioning to different sets of rules and policies that appear to change at someone’s whim and fancy. As it is there are said to be over 70 different sects all promoting different notions of Islam within the main 2 divisions of Sunni/Shia. The Islamic movements of which Wahhabi/Salafi is one is causing a lot of division amongst the Muslims themselves and the world at large.

 When we give examples, the reply is that it is not Sharia, when we cite instances, we are told these are not true Islam, when we ask questions and quote from the Quran “”…” another set of quotes giving a different version is provided. What are we to really accept is the correct set of rules and laws that govern the Muslims of the world “”…” everywhere some new Islamic rule/law/practice prevails and everyone thinks that is the correct Islam and we are left wondering why there is no cohesion?

 Muslim dress

Mr. Karim has to accept that the Muslims of Sri Lanka never dressed in the black attire and the current attire of a rising number of men (1 or 2 previously dressed cannot argue the sea change seen in the present). In so doing, Muslims are separating themselves and segregating themselves from non-Muslims with their own conduct. A perfect example of this is how Muslim children attending non-Muslim schools are told by their parents not to take birthday treats given by non-Muslims on the ground that it is not halal. Such things never happened and all children ate and played together as children. This is a very ugly precedent that is being created by Muslims. Now Muslim children do not want to come and play with non-Muslim children either.

 Mr Karim says Muslims want peaceful co-existence but then Muslims are themselves segregating their own children from the rest and in turn making Muslim children insular and narrow minded. This is unfortunately not a very nice scenario.

 Malaysian example

Malaysia is predominantly Muslim today but this was not so, over a thousand years ago. The Malay archipelago (which include Malaysia and the Indonesian islands) were then predominantly Hindu-Buddhist. Mr. Karim appears to conveniently brush this important part of Malaysia’s history aside. There are hundreds of Buddhist temples spread across Malaysia because Malaysia was a Buddhist nation before it was turned into an Islamic one. Today there are only 19% of Buddhists in Malaysia. As for the freedom that Mr. Karim boasts exist in Malaysia he and others holding same opinion may like to view this video http://www.realcourage.org/2010/07/malaysia-hindu-temple-protest/ at the insult to Hindus by carrying a dead cows head and everyone taking turns to stamp on it.

 In Malaysia while anyone can convert to Islam it is prohibited by the State for a Muslim to convert to another religion. The same applies in all Muslim nations. Only Sunni Islam is allowed other forms and teachings of Islam are not allowed. So when anyone says Muslims are also arrested “”…” the question that needs to be asked is whether the arrested person is a non-Sunni! The Malaysian government maintains an official, but secret, list of banned sects of Islam it considers “deviant” and a threat to national security. This is something Sri Lanka needs to consider doing in view of the radicalism spreading across the country dividing people unnecessarily. If Article 3 of the Malaysian constitution states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation” there should be no issue over Sri Lanka’s Constitution giving Buddhism the foremost place in Article 9.

 The Malaysian constitution identifies the traditional rulers, also known as sultans, as the “Heads of Islam” “”…” why do people take umbrage when Sri Lanka refers to Sri Lanka being a country ruled by Sinhalese Buddhist kings? In Malaysia national identity cards identify Muslims on the card’s surface, but for members of other recognized religions, their religious affiliation is encrypted in a smart chip within the identity card and not printed “”…” Sri Lanka has a single National ID for all. The religion is not even mentioned.

In Malaysia the federal and state budgets fund ONLY Muslim places of worship because ONLY Islam is considered the religion of the federation. Municipality laws enforced restrict Buddhist temple construction to have the outer architectural design resembling a mosque and it takes little imagination what this will eventually lead to.

 On March 16, 2011 a mixed Buddhist/Taoist temple and a Hindu temple that had coexisted side by side on a hillside near Bandar Puteri Jaya were each issued a two-month notice of evacuation by a land developer. The developer carried out a demolition of the Buddhist/Taoist temple on the Buddhist holiday Wesak Day on May 17. 29 Hindu temples were relocated from Kuala Lumpur in 2009. In 2005, former Prime Minister Abdullah initiated a policy that required Malay-language Bibles to have the words “Not for Muslims” printed on the cover. Fatwas in recent years have included banning Muslims from practicing yoga (because of Hindu influences), prohibiting girls from acting and dressing like boys (alleging it encouraged homosexuality in violation of Islam), banning smoking, and prohibiting surrogate motherhood. The state government in Kelantan prohibited the sale of lottery tickets “”…” how many Muslims buy lottery tickets in Sri Lanka?

 When a reply is sought for a question that asks to name a Christian or Muslim nation that allows the construction of a Buddhist temple it is to showcase the fact that while Sri Lanka is faced with the issue of proliferation of mosques where even the establishment of takaran sheds are argued as being grounds for a mosque, laws of these nations particularly Islamic nations are so severe that the freedom of religion that exists in Sri Lanka does not prevail to the same extent.  Laughing off valid arguments may avoid answering but it only showcases Mr. Karim’s inability to respond effectively. . Moreover, can people be so insensitive “”…” when non-Muslims are not allowed to put a foot inside Mecca because it is the Holy place of Muslims, is it correct to use “freedom of religion” and insist a takaran shed in close proximity to Sri Lanka’s Holiest place in Anuradhapura be allowed to grow into a Mosque? Is the request fair and morally correct “”…” where is the respect for the Buddhists’ space?

 The important thing to remember is to have consistency in standards. There cannot be one standard for Freedom of Religion when Muslims are in a minority and another standard for Freedom of Religion (lower standard) when the Muslims are in a majority in a country.

 Kovil in Riyadh

If Mr. Karim reads my earlier response which also gave a link, he will realize that I did not refer to a kovil in Dubai but in Riyadh. I don’t see why I should make an apology for stating the truth. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed shock and outrage over the destruction of a Hindu temple in Saudi Arabia on March 24, 2005. http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2005/03/30/hindus-deplore-destruction-hindu-temple-saudi-arabias-religious-police.

 There are over 1.8million Hindus in Saudi Arabia who form 30% of the non-resident population.  The country is an Islamic monarchy with a legal system based on the Koran and Islamic Sharia law. Saudi law mandates all citizens to be Muslims and does not provide any constitutional protections or rights for religious minorities “”…” if there is Mr. Karim needs to show legal provisions. Islamic law characterizes Hindus as polytheists and consequently places them in the same category as those who practice “black magic” or “sorcery.” “”…” this is what Sri Lankan Thungasiri was accused of but there appears to be no one to defend him. Thungasiri was “ƒ”¹…”convicted’ among other things for practicing “ƒ”¹…”Black Magic’ and sentenced to imprisonment and 100 lashes. It is distressing to note the total lack of interest among our mainstream English language newspapers and even the state sector in respect to the fate of Thungasiri and disproportionate punishment that will be meted out to him. 

 Mr. Karim should be the one apologizing for numerous distortions of history made throughout this debate. What Mr. Karim should also apologize for is the manner he thinks he can use the accusation “racist” so liberally directed at me and when it is used in reverse it becomes “hate speech”. These double standards of terminology usage will soon reveal the hypocrisy of those throwing stones.

 Iconoclasm

I am really surprised that the best example that Mr. Karim can come with to refute claims of iconoclasm are two doctors involved in archeological excavations associated with an Institute in India. How can this example disprove Islamic iconoclasm where every statue that is not associated with Allah has to be destroyed? Mr. Karim may like to go back and relook at India’s history as to how the Moghuls destroyed every trace of Hindu and Buddhist architecture throughout India, including over ten Buddhist Universities like Nalanda “”…” that Mr. Karim is iconoclasm!

 The relevancy of bringing the example of Wat Photovihan temple permitted to be built by the PAS “”…” Pan Malaysian Islamic Party of Malaysia in the state of Kelantan is certainly noteworthy. More so, PAS is not 100% intolerant as certain parties painted it to be. PAS-led government in Kelantan has not broken a single Hindu or Buddhist temple – only the Umno-lead government breaks temples.

 This serves as a good example because of the ambiguities of actions that prevails amongst different Islamic groups practicing different types of Islam which dictates their behaviors and actions. Sri Lanka and other non-Muslim nations cannot be subject to different types of Islamic rules, practices that emerge at different periods of time. As it is we are realizing the folly in handing over a key portfolio as justice to one that is carrying legacies of Afghan heritage.

 I cannot see the rationale in referring to Arabs and Persians in Sri Lanka before the advent of Islam because they were not Muslim and it has no relevancy to the argument except to project that Mr. Karim is cunningly using the arrival of the Arabs some of whom later advocated Islam to give credibility to the ultimate goal of seeking historical links to establish the existence of a takaran shed in Anuradhapura. I am sorry to say we are not naƒÆ’†’¯ve to fall for those traps.

 Mr. Karim is signaling individual instances to laugh at Buddhism without being aware that there is nothing forbidden in Buddhism and the choice is left to the individual. Mr. Karim will cite the Nikayas too but essential Buddhist teachings remain the same. No one is lashed or has his fingers/hands chopped off for crimes! To accept that Muslims do not want these practices of tribalism it would be nice to see Muslims openly come out and say so.

  Animal Sacrifice 

When lacking substance to write a proper response, I can understand why Mr. Karim has taken the route of placing individual shortcomings of people to project a general face of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The harangue about the Kings of Sri Lanka could not argue how in spite of all Buddhism prevailed and not a single cow was slaughtered “”…” which means every single citizen or “alien” were probably vegetarian! All that changed after the arrival of the Portuguese.  Until the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 the slaughter of cattle was completely prohibited. It is the British who lifted the age old ban on slaughter of cattle after they took over the administration of the Kandyan provinces. Under the rule of Buddhist Kings for a period of over two millennium, animal sacrifice was not permitted under any circumstances. The punishment for cow slaughter was death.

 Muslims were allowed to practice their religion provided they respected Buddhist values and did not harm any animals. Sri Lanka built an animal friendly cultural heritage including the world’s first wild life sanctuary at Mihintale under the direction of King Devanampiyatissa. The total disregard for the norms of the older Buddhist culture will not ensure peaceful co “”…”existence. Religious rights have limits. They end when harm or pain prevails to either man or animal. 

 In conclusion what needs to be said is that all those currently mesmerized and busy articulating slogans denouncing so called anti-Muslim conduct cannot overrule or brush aside that none of these civil society movements would have arisen if sections of Muslims being funded by radical Islamic groups did not advocate new Islamic living patterns that Buddhists fear will pose a threat to them in time to come. That fear is absolutely legitimate with historic examples.

 Many in society are angered by the actions of politicians most of whom who have set aside rules of law for personal gains and watched the incursions take shape without taking any action. With many considering politicians as loose cannons and not to be trusted it is for politicians to revisit how they govern before their popularity declines to levels that may affect their political careers in the future. On the pretext of promoting “multiculturalism” the ploy appears to be to officially cut off the historical and cultural heritage of the majority natives and we see it happening to nations of the West too.

 What no one can forget or brush aside easily is that the religion of the State of Sri Lanka is clearly established by Article 9 of the Sri Lanka’s Constitution whilst all other religions are protected. It is ONLY Buddhism that the State is under a mandate to foster. With these laws clearly articulated in the Sri Lankan Constitution Mr. Karim or anyone else cannot function in the opposite or take umbrage after violating it and when their faults are pointed out take cover as victim.

Mr. Karim’s response – http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/03/15/fea01.asp

7 Responses to “Buddhist-Muslim impasse must first acknowledge wrongs without raising slogans of communalism”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    This same problem is faced by MOST countries and ALL religions. Jews, Hindus, Chirstians, etc.

    So what is the COMMON DENOMINATOR?

    No matter how many times we explain the TRUTH to them, they go and read the BOOK again which says ambush, kill, etc. and they are back to medieval Arabia.

  2. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    bbs is the only solution in sri lanka to safeguard buddhism and they need now to become a militant outfit as well as a peoples movement to capture power in sri lanka – to hell with democratic means. you simply cannot let these vote seeking nincompoops to solve these issues or the buddha saasana ministry – probably all these people are influenced by these dreaded wahaabis, monetarily. this diabolical strategy is the work of wahaabis and not by the decent muslims. the takaran shed need to be destroyed immediately – well who will give this order when votes are at stake?
    the leader talks about corruption, and about the mechanism of bribery commision to bring the culprits to justice – its all rhetorical speech – the moment a govt. man is exposed the jounalist will be surely dumped – this is a mineemaru regime we have in sri lanka – how do we expect this administration to hit wahaabis?
    lorenzo api methana nikan ape time ake waste karanawa – this has become more of a pass time for us than anything else.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    Sunil,

    Yes. Nothing happens.

    But don’t give up hope. Things will change. Who thought May 2009 will happen? We have to keep faith.

    BBS has massive public rallies around the country. They are UNSTOPPABLE now. After MR LOSES the northern PC election, BBS will become even stronger. After implementing LLRC recommendations, BBS will replace half the SLFP.

  4. thirdeye Says:

    in my point of view, Hala or need for Halal was never an issue in the past, so why it is now ?? have they change the content on holy quran recently ?? or is there a new testimony on Holy quran published now.?? if not its is simply to create issues among the religions and its followers. as i have mention some time ago, non of the budist temples can be build in Arab world and the budhist cannot practice openly. so the people live in such countries do not demand for budhist temples. why cannot musilims in Sri Lanka do the same. they have sufficient amount of mosques. if the muslim religious leaders passes extra funding they better use for the development of their community and social standards of the poor muslims.

  5. Senevirath Says:

    ”ME HATURO MARAAGENA MERANAVA HERA WENA KARANNA DEYAK NEHE”

    THE ABOVE IDEA CAME TO MY MIND WHEN I READ THIS ARTICLE.

    SINHALA buddhists have to treat muslims the same way the other muslim countries treat other religionists

    Shame on govt… they have no backbone B.B.S OUR ONLY HOPE IT WILL CHASE THEM WITHOUT MASSACREING THEM
    IF MALASIA IS MUSLIM SINHALE IS BUDDHIST
    1000 YEARS BACK MALASIA WAS A BUDDHIST COUNTRY . 2600 YEARS BACK SRI LANKA BECAME A BUDDHISTCOUNTRY. WE HAVE MORE RIGHTS.

    KEEP UP YOUR GOOD WORK SHENALI “””dheerghausha lebeweva””

  6. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Wherever muslims went in the world, they made it a muslim country. Not because people in those countries received them with open arms and converted to islam. They quietly outbred the natives, while taking over businesses, land etc. etc. and overwhelmed the natives. Simple as that! Takes a long time. Who cares? Job is done. That’s what they are doing in our country now. While Sinhalese sacrificing their lives to safeguard the Motherland, they quietly quadrupled. Sri Lankan army even had to rescue them from LTTE brutality. They quitely paid back! By quietly breeding enough to overtake Tamil population. Now they are aiming for top spot. Once they get to that position, convert or be killed. Sounds familiar. After all that is what the terror book says. KILL ALL NON BELIEVERS. Very very familiar. Afganisthan, Pakisthan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia they all paid the high price and surrendered their countries. This is what they are doing in Sri Lanka. With the increased numbers they have secured various ministerial posts (influential at that), deputy ministers etc etc, and now control the Government. While all this happening UnP (unpatriotic party is day dreaming about the day they can get to power and plunder the country. They never think about, never thought about getting rid of this menace and supporting the Government. So the ruling party had to seek the support of these traitors who have only one thing in mind. Make Sri Lanka another muslim country. UnP (unpatriotic party) to make amends, should at least now give up two party politics and join the Government and get rid of this menace before it is too late. UnP (unpatriotic party) has done a lot of damage to the country and will never win another election. They should understand this now and try to save the country and the Sinhalese race from extinction. Mother Lanka has been very very unfortunate to have produced so many traitors home and abroad. TNA, SLMC, diaspora, UnP who tried to break up the country, signed a peace accord, 13, 13A amendments to the Constitution, killing Sinhalese youth without any hesitation, but mollycoddled prabakaran and his lot. The Government should bring in new laws stopping FREE EDUCATION, FREE MEDICINE AFTER TWO CHILDREN to stop this traitors multiplying before it is too late.

  7. Ratanapala Says:

    To my understanding even cement bags had Halal certificates. These Muslims prosper in non Muslim countries through trade or by being middle men in business deals. They live like fish in pond – the pond of course is the money they earn doing their businesses – mostly underhand, uncouth, and sometimes illegal. Strategy should be to drain the pond!

    Non muslims must be weaned away from doing business with Muslim enterprises. This is the job Bodu Bala Sena and I hope it will and should happen slowly. This should be done while being cognisant of the fact there are so called “Buddhists” who will do anything for money.

    One final thing to do is to make money – Haram by having a process by which currency is smeared with Pig Fat. This will make all “Good Muslims” refrain from touching Non Halal – or Haram money. Let us see if they will do that.

    However the thing to understand is – this Halal or the proliferating mosques or blaring of Azan 5 times a day is not about Islam – it is about influence and power. Fact of the matter is no Muslim will shy away from money whether made of pig shit or cows hit.

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