Comments on Muslims are not as bad as we think/Lankaweb/02.09.2018
Posted on September 4th, 2018

By Vaisrawana

I have the highest regard for the author of the short piece named above, despite its utter meaninglessness. The particular writer is a fairly frequent contributor to the Lankaweb, who has articulated sensible opinions on previous occasions and I never fail to read him. But the last very short piece of writing shows that he is completely ignorant of the three things he barely tangentially touches on: the Sinhalese’ attitude to other people’s suffering, the nature and history of the conflicts between the three Abrahamic religions (implicit, though not specified as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and most important, the historic responsibility that our monks are currently performing in the country. The purpose of the following comments is not to challenge or flatly contradict the views expressed in that piece, but to express some reservations in order that we won’t miss the forest for the trees with regard to the particular instance of one woman’s generosity to another in need of help commented on by him. I have revised my own earlier impromptu comments made on his writing. This is a feedback that in no way questions the bona fides of the obviously well meaning writer of the short piece, ultimately pointless though it is. My attempt is to try and contribute, if possible, towards clearing the decks of certain harmful persistent misconceptions about inter-communal social interaction (such as the apparent assumption that you have to run down your own kind if you want to show that you are not a racist or that you have to turn a blind eye on obviously defective cultural norms that hinder peaceful social interaction). This is to create a conducive environment  for a candid exchange of positive ideas that would bring out the not much publicly recognized communal camaraderie that actually exists in our society, despite the dominance in the political arena of communal politics played particularly by certain minority politicians; but the racist label is conveniently stuck on those courageous few who speak up for the neglected or violated rights of the majority community. My comments on the said short ( Muslims are not as bad as we think/Lankaweb/02.09.2018) follow:

Who says all Muslims are bad? Certainly, not Buddhist Sinhalese; they don’t condemn any non-Buddhists including Muslims as bad. Neither do they praise themselves as paragons of virtue. What that Muslim woman has done is good, and has to be appreciated. It must be especially praised because it could an exception among them, considering their cultural norms. Muslims that I know have told me it is haram to donate parts of the body. They don’t even draw the human body, because it is haram to even imitate what their god has created. I don’t think that ‘good’ Muslims donate blood. Donation of blood, eye corneas, kidneys, etc is not their thing. Dr Hudson Silva, the pioneer of blood donation, is the founder and president of the International Eye Bank. He said his cornea collecting campaign was greatly facilitated by Sri Lanka’s Buddhist cultural background. Free giving without any expectation of a return is extolled in Buddhism. Donation of eyes, head, flesh and blood (probably grafting of body parts was practiced in ancient Ayurveda and Sinhala medicine) is proverbial.

I personally knew a couple of young undergraduate monks at Peradeniya in the late ‘70s who regularly donated blood. At least one such monk I knew donated one of his kidneys to a patient who had failed to find one even for a high payment (he could easily afford to do so) because his was of a rare blood group; the monk’s matched. He gave it free; he refused to accept any payment, and also wished to remain anonymous. Of course, not all monks andnot all lay Buddhists are that generous. Human beings are not perfect, whichever religion they profess.

Galaboda-aththe Gnanasara thera is not a bad monk despite his exterior appearance and his habitually irritable temper, which has earned them such a bad reputation. Actually, much of it may be play acting done in order to try and persuade unresponsive Buddhists. It is obvious that he has no political or other worldly ambitions. Sinhalese as a race and their lifeblood the Buddhist culture is under threat. This is an existential reality. There is much evidence to prove this. The Mahanayakes are not doing their duty; they appear not to care. Sinhalese Buddhist politicians look the other way when the monks and lay Buddhists genuinely concerned about the unfortunate state of affairs bring these problems to their notice. Politicians are more worried about the minority vote than about the protection of the Buddhasasana or the survival of the Sinhalese race. Gnanasara thera pleaded with the Malwatte Mahanayake thera three times to my knowledge to intervene personally or with the authorities in a number of vital issues to resolve them peacefully without monks like him having to get involved in unseemly demonstrations. Silence was the answer. Hence his present situation. I have seen videos of this monk helping out flood victims, among whom were Muslims. He didn’t discriminate between Muslims and Buddhists. He has been adjudged in contempt of court and is now serving a prison term. That is a different matter. He was operated upon for a kidney stone just after his consignment to prison. How can we avoid feeling especially sorry for this man, who got into trouble, trying to serve us all in his own way? He was working for the good of all, although not everybody believe/d him.

In my opinion, the Sinhalese women who queried how much they were going to get paid for giving a kidney should be pitied. Most likely they were from needy families. Particularly these days. Would a woman who is fairly well off offer to sell her kidney or blood just for getting some money to make ends meet? Asking about the payment is a sensible thing to do in this case, because it would be a waste of time, money and effort, and it would  cause a sense of humiliation resulting from the revelation of her poverty to the world even for a few minutes, to be told after you arrive at the hospital, that the patient cannot use your kidney and therefore it is not needed.

Following my posting of the above comment, fellow commenter Dilrook joined in with his own entry which begins thus: Generalization must be avoided. Every community has good and bad people. Each has to be assessed on a case by case basis. The converse is also true. Real issues like terrorism and radicalization must not be pushed under the carpet.”

Nevertheless, he adds his own generalization. He believes that Muslims are far more amenable than Tamils in embracing Sri Lankan language, value system, the culture and politics”. Doesn’t this generalization smack of racial prejudice? He also generalizes Muslims’ alleged characteristic amenability (their willingness or readiness to be easily influenced or controlled). Isn’t mere amenability less important than the sincerity of the goodwill that should be behind it? There is no doubt that the goodwill Muslims show through their amenability is genuine. But they  are more of a trading community than either the Tamils or the Sinhalese. So they need charm more than the latter. They also live scattered across the country more commonly than both the other communities. With their Tamil language linguistic heritage they play a mostly implicit intermediary role between Tamils and Sinhalese. So, naturally, there is a chance for them to involuntarily get the best of both worlds, as it were. It is not a bad thing if they turn it into something that is good for their fellow Tamils and Sinhalese as well. That is what usually happens.

Not all generalizations are to be avoided, because harmless generalizations make for practicality and are useful (e.g. If you through personal experience generalize that Muslim women don’t shake hands with men, usually male strangers, then you will be able to avoid committing  a social faux pas by extending your hand towards your Muslim friend’s wife to shake hands with her as you are meeting her for the first time). I think it is better to say that fallacious generalizations must be avoided. A plausible generalization (a general observation that can be made) is that Hindu Tamils and Buddhist Sinhalese are closer to each other in religious terms than they are to Muslims. On the other hand, Muslims are closer to Tamils because of their common language Tamil, than they are to the Sinhalese. Their (Tamils’ and Muslims’) shared minority status also tends to bring them closer together. In terms of religious beliefs and devotional practices Buddhists and Hindus are more relaxed, less doctrinaire than Muslims and Christians, and hence more accommodating towards each other as well as towards people of other faiths. Consequently, Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese Buddhists visit each other’s places of worship, and interact with each other on social and cultural occasions more freely, with fewer inhibitions and taboos. However, ordinary Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils live in harmony without friction except in situations that involve conflicts of interest as in business.

Tamils and Muslims dominate in the trade sphere in Sri Lanka. The major portion of their clientele comes from the majority Sinhalese who are 75% of the population. Can these Muslim and Tamil businesses flourish if the Sinhalese are racists and decide to boycott their shops in reaction to the way some communalists among their politicians harbor a virulently racist prejudice against the Sinhalese? (Please understand that I am not saying that all Muslim politicians are racists or religious fanatics.) OK, you might say, ordinary Sinhalese are not racists, but  the Buddhist monks and lay Buddhists (the majority of them Sinhalese) who are gaining an unprecedented notoriety in the local and global media these days are racists. But these monks and lay Buddhists, most of them young people, are only raising their voice against the overtly as well as covertly subversive activities of certain Christian and Muslim fundamentalist sects (though their initial numbers could be small), and equally important, against the desecration and destruction of our ancient Sinhalese Buddhist archaeological sites in the north and east, which are part and parcel of the historical heritage of all Sri Lankans. They form a major tourist attraction as well, which means economic gains in the form of foreign exchange from the tourist industry to the country’s exchequer. These Buddhist activists are speaking up for all Sri Lankans, not just for the Sinhalese and Buddhists.

Dilrook says in his comment that We must guard against racists who try to create needless divisions between the two amenable (emphasised) communities hoping against hope that another community will finally join us (which will never happen”).

Here, he is, not too subtly though, making an innuendo to criticize the suggestion in my previous comment that, in the future, Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese Buddhists are likely to make common cause against religious fundamentalism. I am not saying this ‘hoping against hope’. I say it with confidence supported my knowledge, modest though it is, of world history and religions, and what is happening around us at home and abroad (Didn’t Dilrook hear the news from Australia about an alleged ISIS affiliate from Sri Lanka named Nizamdeen, a nephew of cabinet minister Faizer Mustapha?) Not only will Sinhalese Buddhists and Hindu Tamils unite against the common enemy, but the sensible moderate majority of traditional Christians and Muslims will join them in solidarity.

However, I detest religious superstitions. My personal conviction is that all religion is intrinsically immoral (because it is based on ignorance and selfishness). But I also believe that the existing religious traditions with their harmless rituals must be allowed to continue as they are sources of the indispensable element of culture including ‘morality’ which nevertheless is propped on forgettable falsehood, when it is not murderous. Why I admire Buddhism is because it is the best moral philosophy that I have found to live by without being ‘religious’ or superstitious. So, I am not a religious fanatic. Nor am I a racist. I abhor racism. But I love the ‘race’ into which I was born (it must be something to do with biology), but do not hate or despise other races. I always empathize with them as fellow humans who I treat as my equals in every human way. I wish the best for all humanity and respect all forms of life.

2 Responses to “Comments on Muslims are not as bad as we think/Lankaweb/02.09.2018”

  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    This man has done a lot of damage to Sinhalese race, Buddhism and Sri Lanka by trying to whitewash mussies
    who have been using every dirty, disgusting, sub-human trick in the world to destroy Sinhalese race, Sri Lanka
    and Buddhism.

    Which planet he has been living while mussies
    *destroyed the Wilpatthu to settle down new breeds and new mussie imports from Myanmar, pakesthan, afganisthan, bangladesh etc.
    *destroyed Kuragala Ancient Buddhist temple
    *made the tiny eye sore mosque next to Sri Dalada Maligawa as big as the Maligawa
    *when mussies quietly changed the road name to palliya para from Ahelepola Kumarihamy Mawatha overnight
    when mussie numbers high enough in the municipal
    *try to buy a piece of land in akurana, katugastotha, beruwala
    *try to live alongside his mussie brethren in those places
    *try to buy a property from a mussie
    *when mussies put sterile agents in foods they sold to Sinhalese and tamils
    *ask why the mussies have so many children (surely not to increase the vote numbers; mps, mayors, deputy
    ministers, ministers galore with the fastest breeding religion)
    *ask to stop baby machine wivies breed, breed and turned old Buddhist iran, afganisthan, pakesthan,
    bangladesh, malaysia, indonesia within a few hundred years dirty trick in Sri Lanka.
    The destruction of Sinhalese race, Sri Lanka and Buddhism goes on and on.

    Simply put, he has disgraced Sinhalese race by trying to whitewash worst kind of two legged creatures on the
    planet.

  2. Christie Says:

    Muslims in our country are Sinhalese.
    Indian imperialists managed to alienate Muslims from Budhists using monks like Nanasara.
    Banda’s feeding of Sinhalese with Sinhala was the start.

    There are Islamists terrorists around the world, but that does not mean all are terrorists.

    Muslims who fought alongside the Sinhala Budhists and Christians were very helpful in defeating the Indian sponsored LTTE.

    It is the Indian Colonial Parasites who butchered Sinhalese since their arrival in the country on the back of the British since 1792.

    Beware of people who attack Muslims in our country because Hindus hate Muslims.

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