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Muslim and Buddhist Springs

| by Nalin de Silva

( June 25, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A Muslim friend asked me what the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) wants from the Muslims. He is a genuine Muslim whom I respect though I may not agree with him sometimes. Jehan Perera in his column on 24th June states "The government appears to have woken up to the gravity of the problem posed by repeated attacks on the Muslim community". Perera unlike my friend is not a Muslim, as far as I know, but he is concerned with the ‘plight’ of the Muslims. He was concerned with the plight of the Tamils and was against humanitarian operations and a stalwart in the peace movement.

File Photo Courtesy: Council on Foreign Relation

The general opinion, at least among the non-Buddhists and, of course, among some enlightened Buddhists in various fora, is that the BBS and the unenlightened racist Sinhala Buddhists are just attacking the Muslims and those branded as Christian fundamentalists for no reason. (I do not want to call them fundamentalists. They are different interpreters the way Martin Luther or Theravadins as far as the Bible and the Dhamma were concerned.)This is not an opinion confined to Sri Lanka but it is spread widely in the world where the media is controlled by the Judaic Christian west. Are the Sinhala Buddhists, and, of course, other Theravada Buddhists in Myanmar and Thailand, so insane as to attack ethnic and religious minorities in their respective countries for no reason? What is most interesting is that it was not the Muslim countries in the world that rushed to make statements on Aluthgama and Mathugama incidents but the western Christian countries including the US and England. Does anybody say that these countries are not Christian but secular going by the constitutional experts whose education is none other than Judaic Christian?

Since the Muslims came to this country around the twelfth century they have been associated with trade. There is no record of them trying to convert Buddhists to Islam, except perhaps those whom they marry. On the other hand, the Buddhists have not been interested in converting the Muslims either and in any case it is well known that the Muslims and the Jews are not easily converted to other religions. It has to be recorded that the Sinhala Buddhists have not tried to convert the Vedda people to Buddhism though they have lived among the Sinhalas for several centuries.

The Muslims have lived peacefully with the Sinhala people and when the Portuguese arrived in 1506 the former were against the latter may be to safeguard their trade interests. What is known is that the Portuguese persecuted the Muslims and the Sinhala kings intervened to settle the Muslims in the present Central and Eastern Provinces. However, the peaceful existence among different groups ceased after the arrival of the Portuguese and ironically when the Dutch Reformists persecuted the Catholics who had been converted by the Portuguese and the Catholic Priests who sometimes had the support of the Sinhala kings, it was again the Sinhala kings who came to the rescue of the Catholics. The presence of Catholics in areas such as Vahakotte near Matale, provides ample testimony to these rescue operations. Since the days of Portuguese new cultural conflicts had begun in the country (it appears that by this time there were no conflicts between the Yagu Kaurava-Yaksha or Hela Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhism.) and ever since Sinhala Buddhists have been discriminated against in the country of their birth and in the country where they built a unique culture. However, it appears that the Muslims had continued to live peacefully with the Sinhala Buddhists until 1915 when the Muslims objected to a ‘perahera’ (procession) in Gampola.

Sinhala Buddhist culture that has inherited a lot from the Hela Buddhist culture is not geared to trade and business, and this has made the Sinhala Buddhists a weak force in the present consumer culture imposed on us by the Christian west. On top of that the Sinhala Buddhists feel the aggressiveness of the Muslims who would exhibit their cultural identity through dress, food and other means. The Muslim schools have contributed to this aggressiveness most probably imposing a dress code on the students. The fact that the Muslim schools have a different school calendar from the others also has contributed to a kind of separateness. While in Bangladesh or Pakistan the Muslim women are free with the dress code in Sri Lanka since late the situation does not appear to be so. Then in the 1970s the Ashraff politics that followed Tamil politics have given a political dimension to this cultural conflict and since then it is Ashraff politics that have dominated the Muslim politics.

The Sinhala Buddhists have naturally reacted to these cultural, economic and political attitudes among some, if not the majority of the Muslims and BBS is only one organisation that has been formed by the former to face up to challenges made by other communities. It is easy to blame the BBS and the Sinhala Buddhists for any incident without going into the root causes of the problem. However, there is a western international dimension to the problem, which many have not considered in understanding it. Today, the Judaic Christian culture is engaged in cultural conflicts with the Muslim culture and the Theravada culture, apart from political and economic conflicts with Russia, China etc. The main cultural conflict is between the Muslim and the Judaic Christian culture, but the west is worried of the Theravada culture as well, and attempts to destroy, if not weaken, the latter through various means. The west used and still uses Tamil racism that they created, nurtured and maintained to attack the Sinhala Buddhist culture, and all the NGOs, including the peace vendors are being used in this project. Though the west is at "war" with the Muslim culture, they use Muslim culture against Theravada culture in the few Theravada countries in the world. In Sri Lanka it is being done and the west uses the resentment between the Muslims and the Sinhala Buddhists to achieve their objective. In 1915, too, they did so on a minor scale.

The west also uses Sinhala Buddhist sentiments to achieve their aims. It is not a secret that the western countries want to topple the present government and install a UNP government to further their interests. They want the Muslims to rise against the present government. They are also instigating a Buddhist spring against the government which voted into power by the Sinhalas, mainly by the Sinhala Buddhists and even today they constitute the power base of the government.

The government, it appears is very careful when dealing with problems involving non Sinhala Buddhists and this could be projected as an anti Sinhala Buddhist attitude of the government inciting the Buddhists against the government. The government should not ignore a Buddhist spring organised by the west and in this respect should not alienate the Buddhists under any circumstance. In this regard, as a first step, the government should pay heed to the request by the Mahanayake Theras and stop car races in Mahanuwara. After all, the town is known for the Dalada Vahanse and the Esala Perahera and not for high speed cars.