Thursday, June 1, 2017

The sudden resurgence of anti-Muslim attacks

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) described as a ‘break-away’ Sinhala Buddhist nationalist organisation, made themselves popular for creating anti-Muslim attacks during the recent past. Just after the Sinhala and Tamil New year, a sudden spate of attacks on mosques and business establishments owned by Muslims has created much tension among the community once again. During the time the Muslim community is observing Ramadan, which is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam, such upheavals would have been least expected. While the blame game still continues, quite surprisingly the government seemed to have turned a blind eye as opposed to the remarks made by the President when he came in to power. In an attempt to shed light on this matter, Daily Mirror the  recollects the sudden outbreak of incidents while inquiring the matter from both ends.  

The Govt. is not interested in finding a solution to this matter - MCSL President 

  •     Six to seven business establishments came under arson attack recently
  •     Instead of observing Ramadhan fast, we live in fear of attacks
  •     It is surprising to see the police continue to be silent and take no action
President of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), N.M. Ameen says that Sinhalese and Muslims have had a strong friendship over centuries. “But these groups are now trying to destabilise the Muslim economy. During the recent attacks, six to seven business establishments came under arson attack, that includes a factory in Wennappuwa. In addition to that even mosques had been attacked. This is a period where the Muslims in Sri Lanka and all over the world observe ‘Ramadhan’, a fast that lasts 30 days. But instead we have to live in fear. I see that the government is also not interested in finding a tangible solution to this matter. If it is dialogue what the BBS really need, then we are happy to sit down and talk with them but that doesn’t seem to be the case either.”  
“If I recall correctly, the Sri Lanka Police is quite an efficient and a powerful force. But why have they backed out only in this situation?” queries Ameen, who is worried about the actions taken by the authorities. “Not a single person was arrested or taken in for questioning. We have made several appeals but still we haven’t got any good news.”  
“It is quite hilarious to know that they are denying all allegations,” Ameen said in his concluding remarks. “Nobody in their right mindset would burn down their own property, would they? The age old friendship that the Muslims and Buddhists have had, had been tarnished by these groups. The majority community has spoken in favour of us. At least a few groups have protested against these recent turnout of events but we hope and pray that they would stop this menace.”  

We categorically deny all allegations on the recent attacks - BBS spokesperson 

Speaking to the , BBS spokesperson Dilantha Withanage said that the global Sinhala Buddhist community has become a minority. “Sinhala Buddhists have had threats right from the beginning. This is because they only represent close to 15 million of the global population, while there are approximately 1,600 million Muslims live globally. Various global forces such as economy, media and politics have a major impact on this break down. Back in the day there was an International Christian agenda. 
  • Sinhala Buddhists were under threat from the beginning
  • We are branded as a ‘militant’ organization
  • The episode fabricated by certain politicians for political gain
This was at the time of the Dutch when they burnt down temples and other places which belonged to the Buddhist faith. Several Evangelical groups too were on the rise but this ‘trend’ has now died down and is not as bad as in the yesteryears. There were instances when people gave up their religion for money.”  
In his further remarks, Withanage said that in the case of most religions, there’s a global community. “Take for example the case of Tamils. They too have a Global Tamil Agenda. One of their main concerns is that they don’t have a country of their own. They wanted to settle down in India but this didn’t work out as expected. So they are trying to find their ground in Sri Lanka. Likewise there is a ‘Global Islamic Agenda’ and this is funded by wealthy nations such as Saudi Arabia. 
During Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga’s regime she requested to set up a Presidential Commission on Buddha Sasana and she wouldn’t have wanted to set up such a committee if not for any underlying issue. People think that Buddhism is our state religion but that is not the case either. The report was published when Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister. These groups allegedly went on destroying Buddhist archaeological sites and created a crisis situation and this may have been one reason to setup this Commission.”  
That was a political stunt by the UNP. If I refer to a lone incident, we invited Gotabhaya to one of our events in Galle along with the then Mayor M.J.M. Muzammil. The media published photos of Ven. Gnanasara and Gotabhaya and not Muzammil. So what are we to do?
The media have a huge role to play in giving us the appropriate backing. But it was not up to our expectations, says Dilantha, referring to several reports which were published in various print media. “We have been described as a ‘militant’ organization, and I don’t think that is the correct adjective to describe us.” Dilantha further challenged the relevant groups to present evidence and prove that it was the BBS supporters who were involved in the recent turnout of events burning down shops owned by Muslims and destroying their property. “If I refer to the attack on the mosque, they obviously have CCTV cameras there. But what I heard was that these cameras too didn’t work when collecting evidence. So there is something wrong in the process. Hence, we categorically deny all the allegations on the recent attacks.”  
The BBS was known to have been supported by certain groups in Norway but when asked about this, the BBS spokesman again denied it. “This was a story fabricated by Asad Salih and Wimal Weerawansa. When Weerawansa told this at the beginning, Ven. Gnanasara asked him to prove it. But they failed. 
These allegations do not have any solid base and they are mere rumours. There were also speculations that we had a link with Gotabhaya Rajapakse. That was a political stunt by the UNP. If I refer to a lone incident, we invited Gotabhaya to one of our events in Galle along with the then Mayor M.J.M. Muzammil. The media published photos of Ven. Gnanasara and Gotabhaya and not Muzammil. So what are we to do?”