Enough Is Enough! Gnanasara Should Be Arrested!

By Harishchandra Lokumanna –

Ven Galagoda Atte Gnanasara was a Post War creation who according to MR himself was a product of a Western conspiracy. This demagogue brought a new phase to militant Buddhism, which has been continuously sabotaging the concept of a united multi ethnic Sri Lanka since Independence. This person in robes made it ordinary to use awful un-Buddhist filthy and uncivilized language when making references to other religions specially Islam and Muslims. I am confident that any Buddhist parent will switch off the TV or the radio if his talk or interviews are shown/relayed in full. Many leading Sangharatne and Buddhist leaders have spoken against his rowdy thuggish hate speeches and behaviour unbecoming of a Buddhist monk. However, he has been still allowed to operate without fear or favour.

I wonder why this character needs more lessons from the Sinhala Buddhists in this country when he and his Cobra outfit BJP were well and truly wiped out from the election race in August 2015, even losing his deposit. His track records have been criminal. There was a charge of drunken driving against him initially as far as we know. Then many other charges followed when he began insulting Islam and Muslims in Sri Lanka as well as the Quran without adhering to the vinaya pitaka he is bound to follow, quoting a concept of Thaqiya which my inquiries reveal has no basis in Islam. In fact he was arrested for insulting the Court as well as insulting the Quran but later released on bail. Today, he has many companions to support him in his hate campaign like the Mahasonas and Sinhaley.

True, he had his patron saints during the MR regime. Gota as his demi-God allowed Gnanasara a free reign to whatever he wills and whatever the Devil whispers in his ears. However, it is not acceptable that this Yahapalana government which came to power to promote national reconciliation and to stop this hate campaign also allows him to continue without any barriers. Recent misplaced speech of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe in the Parliament was Gnanasara’s desert and he relished it and spread it with much delight. Later he showed signs of toning down after his Sasanarakshaka Sabha met with Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and talked of sorting out these issues in a peaceful manner. However this was shortlived and now he has gone to full blast which shows he is a delusional character who should be given psychiatric treatment like that the other foul mouthed ‘Saviour of Buddhists’ Dan Prasad.

In his latest press interview, he has gone to the worst lowly levels of insulting the God of the Muslims in worse terms available for instance calling him an octopus. I am surprised and impressed how the Muslims are keeping their level headedness in the face of these insults to their religion which speaks of their maturity. Muslims know that this is not the view of the Sinhala Buddhist majority of this country who has been living in amity with the Muslims since the time of the Sinhala kings. However, there are limits to patient levels and the youth among the Muslims may be provoked to act in haste as well.

It is the duty of the Yahapalana Government to act without any delay or hesitation as further delays may aggravate the very sensitive situation which is prevailing in the country. There is a cyber war and cyber warriors who carry Sinhala Buddhist names and memes who are persistently posting hate speeches and demonising Islam and Muslims. These groups are going all over the country spreading hate and their next major hate rally will be in Batticoloa supporting another monk Sumanaratne Thero who has also been seen using utter filth against Police and government officers.

It is time that this demagogue hate monk Gnanasara Thero and his likes should be dealt with, arrested and punished for insulting a religion of more than a million citizens of this country (and of more than a quarter of the world’s population) and causing irreparable harm and bitterness among two major communities living in the South- Sinhalese and the Muslims. Any further delays in taking him to task will give wrong signals to his gang of rowdy pseudo warriors who have delusions in protecting Buddhism in this country in this shameful manner, but in fact they are actually destroying it in style. Sinhala Buddhist population too should speak out loud and clear that these Gnanasaras and Prasads are speaking NOT in their name and should lobby with the government to take effective against these so-called ‘demons in disguise calling themselves as ‘saviours’ of their dear religion of Buddhism.
https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/enough-is-enough-gnanasara-should-be-arrested/

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Islamic solution to homosexual urges – Yasir Qadhi | December 2012

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On The Need For Introspection: The Rise Of Intolerance & Warped Narratives

By Hafeel Farisz –

During my resident time at the Na Uyana Aaranya, Malsiripura in my early twenties, the first two books introduced to me by Ven. Ananda thero were- the ‘ Milinda Panha’ in Sinhala and the Kalama Sutta, of which the small library possessed an English translation. It was not by chance that I ended up in the monastery. My childhood friend was now Ven. Watagoda Maggavihari. I had met him once at the same place prior to him being ordained and a year or two after, I packed my bags on the trek to experience solitude. Although time and tide were never within man’s reach to curtail, I have made it a point to meet Ven. Maggavihari, the most scholarly among my friends at Royal College and one of the most talented of sportsmen on the field, at least annually to discuss life, politics, the unknown and the unfathomable. The discussions are yet to be as memorable as the lesson taught to the Kalamas.

“Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher’. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them” they were preached.

Attempting to understand the unknown and the unfathomable has always been a childhood preoccupation. Was the concept of God, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator of the world according to religious teachings, human: as petty and arrogant and as the literal interpretation of scripture and ritual would have us believe? Was Nirvana an ideal beyond definition although words have posited it within reality, the place in which the two or three dimensions of consciousness evaporates into the transcendental? What does it really mean to meet God? What did it really mean to attain Nirvana? Were there similarities between the four stages of attaining a truth beyond the ‘self’, in Islam defined as “Sharia” (universal truth/ not to be confused with the term used to describe a man-devised archaic legal system), “Thariqa” ( phase in which the seeker becomes aware of inner guidance), “Haqiqa” (where the seeker understands the nature of being, and is transcendentally in communion with nature), and “Marifa” ( Ultimate attainment of being-where the self is one with its universal nature), and in Buddhism defined in the concepts of Sovan, Sakkudagami, Anagami and Arahath?. Or the more pertinent question as to if such attainment, “Arahath” or “Marifa”, posits the being into the realm of “Nirvana” or in Islam the realm of “Fanaa” ( the passing away of the self, the entry into nonexistence thereby becoming absolute existence) were actually the same stages described in different words? To any follower of these spiritual strands there is very little to distinguish from.monk

If not, were they all pure concepts through which the other- the unknown was explained. Was such explanation beyond reach of the human mind or are they in fact in reality attainable, remain questions that has continued the childhood preoccupation. I had understood at an early age, that organized religion, be it couched in terms of philosophy or way of life, nationalism and pride were concepts through which identity was created and control was exerted. It was the genetic accident of birth that determined them. Death, the ultimate end- is where the questions arise, and from time immemorial human beings have devised various formulae to explain to themselves the two biggest mysteries of life: Why are we here? What happens after death? Two questions which no amount of theology, religion, or philosophy have yet been able to provide answers to.

Today, religions thrive in the very fact that such answers have not been provided. But they counter it with certainty, a sense of convoluted paranoia and certainty which the intellect doesn’t, could not, and ideally should not perceive. The certainty has evolved into an unbridled conviction which adherents of close to 4000 religions across the globe believe they are right, convinced that every single one of the others are wrong. The same certainty with which the men of yore concluded smallpox was a disease from God, or was a result of ‘Karma’ and therefore asserted with certainty that finding a solution was going against the will of God or nature. A cure was found for smallpox and for many other diseases, which according to many who denounced the research for a cure, ‘emanated from ‘God’ or was a result of ‘Karma’. Be it the concept of heaven and hell or reincarnation, in explaining life after death- human beings of either spectrum have convinced themselves that they are aware of an ultimate truth and believe it with certainty. But therein lies the oxymoron. Belief is a paradox in itself and an absurd one at that. ‘Belief’ stems from insecurity. If one was to know something as true or fact, there is no need of ‘belief’. We don’t ‘believe’ that the sun will rise in the morning. The sun will rise in the morning, as it has for the millions of years before us. One needs to ‘believe’ or have ‘faith’ only when one is uncertain. Accordingly although belief/faith is a product of knowledge and social construct it inherently contains the possibility of uncertainty: the possibility of ‘disbelief’, as Hazelton so eloquently describes.

The human mind is constantly in search of a linear narrative: attempting to make sense of what is and what is not is a constant preoccupation. While the ascetic Muslims recitals and chants remained the symbol of the path towards knowledge, the Buddhist monk remained the symbol in the quest for such knowledge, to me.

As much as the spiritual quest remains, the hope for political salvation- the material (loukika) seems further and further away. Since the end of a bloody war, in which one side were named the victor, Sri Lanka has driven herself into turmoil. The war remained the constant through which the human minds need for the ‘other’ was embodied. The end of it signified the beginning of the material mind to find another ‘other’. This was for the essential materialist, who unfortunately took the helm in the need to find the other- with the Saffron Robes intact, the robes which were to the larger world and those at home -the symbol of tranquility and equanimity. While the majority of the country slept in peace, there remained the mind which didn’t. A mind which runs amok, and meanders in constant paranoia. A paranoia driven by hate and fuelled by vengeance. It would be foolish to think that this mind is confined to the undermentioned, but they were the visible frontier of fear mongering and hate fuelling.

What was essentially a movement which gathered pace due to the support by the urban businessmen to counter- what they perceived the new ‘others’ encroachment in their endeavors- has over time evolved into a paranoia that has been solidified in public consciousness. The movements’ initial slogans drew parallels with the calls in Nazi Germany. “Boycott” the shops owned by Muslims. Only yesterday, social media was rife with ‘news’ which said a Muslim owned store had sprayed female underwear in an attempt to curtail birth rates of Sinhalese women, and thus called for the immediate boycotting of the store. This is not a new cry, and has been a consistent tag line since the inception of the movement. Of course this tagline is not based on fact or evidence, mass hysteria often isn’t.

It is those that possess or justify such paranoia- that fall within the ambit and scope of the definition of the Post War Sinhala Buddhist (PWSB), coined in the previous essay. The racist, bigoted xenophobe who found salvation at the annihilation of one enemy and had to create another. It attempts to define, a militarist, fascist and loud movement, the likes of which the nationalists’ movement pre and post colonialism had not seen. This as detailed previously, does not include nationalists Sinhalese who are protective of the only Sinhala Buddhist state in the world and who cherish its identity remaining so. Only the extreme and the warped could use such clear distinction provided in the previous essay to further and distort it to include the definition to mean “All Sinhala Buddhists who live in post war Sri Lanka”. The distinction between Buddhism as a philosophy, to use the closest western adjective, and Sinhala Buddhism as a political embodiment is also understood. However, the ‘Post War Sinhala Buddhist’, as defined, supersedes these boundaries. If Nietzsche, Orwell, Hegel or even Trotsky were to analyse this phenomenon they would be marveled at the usurpation of what they termed ‘nationalism’. It remains the only term through which, monks in Saffron Robes, laity, and the educated but post war emboldened fascist could be described. As such it’s used to define the fascist tendencies of a movement that continues to gain ground, largely among Sinhala Buddhist youth active on social media.

Was this fear mongering without good reason, and have the Muslims always been the innocent victim seem to be the questions that are asked. If one was an observant reader of my previous columns in these pages, the reader would be aware the detailing and description of the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. The need to address such is incumbent upon the Muslim intellectuals, and intelligentsia which have over the years not been active in curtailing the fundamentalism as would have been ideal.

There remains a section of the Lankan Muslim polity, who in their carved realms, believe that a strict literal interpretation of scripture, practice and ritual is required- and in their outward expression of such conviction- have sympathized with the actions of the Islamic State (IS), justified the whipping of a Muslim girl in Puttalam, and banished a female poet from the East who called for the legalization of Prostitution, among others.

I use these examples as symbols, which are in no way meant to confine these expressions only to the above. The demand that is now in the public domain, dominated by a section of the males within the Muslim community, is to continue the validation of an archaic and pre modern aspects of a Law which should and could have no place in modern society. A Law ideally which should have been abolished decades ago, all stemming from a warped interpretation of scripture. It is this same interpretation that has resulted in the rise in the adorning of the Nikab- a pre Islamic costume of the Hejaazi desert in which Islam was born. It would however, be naïve to believe that these interpretations were suddenly thrust upon the Muslims of Sri Lanka. The Iraqi invasion, and the resultant constant conflict the Middle East have been engulfed in, have most certainly had its impact. For if one’s belief is not providing answers to the sufferers as promised: they are not adhering to the faith in the manner prescribed and the suffering is as a result of this non adherence- is almost always throughout history, the narrative that is put forth to believers of any religion. The Wahabi and Salafist networks spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and ably funded by Qatar, supported by the American empire has drawn support as a result of this perceived lack of ‘adherence’.

“God’s wrath falls on us because we are straying away from God” is the cry through which the educated and the uneducated confine their intellectual prowess and resort to literal interpretations. This is true of Sri Lanka presently. The international and sectarian dynamics of the violence in the Middle East is not addressed in this essay but these warped interpretations have, in the existing political context of the Middle East resulted in “Killing in the name of God”. Such is the power of ignorance and blind faith. Again, this is not the sole construct of the adherents of the Islamic faith. Throughout history symbols, religion, and nationalism has been usurped by different sects, religions, and fascists to further their perverted narratives.

But there is a point that needs to be made. On social media there run many photographs of “Pre and Post – Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanisthan” etc. Often times those who share these photos are under the mistaken belief that the Muslims occupied these countries in the 1990’s after which all liberalism vanished. That again reeks of pure ignorance. All these countries, formed an integral part of the early conquests and for centuries were under Muslim rule, with all forms of religious expression, individual freedom intact as was possible during those times of rule- until the ‘Talibanisation’ of that part of the world. The threat to curb such liberalism, culturally, has taken roots in parts of Sri Lanka, within sections of the Muslim community. It is this strict literal interpretation that must be fought ideologically, because – the literal interpretation of text, practices and rituals- is the source, and the source must be addressed. A clear way of which is to understand and educate on the socio politics of religion, theology, history and most importantly the evolution of the different stages of the interpretation of the text, practices and rituals. Education into these areas and socio, economic and political conditions which propelled the interpretations in the past, is the most potent way of addressing and overcoming the existing fundamentalism. Denial after denial of such fundamentalism only symbolizes ignorance. To any observer, there is a visible shift in the actions and attitudes of a growing section among the Muslims in Sri Lanka.

However, do these interpretations and practices warrant such violent reaction from a section of the majority- identified as the PWSB? As detailed in my previous essay it does not. It does not call for such a violent, alienating and exterminating threat. The real victims as of now, are the Muslims themselves and the fundamentalism that is espoused among a section of the Muslim polity in Sri Lanka has got very little, if nothing, to do with the State or the annihilation of Sinhala Buddhists and other races. Instead it seeks to confine and limit the expressions and practices of the Muslims. But the fear mongers are fascists, who believe in the annihilation of every other different race and culture which exist in the country. The excuse, for them, an excuse which has been fed down to evolve into mass consciousness is ‘fundamentalism’ among the Muslims. But that excuse reeks of hypocrisy and deceit. If those shouting their throats hoarse with anti-Muslim hate were altruistic, the need of the hour would be to help the Muslim community address these issues. Instead the threat of annihilation is on all Muslims. “Let’s start from Maligawaththa and finish them all off”- is the cry. The fascism has extended beyond too. There is a constant call by these fascists for the rest of the communities to ‘fall in line’, culturally. The beauty of Sri Lanka rests in its diversity and as one of the unintended heroes of the PWSB, Lt. Gen Daya Rathnayaka points out “The beauty of this country is that in the same street you have a Temple a Kovil, a Mosque and Church. That is the identity of this country”. The PWSB doesn’t not understand that the likes of Gen. Rathnayaka, a proud nationalist, among many others do not condone the fascism sprouted by this loud movement.

However, it is these tendencies of intolerance, forcefulness and rigidity which lead to the conclusion that the PWSB and the Muslim Fundamentalist are in fact, two sides of the same coin. Constantly feeding each other in their warped endeavors, silencing the inclusive moderates, advocating and creating suspicion among the two communities. Although the end goal seems different, the results are one and the same.

I don’t find the need to respond to the recent ‘response’ to my previous essay rife with selective statistics picked out from thin air, and interpretations given out like a bigoted justifier of violence would- covering the fascism with the excuse of ‘fundamentalism’. But I remind the Kalama Suthra to the PWSB, to question the fascist narrative put forth, and to the Muslims I reintroduce the intellectual powerhouses which formed the bedrock of Islam, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi, Ibn Kuldoom Ibn Sina, Sarraj who wrote the famed ‘ Kitab A Luma’ ( Book of Flashes) or the 9th century mystic Junaid, among many others, who kept true to the spirit of the transcendental zeal and questioned the nature and the beauty of the mystery that is the ‘Universe’ and explored the concept of God. They did not blindly believe in a human like interventionist man up in the sky who insists on reward and punishment, with a notebook in hand hovering over the mundane day to day activities of humans, who are only a minute fraction among the vastness of the creation. Such a concept at best describes no one but an insecure dictator of a third world state.

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/on-the-need-for-introspection-the-rise-of-intolerance-warped-narratives/

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An Open Letter to the Minister of Justice Hon. Wijedasa Rajapakshe

19 Nov 2016

Hon. Wijedasa Rajapakse

Minister of Justice

Colombo

An Open Letter to the Minister of Justice Hon. Wijedasa Rajapakshe

Minister Rajapakse,

The Muslim community takes serious exception to the censorious remarks made by you in Parliament on 17th Nov 2016. You juxtaposed selected irrelevant issues to implicate and malign several respected Muslim organisations and the Muslim community. Your fearmongering remarks are increasing the degree of tension among all communities thereby jeopardising nascent peace emerging in the country. The impact of your statement is not confined to the Muslims alone as it affects the whole country at a time when the President and the Prime Minister are forewarning the nation that anti-government saboteurs are scheming to bring Buddhist-Muslim clash as a strategy to bring down the government. Your statement strengthened the hands of the extremist racists of the country and the aftermath ensuing racist demonstrations in Kandy etc unwittingly places you as the initiator of the collapse of the government by sheer coincidence, which I hope not.

You being a responsible Minister and an erudite Presidential Council, it is unbecoming for a person of your calibre to make sweeping generalization of irrelevant stories put together under the cover of parliamentary immunity. You are making statement in the august house of Parliament to the peoples’ representatives. It is their right to know precise facts and figures, dates and places and names so that they can contribute to find solutions to the problems to which you are seeking to address. Your generalised naming of respected legitimate Muslim organisations and with sweeping generalization of Muslim internationals schools alleging extremist indoctrination by foreign scholars, about infighting between different sects and groups and referring to an isolated story of a person marrying a young girl and that it can be a cause for communal riot and racial disharmony. All these topped with the story of ISIS, alleging that four families consisting of 32 people men women and small children, at a time that the ISIS is at its death throes and the world has come to know who trained, funded, marketed and operated them to destroy Syria to protect Israeli interest. This is public knowledge, a common phenomenon experienced by many countries and created by the geopolitical realities at the hand of their handlers. I also draw your attention regarding the ISIS matter that you are not updated. Way back in 2015 when the ISIS issue cropped up in the media, the Prime Minister convened a meeting with major Muslim organisations to which senior ministers, The Defence Secretary, the three Service Chiefs, the IGP and the Intelligence Officials participated. I participated on behalf of the National Shoora Council amongst others. We settled these issues at the highest levels of consultation, coordination and communication. We give credits to the government, the military and the law enforcements agencies and the intelligence community for their professional handling of this issue and allaying our concerns.

You will realise that in these statements, you failed the august chamber to give precise intelligible facts to inform the peoples’ representatives. Instead your collection of irrelevant, outdated and fabricated facts are of no use to the peoples’ representative but are becoming handy tools to the racist trouble makers in the country hell bent on destabilizing the nation. Do you know how many potential investors to the country your statement and the aftermath would have shooed out resulting in loss to the country. Do you know how your statements are derailing the struggling government’s development initiatives? Do you know how you are making despondency and frustration to set in the country? Do you know how your statements are scuttling reconciliation initiatives of the country? Or is this the prelude to the enactments of Counter Terrorism Act by artificially creating tension and fearmongering in the country as a strategy?

We would like to know what was the rationale behind sensationalizing something past and irrelevant in a fast changing society seeking social harmony, rebuilding, reconciliation and rejuvenating of the economy as priorities of the Yahapalana Government. We fail to understand your logic of why you did chose to make this statement impromptu. We believe that you are not updated about the issues that you talked about with concrete facts, figures and dates. Whoever shared information with you has failed the test of due diligence thereby making you to speak something not in keeping with your stature as a legal luminary if not a Minister. We sympathise with you and shall be prepared to work with you corroborating with facts and figures, inshallah (God willing), for the sake of building Mother Lanka.

Thank you,

Sincerely

Tariq Mahmud
President National Shoora Council

Courtesy – http://nationalshoora.org/open-letter-to-misinter-wijedasa/

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CBK’s office raises concerns over rise in hate speech

The Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) headed by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has noted with concern, the rise of hate speech in Sri Lanka in the recent past, which challenges the initiatives being taken by the Government to heal the country after decades of bloodshed and destruction.

ONUR noted that hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has no place in Sri Lankan society.

For the first time in contemporary Sri Lanka, the Government has a stated vision to build One United Nation by promoting Reconciliation and a lasting Peace. The Government is working towards bringing about reconciliation among all communities, making it the highest priority.

This is in contrast to the years before 2015 where power brokers in the state fomented communal and ethnic hatred, shielded by a culture of impunity, thereby inciting racism and violence against fellow Sri Lankans.

ONUR said the Government and the people of Sri Lanka are presently engaged in the noble task of rebuilding a society in which Good Governance prevails.

It said the challenges faced in realising this are immense.Yet, the new opportunities that have opened up and the favourable socio-political context created since January 2015 must be seized.

“The active participation and leadership of all patriotic Sri Lankans is essential for the achievement of Reconciliation, Peace and honest,effective, people friendly Governance if we are to attain political stability, economic growth and progress we so richly deserve as a Nation.We must work towards acknowledging the differences and celebrating the richness of diversity in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious country,” ONUR noted.

ONUR said that short, medium and long term efforts are underway to address the grievances of all communities and to build a sense of respect, equality and pride in every citizen, living in an inclusive Sri Lanka where each person has the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms that are the right of all citizens.

The strictest action must be taken without delay,against persons or groups who act to provoke disharmony by creating divisions among citizens along ethnic and religious lines.

President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickrmasinghe and the entire government have categorically reiterated that hate speech will not be tolerated.

ONUR, while appreciating the arrest of two individuals from two different communities, accused of hate speech and for inciting racism, urges the relevant authorities to take appropriate action against all such incidents regardless of the social status, ethnic /religious background or political affiliations of the perpetrators.

“We note that there are numerous complaints against hate speech and incitement to racism where strong evidence is available yet investigations and prosecutions are pending for some time.We urge the law enforcement authorities to take early action on all these incidents,” ONUR said.

ONUR welcomed the President and the Prime Minister’s unequivocal statements that Sri Lanka cannot permit racist or extremist elements from any community to challenge or imperil our chosen path to a stable, prosperous and plural Sri Lanka.

Courtesy
http://colombogazette.com/2016/11/25/cbks-office-raises-concerns-of-rise-in-hate-speech/

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Security Council Contradicts Defence Sec And Wijeyadasa: Denies 32 Sri Lankans Joined ISIS

The Security Council has refuted a statement made by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe that 32 Sri Lankan Muslims have joined ISIS.

During a meeting held with President Maithripala Sirisena, the Security Council had said that they have received no information with regard to Wijeyadasa’s statement that 32 Muslims had joined the ISIS. The matter was taken up by the council, soon after Wijeyadasa made claims to the effect that several Sri Lankan Muslims had joined the ISIS. The matter had been brought up by Sirisena, who heads the Council and had asked for verification on the matter from the members of the Council, which also included members from the State Intelligence Service.

Meanwhile, addressing the weekly cabinet briefing on Wednesday, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne had also refuted Rajapakshe’s statement that 32 Sri Lankan Muslims had joined the ISIS.

Last Friday, Rajapakshe told Parliament that 32 Muslims had joined ISIS. The statement was picked up and given wide publicity across all main stream media. However, subsequent to the Justice Minister’s statement, it was revealed that Wijeyadasa was repeating the old numbers announced by Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi who told an event in early January this year that 36 Muslims had gone to Syria, some to join ISIS.

During his speech, Wijeyadasa alleged that the 32 Muslims who had gone to join ISIS were from 4 families who were well connected and well respected. “There is a serious situation brewing in this country,” he said.

Following his statement, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) objected to Rajapakshe’s unverified announcement saying it was a ‘misplaced’ statement. The President of the MCSL, N M Ameen said that Rajapakshe’s statement came at a very opportune time to certain extremist elements bent on tarnishing the image of the Muslim community for reasons only best known to them.

Courtesy –
https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/security-council-contradicts-defence-sec-and-wijeyadasa-denies-32-sri-lankans-joined-isis/

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More equal than others

By Dharisha Bastians

Radical Buddhist monks threatening demolition of majority Muslim suburbs of Colombo and employing violent, racist and threatening rhetoric against public officials continue to enjoy impunity under the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government, which was swept into office on a wave of minority angst and frustration about the meteoric rise of hardline Sinhalese groups under the Rajapaksa administration. As religious tensions mount, remarks by the Minister of Justice have drawn sharp criticism from Muslim political leaders and civil society groups, and also sparked fears of continued Government patronage for ideologies of hate and fear propagated by hardline groups

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BBS General Secretary Galagoda aththe Gnansara at the Sugathadasa Stadium during a rally to welcome Myanmar’s hardline 969 monk Ashin Wirathu
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Even as calls mount for the arrest of Gnanasara Thero over his remarks about Razik’s arrest and threats to annihilate Maligawatte, the monk breezed into Parliament on Tuesday (22) for an audience with Minister for Buddha Sasana and Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe

Last Tuesday (15), Maligawatte Police arrested Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamath General Secretary Abdul Razik on charges of “insulting a religion and angering a religious devotee” over his remarks at a protest recently denouncing proposed reform to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA). In a bizarre coincidence, Razik’s arrest came hours after controversial Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Chief Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara threatened to “destroy” the majority Muslim suburb of Maligawatte unless Razik was arrested within 24 hours. The radical monk was speaking at a pocket meeting where he was strongly opposing the arrest of Dan Priyashad, a untitled-2man who led the saviours of the Sinhalese protest at the Fort Railway Station a few weeks ago inciting Sinhalese youth to rise up against the Muslims and threatening to bomb minority communities.

Now Razik is a problematic character. He has defended provisions of the MMDA that effectively legitimises child marriage by stipulating that girls as young as 12 may be married “by consent” of parents and Qazi, or Islamic judge. His remarks drew wide criticism from activists strongly pushing for reform of the Muslim marriage laws and ordinary people who found his defence of the archaic and discriminating laws repugnant. During a protest in Maligawatte two weeks ago, Razik made disparaging remarks about groups like the BBS and its Chief Gnanasara, who he claimed were behind the clamour for these legal reforms. Still, nothing Razik said during the protest came close to vile threats and the declaration of war against Maligawatte by the Bodu Bala Sena monk.

Last Saturday (19), Gnanasara Thero led a march of monks and laymen through the streets of Kandy culminating in an “adishtana pooja” at the Dalada Maligawa against the “injustices” happening to Sinhalese Buddhists and the silence of the rulers in the face of this discrimination. Footage of the rally shows Police officials standing meekly beside the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary, and advising the monk about how his supporters should conduct themselves inside the temple.

At one point, at the entrance to the sacred temple, Gnanasara Thero tells his supporters: “Leave the banners outside. There is no one inside to see banners except Dalada Hamuduruwo. Very soon we will have to tie ‘molgas’ (pestles) to our banners and come, but for the moment leave them behind.” Marchers at the BBS-led rally also carried distorted versions of the national flag, without the orange and green stripes that recognise ethno-religious minority communities living in the island.

Batticaloa incident

In Batticaloa the previous week, the Chief Incumbent of the Mangalaaramaya temple, Ampitiye Sumanaratne Thero lashed out against a grama sevaka using racially-charged language and profanity, when the official sought to act against land encroachment, allegedly by Sinhalese residents. The monk has been the protector of these Sinhalese families and instrumental in spearheading the gradual encroachment. According to reports from the area, Sumanaratne Thero has also been preventing the Police from evicting the encroachers.

When officials of the divisional secretariat of the area – many of them from the Tamil community – visited the site to resolve the issue, they faced the monk’s wrath. The priest’s verbal abuse against the official was captured on video and shared widely on social media. The threatening outburst occurred in the presence of a senior Police official, who did not intervene at any point, except to wait patiently until the Buddhist monk had spewed the last of his anger and hatred and quietly lead him from the scene.

The episode was a replay of countless attacks on minority communities by Buddhist clergy, who consistently receive special treatment under the law – and by all indications irrespective of which Government is in power. Across the Batticaloa district, divisional secretariat officials and grama sevakas conducted token strikes and wore black armbands to protest against the monk’s assault following the widely-publicised incident.

Saffron immunity

While the Government has paid lip service to “equality before the law” principles, in reality, saffron robes continue to guarantee immunity to marauders intent on breaching the peace. According to a senior Government official who requested confidentiality to speak openly, there was near unanimous consensus within the Government that the conduct of the monks and the insecurity they were creating for minority communities should not be tolerated. But the official admitted that the Government was deeply fearful of a serious backlash by Sinhala nationalist forces if moves were made to arrest the Batticaloa monk or the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary. As a result, the Police would pursue a more conservative route to take action against the monks, the senior official explained, by taking the issue before the courts as a first step.

In a somewhat hopeful sign, the Kokkadaicholai Police filed a report in court earlier this week against Ampitiye Sumanaratne Thero. Law enforcement in the area will now await the instructions of a magistrate to take action against the priest.

Muslim civil society leaders claim that the Government has been put on notice about the resurgent anti-Muslim campaign led by BBS and its ilk. Muslim Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Bathiudeen whose parties are members of the ruling coalition had been briefed extensively to take the issue up at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

But even as calls mount for the arrest of Gnanasara Thero over his remarks about Razik’s arrest and threats to annihilate Maligawatte, the monk breezed into Parliament on Tuesday (22) for an audience with Minister for Buddha Sasana and Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe. Muslim civil society leaders were also due to meet with the Justice Minister yesterday for talks about the issue.

Wijeyadasa’s remarks

Uncannily, it was Minister Rajapaksa who made remarks in Parliament late last week, claiming that 32 Sri Lankan Muslims had untitled-3joined ISIS and also alleged that extremist Islamic scholars were being invited to Muslim international schools to indoctrinate students. The Justice Minister claimed that the Government would not permit the rise of extremism and vowed to use provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to curb this activity. In his speech the Minister also criticised the conduct of extremist Buddhist monks, who he claimed had been given a free rein to lay siege upon Government offices and create anarchy when the Rajapaksa Government was in power.

The remarks were ill-timed however given the rise of hate speech and threats to minority communities over the past two weeks, and were perceived as being too soft on the BBS and other hardliners. The Minister’s speech drew a sharp response from Muslim Ministers and Muslim civil society, who charged that the Minister’s claim about 32 Sri Lankan Muslims joining ISIS were based on media reports released last year and not on new evidence. In a statement, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) said Muslim cleric organisations and civil society groups had cooperated with the Government and intelligence agencies in their investigations after a Sri Lankan combatant died while fighting with ISIS.

“Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s statement comes at a very opportune time to certain extremist elements bent on tarnishing the image of the Muslim community for reasons best known to them. Certain parts of his statement are verbatim of the hate speech spewed by the extremist priest Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero,” the Muslim Council charged in a strongly-worded statement. The MCSL added that it was “seriously alarmed” by the re-emergence of the racist campaign against the Muslim community being carried out by extremist Buddhist monks.

Audience with the Minister

It was in this backdrop that the BBS delegation suddenly descended on Parliament on Tuesday for a meeting with the Minister. Even though it marched last weekend through the city of Kandy to conduct an adishtana pooja to remove the Government from office, something about the Justice Minister’s speech last Friday helped the BBS to single him out as a kindred spirit within what the group otherwise perceives as a hostile Government.

When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa flew to Negombo to visit the house of SLFP Provincial Councillor Nimal Lansa hours after STF raided his home in an alleged search for narcotics, the political move completely undermined a Police investigation. Similarly, Minister Rajapakshe’s outreach to the BBS may have been well-intentioned, but there is no denying that his decision to give the controversial monk and his delegation audience sends a very specific message to law enforcement about the status Gnanasara Thero continues to enjoy.

At the end of the meeting, a seemingly-chastened Gnansara Thero said his ‘delegation’ had agreed with the Minister that there was no room for extremism in the country and that issues should be solved through discussion and negotiation. “They call us extremists. We call them extremists. You can’t resolve problems this way,” the controversial BBS monk said, in a shocking about-face.

While the path of negotiation is infinitely preferable to violence and intimidation, it remains unclear what issues specifically the BBS seeks to negotiate about. Muslim civil society opposed Razik’s speech and have not protested his arrest by the Police – presumably the main sticking point in the BBS’ current set of grievances.

There is widespread acceptance even within progressive sections of the Muslim community that Muslim marriage laws and fundamentalist ideologies taking root, especially in the Eastern Province, must be countered effectively by moderates and reformed where possible. This self-reflection has been most apparent recently in the work of Muslim scholars, researchers and civil society activists who are leading the charge for reform to the MMDA. The problem arises when ethno-religious fascist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena and their fellow travellers become the principal agitators for this change, not from a desire to achieve peaceful coexistence and equality for all citizens, but with the motive of suppressing minority ethnic and religious identities.

Manufactured crisis

Since it burst into the political mainstream in 2013, the Bodu Bala Sena has routinely manufactured controversies and issues. The Halal ‘controversy,’ the boycott calls and false claims about thriving Muslim-owned clothing stores, and the battle over the Sufi shrine in Kuragala were all pseudo conspiracies, manufactured, nurtured and subsequently avenged by the BBS.

In Goebbelsian fashion, these extremist groups repeat ludicrous claims and conspiracy theories about minority communities, mixed with a healthy dose of hate and fear, until the lies become truth to their followers. Parochial fears within the Sinhala community and failures by some sections of the Muslim community to integrate sufficiently with other communities conflagrate bogus claims made by the BBS and like-minded groups. Once the idea takes hold any call to arms is answered swiftly, allowing BBS-led mobs to storm beef distribution centres, Muslim-owned shops and businesses and even ministerial offices.

So as Minister Rajapakshe proposes to lead “negotiations” between the Bodu Bala Sena – a Sinhala supremacist organisation accused of having provoked the worst communal riots in the country since 1983 in Aluthgama only two years ago – and members of the Muslim community, questions must be raised about the specific issues that will be on the table in these discussions.

The “negotiation” narrative is all too familiar, and smacks of a return to the policy of appeasement of Sinhalese hardline movements by the Rajapaksa administration. When the BBS went on a rampage over Halal certification in 2013, their grievances were taken up for “mediation” by the most powerful official in the Rajapaksa regime – Gotabaya Rajapaksa. With the man accused of affording patronage to these hardline movements directing the talks between the BBS and All Ceylon Jamaithul Ullama – which certified food products as meeting Islamic standards – there was no question as to who would emerge clear winners in that “negotiation”.

It will be recalled that the chief BBS grouse over the Halal certification was that Sinhalese and other communities were being forced to consume food that had been “offered in pooja” to the Islamic God. The extremist group manufactured a crisis, campaigned violently to elevate the absurd conspiracy to national levels, achieved high-level Government intervention and finally, after a series of “discussions” on the subject, declared victory. The ACJU still issues Halal certification, but food and hygiene brands no longer use the Arabic script on products that indicates it has been certified.

Negotiation or appeasement?

Is Minister Rajapakse attempting to do now, what Gotabhaya Rajapaksa did then? Will he, presumably with sanction from his Government, help to elevate preposterous BBS grievances again and seat members of the Muslim community across the table from an organization of fascists that threatens their community with physical harm and promises to wipe out their cultural identity, to “negotiate”? If successive Governments legitimize absurd claims and conspiracies propagated by extremist groups, give these groups audience simply because they are led by monks even after they have given rise to one communal riot and threatened an entire community living in the capital with annihilation, what incentive does that provide Gnanasara Thero and his fellows to cease their campaign of hate and terror against minority communities?

Active patronage to groups like the BBS in the last two years of his presidency proved costly for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he tried to win re-election in 2015. He declared presidential elections only five months after the Aluthgama riots had killed three people – all of them Muslims – injured many more and left a village in smouldering ruin. By November 2014, the Muslim constituency, reeling from unchecked attacks, harassment and hate speech by extremist Sinhalese groups, had switched allegiances en masse to the opposition. Muslim politicians had no choice but to break ranks with the Rajapaksa Government ahead of elections to secure their vote base. Once the Muslim parties had crossed over to the common opposition, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election prospects were mathematically doomed.

Even if it feels no compulsion to uphold the rule of law and guarantees afforded to all citizens in the constitution, the Government that won elections in January 2015 at least has a greater obligation to its constituency to keep these extremist elements relegated to the fringes of political discourse. To pander to these groups and afford them political status, Mahinda Rajapaksa learnt to his peril, was to play with fire. If it continues to facilitate the brutal conduct of these hardline monks and afford them immunity from the law, Tamil and Muslim minorities that supported the new administration unconditionally will have no choice but to deem this Government faithless too, and seek other avenues of political redress.

More equal than others

As tribalism and right wing politics triumph across the globe, there is little doubt that Sri Lanka’s own counter-revolution will be led by reactionary forces using ethnic mobilisation to reverse democratic gains made over the past two years. To give these forces space to mobilise and monger fear and hate will seal the fate of a Government that is already perceived by Sinhalese nationalist constituencies as working against its interests and aspirations. As calls mount for action against ethno-religious fascist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena, the Government remains reluctant to move too swiftly lest it upsets a delicate political balance and empowers right wing forces just before it must begin a campaign to win support for a new constitution.

While this rationale is inexcusable, the political reasoning is understandable. But there lies also the greatest tragic irony. Even as the Government prepares to go before the people with a draft constitution that will – by all indications so far – guarantee equality and inclusivity to all Sri Lanka’s people, its failure to act now against saffron-clad marauders sends a clear message across the country that some citizens will remain, today and perhaps forever, more equal than others.

– See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/581862/More-equal-than-others#sthash.83czEIdK.dpuf

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Some elements engaged in anti-Muslim campaigns: ACJU

All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) said today some elements were actively engaged in continuous anti-Muslim campaigns which would induce racism and disrupt the prevailing peace and coexistence. “Such activities targeted towards a community, would disrupt the prevailing peace and coexistence and affect the development process of the country and also would violate the Rights assured by the Constitution to every citizen of this Country,” ACJU said in a statement.

ACJU Propaganda Committee Secretary Ash-Sheikh H. Omardeen said that the Muslims living in this country had been continuously facing a number of challenges throughout history. “We have overcome such periods successfully by being calm and patient as per the teachings of Islam. We Muslims should refrain and protect ourselves from major Sins and make sincere efforts towards strengthening the bond with Allah. Certainly, our good deeds would result in peace and prosperity to the Muslims and all others,” he said. He also said the current situation prevailing in the country had resulted in restlessness among the Muslim Community.

Mr. Omardeen said Muslim organizations decided to meet the President, Prime Minister, Muslim Parliamentarians and the concerned Officers to discuss on the appropriate actions to smoothen the situation. He said a committee was appointed to continue the efforts in building better relations and coexistence with other communities.

– See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Some-elements-engaged-in-anti-Muslim-campaigns-ACJU-119656.html#sthash.01gINGMB.dpuf

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Muslim Council Slams Wijeyadasa’s Inflammatory Speech, Says It Will Give Rise To More Tensions

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has strongly objected the statement made in Parliament by the Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe about the Muslim community.

The minister has implied that 32 Muslims have joined the ISIS recently.

Issuing a statement today MCSL president N M Ameen said: “We strongly object to this misplaced statement. The facts given by the Honourable Minister were reported in the media more than one year ago when a Sri Lankan combatant died fighting with ISIS”.

He has pointed out that there have been no new reports of any others involved since this was reported last year.

“It is believed that one family had gone to Syria to provide humanitarian support to the war wounded and refugees. Some of the men are alleged to have joined or forced to join the fighting forces of ISIS. The Muslim community, including the Muslim Council, Jamiathul Ulema and other organizations cooperated with the government in identifying the families to provide the necessary support for the intelligence agencies to investigate. Those who have gone to Syria as quoted by Hon. Rajapakshe include women and children.” he said.

Amen said: “Hon Wijedasa Rajapakshe’s statement comes at a very opportune time to certain extremist elements bent on tarnishing the image of the Muslim community for reasons only best known to them. The Thableeq Jamath, Sunnath Jamath, Thowheed Jamath and Jamaithe Islam and several other organizations are all Muslim religious and social service organisations.

“They do not promote any form of violence as implied by Hon. Wijedasa Rajapakshe. Certain parts of his statement are verbatim of the hate speech spewed by the extremist priest Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero.

“The Muslims of Sri Lanka has a long history of peaceful co-existence and have stood with the Sri Lankans at good times and at times of adversity. The entire Muslim community has condemned the un-Islamic comments of the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath, Abdul Razick. Twenty-three Muslim Religious and Civil Society organizations headed by the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema issued a statement condemning the speech made by SLTJ’s secretary.

“A little known fact that did not attract any media attention in July 2013 was that the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema and Muslim civil society intervened in court in support of Ven. Soranathota Chandrarathana Thero who filed action and pleaded with the magistrate to sentence Abdul Razick and six others with maximum punishment. This is something that we would do irrespective of race or religion as we would expect from our governments in power.

“As alleged by the Hon. Minister, no Muslim international school invites extremists to indoctrinate its children with fundamentalism. Such has been the language of certain countries who created terrorists out of Madrasas in Pakistan to achieve their own ends. We urge Hon. Wijedasa Rajapakshe to provide the evidence and take immediate action against anyone may have violated the laws of the land irrespective of ethnicity or religion.

“The Muslim community is seriously alarmed about the re-emergence of the racist campaign that was carried out by extremist Buddhist monks since the end of the war in 2009. Many youth too have started social media campaigns against the Muslim community. The statements made by the Hon Minster would only help to disturb peace and promote the interests of certain vested interests to destroy our country. We urge the Hon Minister and the Government to investigate this and take appropriate action. We urge the government to take immediate steps to halt all form of extremism and restore peace and harmony for all Sri Lankans.”

Courtesy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/muslim-council-slams-wijeyadasas-inflammatory-speech-says-it-will-give-rise-to-more-tensions/

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Wijeyadasa Repeats Old Story In Parliament And Provokes Anti-Muslim Campaign

Instead of attempting to take genuine efforts to quell rising ethnic tensions among the Muslims and the Sinhalese in the country, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe made a statement in Parliament on Friday, which will very likely fuel the anti-Muslim campaign launched by radical Buddhists in the country.

On Friday, addressing Parliament, Wijeyadasa announced that 32 Muslims had joined ISIS, however, this appeared to be a very similar number as revealed by Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi who told an event in early January this year that 36 Muslims had gone to Syria, some to join ISIS.

“The justice minister appears to be attempting to add fuel to the fire, instead of trying to diffuse the tensions. There is nothing new in this number, this was a number already reported on, so why is he repeating an old number?,” a source noted.

During his speech, Wijeyadasa alleged that the 32 Muslims who had gone to join ISIS were from 4 families who were well connected and well respected. “There is a serious situation brewing in this country,” he said. He also said that people were coming to the country on tourist visas and going to Muslim schools and trying to brainwash students specially in places like Beruwela and Kalmunai.

Wijeyadasa also crticised the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ) and its secretary for making statements against Lord Buddha, however, Wijeyadasa made no mention about the increasing anti-Muslim campaigns in the country, including by the Bodu Bala Sena, which threatened to launch a blood bath from Maligawatta mid this week.

Courtesy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/wijeyadasa-repeats-old-story-in-parliament-and-provokes-anti-muslim-campaign/

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