Colombo, 31 January, (Asiantribune.com):
Bodu Bala Sena requests the Sinhala Buddhist not to consume any food that is branded as ‘Halal’. The Buddhist organization announced that they have requested Sinhala Buddhists not to consume such Halal foods, but insisted that they have never demanded the Government to ban the sale of Halal foods in the country.
Bodu Bala Sena told Asian Tribune that according to Buddhism they offer as a part of their prayers, wholesome foods to Lord Buddah and in those offerings the Halal foods that were offered to some other God in some other religion should not be included .
The Buddhist organization went on to elaborate that the concept is, if we want to offer food or something in our ‘Buddah Poojava’ we don’t even touch or taste it . But in the case of halal foods, it has been already offered to their God – Allah and we don’t want to use that halal foods prepared according to the guidelines gathered from the Qu’ran and we should not make such foods as offerings in our Buddah Pooja or offer to Buddhist monks, said Dr. Dilanthe Withanage, Coordinator, Bodu Bala Sena.
Dr. Dilanthe Withanage is one of the executive committee members of the Bodu Bala Sena. He is one of the lay members of the Buddhist organization and is the coordinator.
Earlier, he was a Lecturer in the University of Jayawardenepura, as well as in the Colombo University. At present he is attached to Senior Minister S. B. Nawinna’s Office and involved in the preparation of a National Policy for the Consumer Welfare in Sri Lanka.
In an exclusive interview with Asian Tribune , he went on to say, “Our focus is to work for Buddhism in this country, at the same time we do work with other ethnic and religious groups as well. Of Course we will oppose any fundamental groups which are involved in any or in all kind of extremist activities.”
He went on to say that when making reference about our Buddhist organization, we request the media organizations that they must consider to contact them and clarify whether there are any truth in any of those allegations raised before publishing any reports about them.
Denying involvement in attacking Muslims
Dr. Dilanthe Withanage, further said that recently the Gulf News published an article saying that Bodu Bala Sena is a leading terror group in Sri Lanka. They have also claimed that we have done many attacks against Muslims. He denied those allegations and said that Bodu Bala Sena was not involved any of those attacks. He added that we learnt that some other groups were involved in many of those incidents.
Asian Tribune pointed out that there are allegations that your organization was involved in the attacks of Muslims religious places – Mosques.
Bodu Bala Sena’s coordinator denied and said “No never, ever.”
He said that we can challenge anybody whether they can prove any such allegations against us. We don’t do that. We condemn such acts against any religious places of worship.
Dr. Dilanthe Withanage said I remember once we received an information from one Muslim leader that one group of Buddhist monks were carrying a picture of a swine saying it was ‘Allah’ into a Muslim place of worship and then we immediately talk to authorities and asked them to take stern action against that group of monks. We definitely condemn any such irreligious activities.
He further said, “We are a very popular organization and it was unfortunate that we are being blamed bluntly for any anti-religious activities without any investigation and they just make allegations on hearsay and simply place the blame on Bodu Bala Sena.
He said, we use to work very closely with the people in Jaffna and other places and we are not ‘religious maniacs’ or fanatics. Of course in our organization we have different types of people and we work very closely with different communities. Already we had discussion with Mr. A. Vinayagamoorthy – a TNA MP. We have indicated our intention of having some more round of talks with TNA MPs. In case if they have any issues then let us discuss with them, because in dialogue only we believe in. We don’t believe in either violence or we don’t believe in any arms conflict.
In fact we want Buddhist priests to have dialogue with the Tamil community. Because what we are seeing is that even the Buddhists monks too are unable to understand the grievance of the Tamils, because majority of the monks live in Colombo. We learnt that Tamil Community sometimes thinks that the Buddhist monks are armed with weapons and up in arms to destroy the Tamils. Indeed there remain some misunderstandings between the Buddhist monks and the Tamils as a whole. We indeed wanted to establish direct link with the Tamil community and speak with them directly, because TNA MPs speak only about their problems and we also understand and suggest them with some solutions, but at the same time we also had discussion with various Muslim groups as well.
Asian Tribune told that we learnt that you all have taken up the issue of ‘Halal Foods’ as a big subject for contention?
Bodu Bala Sena coordinator said, actually it is a misunderstanding. We never asked the government or anybody to ban halal foods. But we requested Buddhists not to consume halal food.
Asian Tribune asked whether there was any reason?
He said, we belief that we don’t want halal foods.
Asian Tribune asked to explain the Bodu Bala Sena’s contention on the Halal foods.
He said, actually when halal food was introduced to Sri Lanka , we don’t have any problems about our Muslim brothers and sisters eating halal foods.
But in this society, majority of the people don’t want to have halal foods. Because there are couple of reasons for that position. When the Muslims make halal food, the requirement is that they should utter prayers to ‘Allah’ before slaughtering any animals.
But according to Buddhism, as well as even in Hinduism, we should offer to Lord Buddha or to any Hindu deity wholesome foods and not any foods that have been offered even by way of prayers to some other God in some other religion.
That is our religious concept. The concept is that if we want to offer something in our ‘Buddah Poojava’ and when we give food as offering to that poojava, we don’t even touch or taste those foods offered. But if you look at halal food, it has been already offered to their God – Allah.
Therefore we don’t want to use that type of halal foods in our Buddha Pooja or to our Buddhist monks.
Rights to the Tamils
In the meantime, Asian Tribune asked whether your organization likes Tamils to be given their due rights?
Dr. Dilanthe Withanage said, “Definitely. I don’t think that they should be given rights. I don’t understand it. If they have rights then they should enjoy it. As humans – Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims in this country must have equal rights.
Asian Tribune also asked Bodu Bala Sena’s stance on the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution?
He said, on the 13th Amendment – We don’t believe in devolution of power based on land, religion or on any other activities. I think on the subject of devolution of power, we look at it differently. I won’t be able to explain in English and explain fully in this conversation. My feel is that power should be with the people.
Unfortunately, now the power is with the politicians. Now what will happen is that power will be transferred to some other people in other parts of the country and in fact it will never be devolved to the people, because we don’t have proper system where democracy is practiced. If you look at the present situation and if you have the power devolved, then it will amount taking some of the power from the leader of the country, to some other leaders in some other part of the country. It will not fulfill the aspirations and rights of the ordinary people. He said that, what I feel is that we are still looking at the old fashion world.
For example, if we look at Europe 30 years ago, they were fighting to merge all different countries into one Union of Europe. Unfortunately when Europeans were working like that, to make European countries to enter the European Union, we Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils who are living in Sri Lanka were fighting with arms to divide this small country into smaller parcels.
Actually , what we need is not power devolution, but what we need is that all citizens must have equal rights in this country. Let them live in any part of the country. For example if you look at Colombo, I believe that Tamils live here very peacefully. Of course we had some problems earlier. We completely disagree with the subject of devolution of power based on language, based on religion and based on anything.
We fight for equal rights, we fight for everybody to have peaceful means and power devolved to people.
Asian Tribune asked whether his organization was interested in entering politics like the JHU?
He said, Never .. never. Our Buddhist monks wanted to be above politics .
But understand that, no one can say that we are not involved in politics, but we will not form political parties, our monks will not participate in elections, but we will discuss definitely politics. Without politics, I don’t think we can even eat or drink, he said.
When asked for the total number Buddhist monks in Bodu Bala Sena, he was vague and said, actually thousands of Buddhists monks are involved, but they are not our members. Only they are our supporters.
When responding to another question regarding the necessity to form the Bodu Bala Sena, he said, for the last 500 years, Portuguese, Dutch and British ruled our country and what we feel was that there were so much of pressure brought on to our Sinhala Buddhists in this country. After independence, successive governments failed to promote Buddhism in this country.
Asian Tribune pointed out that Buddhism is given the foremost place in the Constitution of this country?
He said , It is only empty words and a statement.
When asked whether you don’t believe that Government has done enough to promote Buddhism? Dr. Dilanthe Withanage said I am not blaming the present Government, but I am blaming all the previous successive Governments since from the independence of Sri Lanka. If things happen to promote Buddhism, we could not have had this war raging for the last 30 years. We would not have these type of unethical killings and bloodletting that is happening in this country. Buddhism is not promoted properly in Sri Lanka.
Asian Tribune pointed out that there is an allegation from the people in the other religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism that the government is not promoting their religions.
He brushed aside the question and said, that is their claim, but what we are saying is only, and it was all about Buddhism.
What I am saying is we have Pereheras, Vesak Kudus, Dhansalas and everything. That is not Buddhism.
He said that kindly understand that Buddhism is where people understand the humanity, respect other people, and they have better values and he lamented unfortunately that is not promoted here. He continued to say that Buddhism is a ‘Philosophy where we mostly focus on humanity.’
Asian Tribune also pointed out that Lord Buddha practiced anti –Brahmanism and he was against the concept of God and worshiping.
He said, that is what I am trying to say. If you look at what people understand here about promoting Buddhism, it means to have more Vesak Lanterns during the Vesak, to have more Dhansalas, to have more Pereheras and if some people think that as Buddhism, then Governments for the last 60 year have promoted Buddhism. But what we are thinking about is promoting a just society. That is the Buddhist society.
– Asian Tribune –