Just like in Burma, the recent years have seen the unrest between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority on the upswing in Sri Lanka. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, general secretary of the Sri Lankan ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)—Sinhalese for Buddhist Power Force—actually claims to perceive an international Islamic conspiracy that aims at marginalising the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. He believes his organisation can unite all the Buddhists of the island and turn them into a nationalist force, thus countering this ‘foreseen’ Islamic threat. He has been widely accused of being the mastermind of many anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka and gained notoriety for publicly avowing his racist inclinations. He answers a series of questions posed to him by Pranay Sharma.
After years of ethnic strife, Sri Lanka is trying its best to become used to peace but you seem determined to break it. Why?
This is a completely wrong interpretation. As an organisation, we are working towards peace. The Bodu Bala Sena is working in the path of Lord Buddha. We don’t believe in violence nor in inhuman activities.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist-majority country that also encourages people from other religions to be part of the nation. Do you see a problem with that?
No, we don’t have a problem with that. We value and believe in diversity. Whether you are a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Tamil—you will enjoy the same equal rights. Our concern is more about a number of international elements that are working at destroying the peaceful social fabric of our country. Sinhalas or Buddhists are forming a majority in the country, but we also live in a global society that is structured by global funding, global politics and also global terrorism—all of which now work against global minorities.
When you say ‘global’, precisely which countries do you have in mind?
It is hard to say but most of them are from the Middle East and Saudi Arabia. These are the countries that fund Muslim extremist groups here. There are some countries that also promote fundamentalist Christian groups. I don’t think it is something we should allow to happen. These are attempts to destroy the culture of our country.
What does Bodu Bala Sena stand for?
It stands for forces of Buddhist power. It is to unite all forces that believe in Buddhism. It is to build them up as a nationalist force to protect the Buddhist and Sinhalese rights.
But you have also gone on record saying that you are racist and that you don’t mind being called so?
We are saying so because some people are calling us racists. We don’t mind because we are only working towards protecting our nation. We don’t promote racism nor think that all minorities should leave this country. But the real meaning seems to get lost in translation and taken out of its context. We are not promoting racism. We are only fighting to protect our race. That does not mean racism.
You claim the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka is posing a threat to the majority Buddhist population in the country. But is that really possible and in what way have they posed a threat?
Definitely, they are posing a threat not only to Sri Lanka, but to India as well.
But you do agree that, in terms of numbers, they are a much smaller group?
Yes, they are a minority in number but if you look at their economic power and their international network, they are not a minority. We are aware that the majority of Muslims are innocent, but once they come under the influence of Muslim extremists, they can easily fall into smuggling, illegal weapon handling and even terrorist activities.
Do you take responsibility for the communal violence that took place recently in the Sri Lankan coastal districts of Aluthgama and Beruwala, where victims were mostly ordinary Muslims?
Definitely not. I would request you to go on our website: there is a video that clearly shows how a peaceful gathering was interrupted by Muslim extremists throwing stones at innocent women and children walking down the street.
What about other religious groups, do they also pose a threat to the Buddhists?
There are very small groups of Christian fundamentalists. But they are not only a threat to Buddhists; they are also a danger to Hindus, moderate Christians and Catholics as well.
“Countries in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia are funding extremist groups here. I don’t think we should allow this” Being a Buddhist monk, you take pride in being a religious extremist. Does it not go against the preaching of Gautama Buddha?
No, I don’t think that is true. We are not extremists. In meetings, we may use some words emotionally, but I don’t think they are hate speeches. We work closely with some moderate Muslim groups. We started talking about Muslim extremism only after reports were issued to us by some of these groups. Only then we realised that there is an unseen, unknown Muslim extremism working in Sri Lanka.
What is your relation with President Mahinda Rajapakse? Do you think you are becoming an embarrassment for him?
Sometimes, what we say may be beneficial to him and, at other times, it may be not. Our focus is not to embarrass or make anybody uncomfortable. But, through our preaching, we want to give the necessary protection to our religion.
Most Sri Lankan parties are very critical of you and there is a growing demand for your arrest. Why?
If they think that arresting me is going to solve the entire problem, then I am ready to go to jail. I have no issue with that. But if I have not participated in any criminal activity, how can they put me in jail?
Are they not arresting you because they have not found anything against you or because you happen to be close to the ruling party?
We do not support any political party. But, there are times when we praise the ruling party and there are times when we praise the opposition parties if we think that what they are doing is the right thing. At the same time, if we think that they are doing something wrong, we will criticise them.
The US government has revoked your visa. Does it worry you that you are coming to national and international notice for all the wrong reasons?
I don’t worry so much about this because an American visa is not so important to me. Let the Americans do what they want, they have the right to do so. But I think the US should understand Sri Lanka better. We wish they had got in touch with us before coming out with their views. They are only listening to one side of the story. They should talk to all the relevant parties before drawing any conclusions.
Will there be more violence in the coming days?
I don’t think this violence will continue—though we never know. The violence is not a new phenomenon. In 2009, this Muslim group had attacked a mosque and killed two people. However, this group is only present in that particular area and I don’t think there will be any problem elsewhere. Buddhists are very peaceful people and these problems are created only by such Muslims. They set fire to their own mosque and kill their own people who don’t follow their instructions. This particular area was a hot spot for the past five years and there were some incidents of violence almost every month.
So all the problems of violence are caused by this particular Muslim group and Bodu Bala Sena has nothing to do with it?
Definitely. We should not be blamed. We have not thrown a single stone at anybody. But, these groups are spreading a lot of rumours; they are very powerful, they own some media houses and they have a lot of contacts. But we have tried to be very open about what we do.
Why are they against you?
Because they know we had exposed their plans and it has now become difficult for them to carry out their strategic planning since our intervention.
And what strategic plans have you exposed?
They tried to issue halal certificates. We are not against halal, but they wanted all Sinhalese business people to have these certificates for their products. They managed to get all the hotels, restaurants and others to buy these halal certificates and made a lot of money through them. They are trying to destroy Sinhalese and Buddhist food habits and culture by replacing them with halal culture. That is what we tried to stop and that is the reason why they are against us.
(Gnanasara’s colleague and spokesman Dilantha Withanage helped with the translation.)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Deadly Alliances Against Muslims: NYT editorial
“The time has come to ally internationally,” Galagodaththe Gnanasara, the leader of the radical Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, announced at a convention held in Colombo last month. The guest of honor was Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist radical whose picture Time magazine put on its July 1 cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” The government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ignored pleas by Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian civil groups, fearful of more anti-Muslim violence in their country, to deny Mr. Wirathu a visa. Granting Mr. Wirathu a visa can only reinforce the fears of many Muslims that the government — and perhaps more powerful regional allies — back Bodu Bala Sena, which translates as Buddhist Power Force.
Last week, Mr. Gnanasara claimed he was in discussions “at a high level” with the right-wing Indian Hindu group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak to form what he called a “Hindu-Buddhist peace zone” in South Asia. A Rashtriya Swayam Sevak spokesman, Ram Madhav, promptly denied that there were any such discussions. But Mr. Madhav, now general secretary of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, has written comments sympathetic to Bodu Bala Sena and Mr. Wirathu’s group 969 in Myanmar on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
It is folly for the governments of Mr. Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka, President Thein Sein of Myanmar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, or their political allies, to give even the appearance of tolerating these Islamophobic groups in a region that has too often been convulsed by religious sectarian violence. They should condemn this mad alliance before it can spread further.
China executes 8 militants from Xinjiang for terror attacks
China has executed eight militants from the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province for terrorist attacks including three who masterminded a suicide car bombing in the iconic Tiananmen Square here last year.
The militants were involved in several terror cases connected to the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where China has blamed Islamist separatists for string of attacks that have rocked the country in recent months.
The executions took place after Supreme People's Court upheld their death sentences, state-run news agency Xinhua reported today.
Three of the executed militants, named Huseyin Guxur, Yusup Wherniyas and Yusup Ehmet, masterminded the suicide attack, in which a mother, son and daughter-in-law rammed an SUV loaded with inflammable material into bystanders on the iconic Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing in October 2013. ''
India took 5 years to Hang Kasab and 10 years to hang Afzal Guru.
2. ''Xinjiang militants influenced by foreign terror groups: China
Stepping up security in Beijing and other major cities after suffering its bloodiest terror strike in Xinjiang, China today said the Islamic militants who carried out the attack were influenced by terrorists from outside the country.
"Judging from the terrorist attacks that we have handled up to now, the terrorists are influenced by terror outfits from outside China and exposure to extremism on the internet," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing here.
"Their purpose is to sabotage the peace and stability of Xinjiang and China and achieve their hidden political agenda," he said.
This kind of activity by no means would be allowed by the 1.3 billion Chinese people, Hong said adding that "we will take all necessary measures to crack down on their cruel activities and safeguard the unity, solidarity and dignity of the law of the country".
Indians specially Muslims should learn a lesson .Whenver our Forces arrest a Terrorist hordes of Mullas,Muslims protest and burn buses crying "Beguhaon ko Pakar Liya "
Our Decu Brigade cries "" Insaaf nahin hua ki .Kabhi nahin hua ji .Kabhi hoga bhi nahin ji ""
[[The Sanghis are quoting verses out of Islamic text to blame the present day Muslims for every atrocity conducted by any Islamist.]]
You expose your naked dishonesty when you say Sanghis blame ALL Muslims. The only ones who are blamed are those quoting Islamic verses to inflict atrocities upon non-Muslims, and those like Anwaar who cover up for the former by equating Hindu treatment of Dalits to the murder and rape of non-Muslims by Islamists.
But then expecting honesty from a sickular is like expecting milk out of a bull.
D.L.Narayan, >>>> "Just look at your comments over the past 24 hours. Such naked hatefulness"
>> "Did I target any individual?"
Irrelevant! You targetted Islam. And your hatefulness was blatant and frenzied. You are a disgrace! ANWAAR, DALLAS, UNITED STATES
No matter who you are, wherever you live, you cannot criticise Islam. Muslims think their religion was created by God and hence every verse in that is true today as it was 1400 years ago. No amount of logic or evidence will make them change their mind.
Talibans and mullahs take the literary meaning of those verses, some of those verses are quite violent and intimidating, and are against others who does not follow Islam. Very few, understand their contextual meaning.
By taking religion too far, Muslims are doing irrepairable harm to themselves. But Muslims do not care. They are more interested in the after life than this life. Who will tell them that heaven and hell does not exist anywhere, it is only in the minds.
>> "You are doing the same to Hindus equating hindutvawadis to Hindus."
You are right. Here is the corrected version:
"Hindutvawadis have found a new caste to hate and discriminate against, thanks to the RSS! The new Dalits are called Muslims. Seems Hindutvawadis just can't feel good about themselves unless they have some group to look down upon!"
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