Monday, June 16, 2014

Buddhist violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka

In some of my older articles I have mentioned the nexus between the murderous Buddhist zealots in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. As a matter of fact, the ties are much deeper for such extremists and bigots, and not just limited to those two Buddhist-majority countries. 

As the latest report on Buddhist violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka suggests there is an increasingly alarming similarity between the crimes of bigoted Buddhists against Burma’s Muslim minority and a rising tide of violence against the Muslims of Sri Lanka.

Here I share below the latest information from a newspaper:

Government sources in Colombo protest that there is no resemblance, arguing that the big difference is that no one has been killed in attacks on mosques and Muslim homes in Sri Lanka. Though unofficial reports have suggested that there has been at least one Muslim fatality, there can be no doubting the savagery of attacks on Muslim properties.

The vicious campaign by monks belonging to the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the Buddhist Brigade, began in earnest in 2013 when a mob attacked a mosque in the capital, which left five people injured. The authorities imposed a clampdown and the police said they at the time that they knew who the attackers were. However, it is not clear that any arrest have ever been made.

Now Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, which makes up around ten percent of the population, has been subjected to further serious attacks by the BBS. This week, after a rally of members in the town Aluthgama, a crowd, many of them monks, set off on a spree of destruction, burning shops and damaging a mosque. It is reported that police did little to intervene until angry Muslims began to strike back at the mob.

A curfew has now been imposed on the town. Using social media, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised an investigation into the violence. The culprits in the BBS are of course well known locally in Aluthgama, but Muslim community leaders are not hopeful that any criminal charges will be laid against them.

Nor is there much faith in Rajapaksa promised enquiry. It is not rocket science to see that the monk-led BBS, very probably inspired by the depravities of its counterpart in Burma, lies at the heart of the troubles. The public grounds for their protest are weak. They revolve around a complaint that the Muslim’s enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence. It is no comfort to this fearful minority that the BBS has also in the past attacked Christian churches and properties.

What will be so puzzling for many outsiders is how Buddhists, whose core belief is supposed to be non-violence, can take part in such aggressive and hate-filled crimes. There is some justice to the thought that as a result of the long and bitter fight against Tamil Tiger separatists, many Sri Lankans have been brutalized. And indeed it may be no coincidence that assaults on the Muslim community, only began to pick up once the Tamil separatists had been defeated. It is as if some Buddhists now feel that they must turn their anger on a different minority.

The Buddhist thugs in Burma of course have no such excuse. Though the rule of the Burmese military junta was harsh and the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations cruel and violent, militant action against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups in the country has long been officially sponsored. Thus Rohingya have been robbed of their citizenship and civil rights. Events in Sri Lanka have not yet reached such a low level. Nevertheless, the Rajapaksa administration should be aware that unless it acts firmly to stop the hate-filled crimes of the BBS, a watching world will become even less impressed with Sri Lanka’s already dubious human rights record.

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