24 February 2017

Will Sri Lanka too end up a ‘Once Buddhist’ nation?

It is a tragic state of affairs when an island nation boasting a written history of over 2600 years held together by Sinhalese Buddhist kings, a nation built by a clear majority would need to appeal to the world feeling alienated by a wave of systematic incursions. That fear stems from the realization that Sri Lanka may face the same predicament that befell all other once Buddhist nations which are today either Islam or Christian as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, South Korea, Indonesia and probably Myanmar and Thailand will be in time to come. Now attempts are afoot to expunge that history and instil a new artificial identity (Sri Lankan) which has no language, culture or history. Why is the world silent on the genocide of one of the most profound religions’ in the world and an ethnic group that should be protected? Buddhists are expected to look the other side, be ‘tolerant’ while the Buddhist heritage & history is expunged & replaced. How morally correct is this?
The incursions taking place in Sri Lanka has world approval by their silence. Religions that had not even been invented when Buddhists were worshiping these are sites are now claiming rights to these places that had been revered by Buddhists. These have turned into multicultural sites and are now being incrementally usurped with false histories.
Should we be passive onlookers and watch centuries of history and heritage be wiped out and replaced?
Of course, the moment fears are presented the automatic reactions is to either shoot down the messenger as being extremist, racist, fundamentalist or similar names or have a few write ups preaching peaceful coexistence to allay the fears and in turn brush the warning signals under the carpet.
This way, valid questions about the incursions, encroachment on Buddhist temple lands, bribing of officials to take sacred land areas, historically non-existent mosques and Churches emerging, use of loud speakers at mosques to drive non-Buddhists away are quietly shoved to a corner.
No majority Buddhist country has treated non-Buddhists as Hindus, Islam, Christianity/Catholicism are being treated in Sri Lanka. Show us one non-Buddhist majority country that has given Buddhists the same freedoms that all the minorities presently enjoy in Sri Lanka inclusive of the ever rising number of religious structures they put up legally & illegally.
However, it is no exaggeration that the only party expected to compromise are the Buddhists for every issue. These demands have been unrelenting and unreasonable. Today, a bunch of foreign funded NGOs have been tasked to draw up the country’s new constitution with their sole aim being to wipe out the historic status of Buddhism and subject it to ceremonial purposes by using foreign funded propaganda to hit at every Buddhist associated ritual and culture and demand its removal – the attempt to remove the perahera elephants using the bogey of animal cruelty was one such attempt exposed in time.
Simple questions end up being twisted to hide the objective. The question with regard to halal certification was simple. If Muslims had eaten food without halal label for centuries why was there a sudden need for a private institute to charge a fee to issue halal certificates on all food items purchased by the whole populace? Import-Export to Muslim countries had been taking place for centuries without halal labels! Was this not a business venture riding on religious rights??? Halal is also not consistent with Coke/Pepsi both of which have 0.001$ alcohol which is one of the most fast moving soft drinks consumed by Muslims.
New dress practices are not religious rights. Cultural practices are not religious rights. Commercial leverages are also not religious rights. Politicizing issues cannot be religious rights too.
All that Government authorities had to do was to give the historical timelines and say “Look, these sites were Buddhist thousand years before Islam or Christianity was invented, how right is it to claim them as your own!” The ignorance of historical timelines is the cause of much of the unnecessarily politicized friction.
Politicians have also failed to show that Muslims never owned land during times of the Buddhist kings not even during colonial rule. Muslims owned land only after 1832. Robert Knox and Portuguese historian Queyroz can be quoted as evidence “Besides the Dutch who possess, as I judg, about one fourth of the Island, there are Malabars, that are free Denizons and pay duty to the King for the Land they enjoy, as the Kings natural Subjects do; there are also Moors, who are like Strangers, and hold no Land, but live by carrying goods to the Sea-Ports, which now are in the Hollanders hands.” (Robert Knox)
If Christian countries can take State measures to protect its Christian history & heritage. If Muslim countries does the same. Why does the world feel it must object to Sri Lanka protecting its Buddhist past?
Why should Sri Lankan politicians feel shy about introducing protection & preservation of its Buddhist past?
Of course, the majority Sinhala Buddhists have lost faith in all ‘Buddhist leaders’ for they all end up falling for the perks and offerings from minorities who are backed by a plethora of foreign sources.
Post-independent governments have failed to clearly articulate that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation. The Buddhist roots cannot be marginalized or replaced. That history cannot be removed by replacing an artificial Sri Lankan identity which is currently in vogue. Sri Lankan identity has no language, no culture – no criteria that advocates an identity of a country. The quest has been to remove the place of Buddhism and the slogans secular, multicultural, multifaith are ploys used for that objective.
No country can have a future without knowing its past. Many countries do not have proud histories. Most countries of the world were occupied, invaded territories which were partitioned and turned into new countries after colonization. Most countries of the world have been subject to artificial boundaries. Sri Lanka is an exception as it is an island nation. At no time was Sri Lanka merged with any other territory. The Sinhalese withstood invasions of South Indians and the 3 European occupiers. It was only as a result of selfish local chieftans that the island was handed over to foreign rulers. This proud past cannot be forgotten other countries do not have such memories to be proud of which is probably why they want us to forget ours.
Communities that were invited, protected by the Sinhale kings are now making aggressive demands. It goes to show how treatment in reverse happens. Majority protected minorities – Minorities demand the end of the Majority.
The minorities demand that the majority must live according to their whims and fancies – where in the world does such happen? The majority are expected to look the other way, silently watch as all their boundaries are crossed and turned into either Hindu, Islamic, Catholic/Christian domains. The majority are not expected to even object and the moment they do the whole world comes down calling them all sorts of names and the latest tactic is to get a handful of namesake Buddhists to run down their own people, for lavish payments of course!
There are reasons for Buddhists of Sri Lanka to fear. Maldives is one good example where its Buddhist history was expunged and replaced with only Islamic history. The Dhanbidhū Lōmāfānu copperplates in Maldives dates to 1193AD and shows how Buddhist monks were beheaded and mosques built on top of Buddhist monuments.
Islam’s iconoclasm entails the destruction of all non-Islamic sites. These are no exaggerations. The manner Islamic invaders destroyed all non-Islamic sites is a perfect example. The importance of the example of Bamiyan Buddhas is that there had been numerous attempts by Islamic invaders from Aurangzeb since 17th century to destroy these statues and succeeded only in 2001.
Mullah Omar states “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them”. The response of the Afghan Foreign Minister was ‘we are destroying the statues in accordance with Islamic law and it is purely a religious issue’. Destroying non-Islamic religious statues is Islamic law and that explains the attacks on Buddhist temples in Bangladesh and Maldives. Does that not merit us in Sri Lanka to worry too? Are we exaggerating or should we too wait in silence until what happened in Bangladesh, Maldives and Afghanistan to happen to our ancient and proud statues in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kelaniya etc!
What good is an apology after a monument of pride has been destroyed. Can it ever be replaced with an apology? Why must people destroy what is precious to a community that built the island?
Therefore, when Sinhalese Buddhist convey their fears – there is a valid reason to do so. They cannot be asked to keep silent and bury their heads as ostriches and expect to get accolades as a ‘tolerant’ and ‘compassionate’ religion while incursions and destructions are taking place.
Yes, ours is not a faith-based religion, ours is a compassionate philosophy giving life to all including animals but that compassion cannot be taken as our weakness and used against us. Many namesake Buddhists are yet to understand the real teachings of Buddha, which is one reason why they too get trapped into the secular slogans and ideology.
The facts speak for themselves. It is unfortunate that politicians have failed to put these facts on the table.
The nation was built not by Christians/Muslims or Hindus. If so, show the evidence not stories. The Sinhala Buddhist past can be seen at every corner of the island.
The architectural, man-made irrigational marvels of Anuradhapura that no other civilization has matched were built long before Islam even originated. It now emerges that iron technology too developed in our island.
Even after systematic destruction of Buddhist monasteries, temples and statues by South Indian invaders and the 3 colonial rulers a significant number of Buddhist structures exists to showcase the extent of Sinhala Buddhist rule throughout the island. You can imagine the structures that would have existed had these not been destroyed.
The Sinhale kings ruled following the Laws of Manu. After Buddhism was introduced, Buddhist customary laws applied to all. There were no forced conversions. No other religions had to fear Buddhism nor did they have to convert. The teachings could be followed by people of other faiths without converting. No other religion gave right to life for animals and it was nothing that other religions could disagree or argue against. No Muslims demanded halal labels or right to animal slaughter during times of the Buddhist kings! Even the British agreed to maintain the status of Buddhism when the Kandyan Convention was signed in 1815. Buddhism has never defined non-Buddhists. No teachings of Buddha advocates how to treat non-Buddhists. However, Islam defines people as Infidels, Zimmis, Kafirs.
The minorities claim peaceful co-existence – how can they explain why they would pass resolutions demanding autonomy if so. How can they explain why they create ghetto minority areas and disallow others from taking residence. In 1976 Tamils passed Vaddukoddai Resolution. The Muslim Congress issued the Oluvil Declaration.
Just like all Tamils are not LTTE but all LTTE were Tamils. All Arabs were not Muslim and all Muslims were not Arabs. Yonas were Greeks not Muslims as is being projected. Arab Christians converted to Islam after the Islamic conquests. These facts all need to come into the open.
The world is in turmoil as a result of incursions. Incursions led to Brexit, it is why Trump came to power. It is why France will see a new leader and why Germany will also see distinct changes. The people of these countries are feeling the incursions and they do not like it. They are also angry at how later-day arrivals are calling the shots and making demands as to how the majority should live. This is exactly how the Sinhalese majority are today feeling. Older culture, traditions and history cannot be bulldozed and replaced with new versions. A nation is not a place for experiments by people who have no culture, history or personal integrity to be proud of.
The Sinhalese majority have never said other communities do not belong. They have never called for other communities to leave the island. All that the Sinhala majority say is that other communities need to respect and not incur upon Buddhist heritage sites and history.
The incursions taking place as a result, forces the majority to identify the Sinhale nation with other once Buddhist nations that were usurped as a result of those natives being asked to just look the other way.
Therefore, people should desist from twisting and turning the real grievances of the majority because all that the majority is trying to do is to preserve the older culture that has existed for over 2600 years against new cultures which are demanding the older culture be replaced with theirs.

Shenali D Waduge