Radical Buddhist Monks Threatening to Muslims
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
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 inviting 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 girl 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 “Aadishtana 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 ethnoreligious minority communities living in the island.