by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 4, Rajab, 1433)
Buddhists are supposed to be non-violent and peaceful people. Many no doubt are. Their monks dress in simple clothes and lead a frugal existence spending most of their time in chants and meditation.
Violence is virtually unknown among them. These are based on the teachings of Buddha, or so we are told. So how does one explain the behaviour of monks that went on a rampage in Dambulla, northeast Sri Lanka, on April 20? The monks led a mob of Sinhalese and attacked a 60-year-old masjid claiming it was built on their “sacred land.” The attack occurred when Muslims had gathered for Jumu‘ah (Friday afternoon) Salah. Not only was the masjid vandalised, but attendees were also attacked and humiliated. One monk stripped himself naked inside the masjid to humiliate Muslims and violate the sanctity of its sacred space.
Attacking and humiliating Muslims has now become routine in much of the world. Masjids and Muslim women are special targets. The 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was destroyed in December 1992 by a Hindu mob led by L. K.Advani, a Hindu fascist political leader. The masjid attack was not unexpected. Hindu fanatics had mobilized thugs from all across India for weeks prior to converging on Ayodhya. Hindus living abroad were mobilized and urged to make donations. A group of Hindu fascists in Canada donated a gold brick for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of the demolished masjid. These Hindus were never accused of aiding and abetting terrorism.
Similar plans are afoot to destroy Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site and the first qiblah. The Zionists claim it stands on the site of their temple that was twice destroyed by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. No trace of the “temple” exists but that has not deterred the Zionists, like their fellow travellers, the Hindu fascists in India, from pressing ahead with their nefarious plans. It seems everybody has a “sacred” site when it comes to demolishing masjids. Muslims have no right to their sacred space.
In each of the three cases — Dambulla Masjid in Sri Lanka, Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem — there is also official complicity in these acts of vandalism. In Sri Lanka, the government, far from apprehending the culprits, has told the Muslims to build a masjid elsewhere. During the Dambulla Masjid attack, police and other security forces stood by while monks went on a rampage and egged on the unruly mob that appears to have been brought from outside the town. Local Sinhalese were not involved in the attack, according to eyewitnesses.
The Buddhist Sinhalese constitute 70% of Sri Lanka’s population. They have been emboldened by the military defeat of the LTTE, the Tamil militant group that was wiped out in 2009. Tamils are Hindus. Muslims and Christians make up other minorities in Sri Lanka. Since the 2009 victory over Tamils, Buddhist monks have started targeting masjids, churches and Hindu temples, all on the pretext that these are built on their “sacred land.” Far from protecting the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka, the government has sided with the militant monks and a wave of Sinhalese chauvinism has gripped the island. The Tamil uprising lasted nearly 30 years. Instead of learning any lessons from that disaster, the Sri Lankan government appears to have become puffed up and government ministers as well as opposition Sinhalese have started issuing threats to the minorities to behave or else.
The attitude of Muslim politicians as well as some of the religious leaders especially with links to madrasahs in India has been quite shocking. Instead of standing up for the rights of the aggrieved Muslims, they have either keep mum or told the Muslims to forget about the vandalism at Dambulla Masjid and move elsewhere. With such leaders, it is not surprising that militant monks have been further emboldened. It is indeed a difficult time for the Muslims of Sri Lanka, a completely law-abiding community that has lived in peace and harmony with all groups for centuries.