Let’s face it. The truth could be bitter but a large number of SinahalaBuddhists, either openly or silently approve the current wave of hate campaign against the Muslim community. Some of them might criticize the violence, but in their mind, they like what is happening. If you have not seen many of your Facebook friends openly supporting BBS that could be because most of your friends are from educated professional upper middle class or upper classes in the city. The only Buddhists that I have seen who vehemently criticize BBS are from either the social elites or culturally western oriented. The ordinary Buddhists from middle class and lower middle class background with traditional upbringing living in cultural “ghettos” are highly polarized already, and they support the chauvinism and the hegemony, openly or silently. As someone hailing from such a cultural background, I know that many of my relatives, ex-neighbors (“ex” because I am not in Sri Lanka right now) are not so bothered about rising tide of Fascism. For them (who do not even know what Fascism is) the ideology supported by BBS seems to be favorable in the short run, as they are trying to create a more favorable economic condition for people with SinhalaBuddhist identity. Who would say NO to that unless they know the final consequences of Fascism.
Let’s face another fact. Most of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka are living in a far worse “cultural ghetto” than above mentioned SinhalaBuddhists. They are living in much closed communities not open to new ideas with respect to the culture. They are being constantly subjected to religious brainwashing. The radical elements of Muslim society, rather than embracing liberal culture, embrace ultra conservative Islamic ideologies. The non-Muslim community in Sri Lanka see that majority of the Muslims sliding more and more into their own ghetto; more demand for Halal food, more Burka or Abaya clad women in the streets, more mosques been built, more people praying in public, more co-workers leaving work midday for prayers and even Abaya clad women in workplaces with covered faces. All these signs are disturbing to non-Muslims and especially to Buddhists as they fear they are been overrun by Islamic expansionism. The ‘fear’ could be baseless or rightful but the fact remains that these signs create fear.
Here we see polarization created by two religious institutions. This is the danger of institutionalized religion. The ritualistic religions are not different from each other, be it Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. They create the “sheep-herd” mentality where you can very easily herd these sheep where ever you want. That’s why BBS could very quickly tap in to the “human resources”. There were already brainwashed carders, and BBS just had to give the marching orders. This is my main problem with organized and institutionalized religion. They create segregation and polarization. This is why I have been and always will be a strong critique of organized religion.
Both these institutions need to set their ideological prisoners free. The environment should change where the individuals in both these polarized communities can think for themselves rather than being told how to think by religious leaders. Religions should pushed to the private space of individuals rather than making it a public concern. Religion is evil in it’s institutionalized form. Time and time again the world history has proved it. Let’s face the facts and act accordingly.
Article by – Prasad Mapatuna