Category Archives: Muslims in Lanka

Reflections on the Violent Buddhist Responses to Islam in Lanka and Burma

Stephen Labrooy

Ravi Velloor’s  article in THUPPAHI drew a private comment from Stephen Labrooy in Sri Lanka which is food for thought in itself, but carries particular value because it comes from Sri Lankan Burgher of some seniority[1] who has travelled abroad and presently serves as President of the Dutch Burgher Union. I have queries on several points and raised just two hurriedly (see below); but the “memorandum” has useful ethnographic information, while running several inter-related arguments. Hence its airing here.

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Buddhist Monks on Violent Paths. How Come? An Essay in Mid-2013

Alan Strathern, in BBC News,  on 2 May 2013, ….  repeat 2013, with the title being  “Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?”

Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

At the annual Ananda Harvest Festival in Bagan, Myanmar, thousands of monks from all over Myanmar came to receive alms. While walking around the vast temple grounds, I chanced upon this boy monk who was playing with his toy gun. Even though it was only a toy gun, I found this image a disturbing juxtaposition of the peace that Buddhism embodies and the violence that guns symbolise.

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Striking Views of Galle Fort as Heritage Site

Juliet Coombe,  in Daily News, 29 September 2017, where the title is “The Rich Heritage of Galle Fort”

Juliet Coombe takes a look at this very special UNESCO World Heritage Site and its magnificent rampart walls and fascinating back streets.

Enter the old fortress built out of breathing corals as the main black tunnel gate by the cricket grounds opens up into a gash of bellowing air, with distended creepers riding pillion on giant Banyan trees hobnobbing with an ancient merchant caste. A strange choreography can always be detected here, with the musical call to prayer emanating from the mosque or the temple’s sound system merging with the toots of ice cream vendors’ bicycle horns and other hot and spicy snacks and pickle vendors plying the sonorities of their trade as the Indian Ocean thunders and whooshes by, barfing on the black rocks its named aft. Continue reading

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The War is Past. Paradise is Regained

Michael Buerk,  in the The Telegraph, 5 September 2017, where the title is “The war is history: Michael Buerk returns to Sri Lanka” ** Note Editorial Comment at End 

The Tigers’ lair was deep in the jungle. It was difficult to find and tough to get to; two hours jolting, semi-prone, in a trailer dragged by a tractor, watching for mines. This was a war zone for decades. The paddy fields were abandoned long ago to the peacocks and their perpetual courtship, dozens of them everywhere, each male made fabulous by desire. The man-made lake that once fed the fields was covered in lotus flowers. A crocodile basked on a rock in the shallows, jaws gaping as if in wonder at the lonely beauty of it all. Well into the thicker brush, down a maze of paths and tunnels through the thorn trees, we came first to what was left of the Tigers’ guard post. Just rubble now where 30 fighters held part of the perimeter of what was, in effect, a separate state. Their latrine, the only recognisable structure left, was now home to a 15ft Indian rock python.

  Buerk was in Sri Lanka for the BBC at the beginning of the war, in the Eighties

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Anguish!! Reading Mike

 Image from http://sangam.org/sachis-files-chapter-4-2/ by Sachi Sri Kantha, 16 October 2015,

When the essay “Anguish as Empowerment …A Path to Retribution” was presented on the 22nd March 2017, I received several private email comments from good friends. My recent little essay on Ëxtremist Cricket Fans” has led me to look over this set of remarks and a tirade of sorts directed at me by an embittered Tamil nationalist named Kathiravan espousing the cause of Eelam in February 2011 in the Blog Comments within Colombo Telegraph (and rehashed by me in Thuppahi = see ……………………….……………. https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/an-angry-tamil-kathiravan-confronts-roberts/).

The unsolicited readings are too valuable to lie in the cupboards and I am waxing bold by presenting them to the world without the permission of my friends within the present reflections on EXTREMISM. Continue reading

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Ethnicity in Riposte at a Cricket Match: The Past for the Present 

 Michael Roberts,  a reprint of an article  published originally in Comparative Studies in Society and History 1985, vol. 27: 401-429.  which is also available in in M. Roberts, Exploring Confrontation, (Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994). **

      I. PRELUDE

Some recent essays on the relationship between history on the one hand and anthropology and/or sociology on the other concentrate on the differences in the material with which the typical practitioner deals and the types of issues likely to be addressed (Thompson 1972, 1976, 1977; Davis 1981). They have tended to compare the perspectives that anthropologists[1] and historians bring into their work. And both E. P. Thompson and Natalie Z. Davis advocate increasing mutual borrowing from each discipline: they wish the one discipline to deepen its sensitivity and to avoid the usual pitfalls by drawing on the strengths of the other. Thus, by way of illustration, one finds Thompson arguing that historians tend to be more attentive to the paradoxes and ambivalences of actual men, and that they are attuned to the discipline of context because of this attentiveness to heterogeneity, a strength which sociologists[2]—who, he says, tend to overgeneralize and to swallow heterogeneity through the manufacture of neat typologies—would be well advised to draw upon (1976: 387,394). Continue reading

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Chandraprema on Gnanasara Thera in 2014

C. A. Chandraprema, in …5 July 2014,  with the title “Gnanasara Thera & the UNP” — a repetition of this article from 2014 in the light of Dayan Jayatilleka’s recent intervention and the clutch of news items and articles on hate-speech and Sinhala Buddhist –Muslim tensions

Last week, the cat jumped out of the bag when the US Embassy in Colombo cancelled Galagodaatte Gnanasara thera’s US visa. When this writer asked the US embassy in Colombo in a previous column how this monk had gone to the USA after he had begun this campaign of hatred and incitement of violence, we assumed that he had entered the USA on the kind of single entry visitor’s visa that ordinary mortals like us get after answering a whole string of questions and producing copious documentation. Now it turns out that he had a five- year multiple entry visa which had been granted to him in 2011 and had not yet expired. The US authorities appear to have panicked that if this monk made another visit to the USA on this visa in the middle of all this controversy, their role in all this mayhem would be badly exposed.

 Gnanasara Thero Continue reading

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