by Dharisha BastiansConcerns are being raised internationally about the growing intolerance of Muslims, led by a Sinhala chauvinist group calling themselves the Bodhu Bala Sena with a heavy contingent of saffron-robed monks at their helm. The group is agitating against what it calls Muslim infiltration of the Sri Lankan food and cosmetics industry, the alleged conversion of Sinhalese girls marrying Muslim youth and all manner of other atrocities being allegedly perpetrated on the majority community by conspiring fundamentalist Muslims.
Incongruously, a leader of the Bodhu Bala Sena group is advocating that Sri Lankans laws be changed to permit a Sinhalese man to wed five women, in order to propagate the Sinhala race.
Many of the claims by the groups would be funny if they did not project disastrous communal tension and if they were not being given a free pass by the authorities to rage against Muslim places of worship and Muslim enterprises. Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem denounced the violence in front of No Limit Maharagama this week. Not a single arrest has been made following the riot.
Minister Hakeem bemoans the impotence of the law and order machinery that remained mute in the face of this hate speech and violence perpetrated by a minority community. But critics say his Party continues to be a key ally of a ruling regime that is – even tacitly – promoting this demonisation of the other without acting with decision against those who try to inflame communal passions.
UNP Kegalle District MP, Kabir Hashim is reportedly deeply concerned about the anti-Muslim trend and even raised the issue at the party’s Working Committee meeting held on Monday (21). Hashim told UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that the UNP has always stood for communal harmony and commands the support and goodwill of all minority communities in the island. He said that it was the duty of the UNP to be proactive in this situation and ensure that the rabid passions of chauvinists being given a free hand under the ruling administration do not allow the country to lapse back into violent crisis.
If the handling of the impeachment crisis was anything to go by, the country’s main Opposition party will have little role to play in determining the trajectory of this latest onslaught against a minority community. Hatred and intolerance of the other and the creation of enemies, domestic and foreign has become so much a part of the national lexicon, largely perpetuated by the incumbent political leadership, has created the space necessary for the emergence of a movement such as the Bodhu Bala Sena.
Whispers of its initial activity, actively supported by some members of the ruling coalition in the beginning, went largely ignored and like all monsters, it has grown quietly in the dark, threatening hatred and violence that a country coming out of 30 years of ethnic strife should have learned by now, to remain constantly vigilant about.