The year we just left behind saw two communal riots, specifically two anti-Muslim riots, one in February in Ampara town and the other in several townships in Kandy Districts in March. Ampara incident was triggered over an unidentified substance in a beef curry at a Muslim owned eatery, which was describes as male contraceptive. The riots in Kandy District were an outcome of an incident where a Sinhalese lorry driver had died after being assaulted by four drunken Muslims.
A third similar mishap which was about to be triggered by the vandalizing of several Buddha statues at Delgahagoda and Hingula in Mawanella area was averted by the timely intervention of the alert leaders of Buddhist and Muslim communities during the last few days of the year 2018.
Who vandalized these Buddha statues? Muslim extremists, Sinhala media has concluded, probably based on the fact that some Muslims have been arrested over the matter. Not clear who did it, Muslims and the Tamil media seem to be attempting to say. They also suspect a conspiracy to implicate the Muslims in the dastardly act, in order to rouse hatred between communities and trigger another communal riot.
Six persons, all Muslims have been arrested over the incident and one of them, according to the media had been arrested while in action. Two others, also a Muslim father and son are said to be evading arrest. The evading father had through a Whatsapp audio clip pleaded innocence of him as well as his son.
Technically, those arrested are still suspects and the case against them has to be proved. Yet, there is no assurance either that they would be proved innocent at the end of the case against them. That is, nobody can rule out the possibility of them having been involved in the crime which could have triggered a nation-wide communal clash. No Muslim politician or organization has come forward to absolve them of the incident. On the other hand, the comments by the Muslims in the social media explaining how Muslims should respect the other religions are an admission or an indication of their suspicion that their fellow members of the community might have been involved in the incident.
"Vandalising religious statues is a means of imposing force on members of other faiths which is against the holy Qur’an which says there is no compulsion in religion. It also decrees to the Muslims not to revile what others worship, leave alone vandalizing"
We cannot rely only on the police investigations to find out the truth, as they have proved their expertise in extracting confessions on any crime even from the most innocent man on earth. A best case in point was the “confession” the Kotadeniyawa Police had extracted from a suspect whom they had nicknamed “Kondaya” over the sexual abuse and killing of five year old girl, Seya Sadewmi of Kotadeniyawa in 2015. Later, they had indicted another person and released “Kondaya.”
When the Ampara incident occurred in last February, all Muslims (and also a majority of Sinhalese) denied the allegation of even the existence of “Vanda pethi” or contraceptives, leave alone mixing them with the beef curry. However, this time nobody among the Muslim community totally ruled out the involvement of some of their fellow men in the vandalizing of Buddha statues, despite them having not admitted the allegation either. Parliamentarian S.M. Marikkar said that the Muslims must repair the statues, while another Parlamentarian, Mujibur Rahman, calling the crime as savage had suggested maximum punishment for the criminals.
Two versions on the motive of the crime have been floated by interested parties. The large majority of the countrymen believe it as a religiously motivated act while a few people attempt to portray the incident as politically motivated, or to say that a political conspiracy was behind the crime. National Freedom Front (NFF) leader, Wimal Werawansa who prefers to see a Tamil conspiracy behind every vile or vice act occurring under the sun had stated that the government was behind the incident in order to please the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with a Sinhalese-Muslim racial riot. However, the logic in his argument is incomprehensible.
Yet, given the nature of Sri Lankan politics, one cannot completely rule out the involvement of politicians or some officials with vested interest in this dastardly crime. For instance, the inaction of the law enforcement authorities during the anti-Muslim riots in the Kandy District in March somewhat corroborated the allegation later made by Namal Kumara that some senior police officials were behind the riots.
"Yet, given the nature of Sri Lankan politics, one cannot completely rule out the involvement of politicians or some officials with vested interest in this dastardly crime"
The statement purportedly given by one of the suspects to the police that they had vandalized the Buddha statues as the holy Qur’an teaches to believe in only one God corroborates the version that the incident was religiously motivated. Muslims believe in one God, a God who is in everything and all over the universe and thereby figureless. Hence, they believe that finding the God in statues or idols or making idols in His name is a rejection of His very nature. Also they do not accept erection of statues or drawing of pictures of living creatures of the God either, except for the purpose of education.
If the purported statement by the suspect is true, he might have meant this universality of God. If in fact they were the culprits and if this was the rationale behind their dastardly crime, they seem to be absolutely mistaken and not understood the basics of their own religion. The Islamic teaching on idol worshipping is not accepted by the non-Muslims. It is their inalienable right. Thus Buddhists worship the statues of the Buddha and various other deities. Despite not having statues or pictures of God, the creator, Christians, irrespective of their denominations worship statues of Jesus, Mary and many saints. Hindus have idols of so many deities they believe in. This is also their right.
"Islam is a religion that recognizes the rights of the non-Muslims to practise their religions. As the suspect had been purportedly quoted by the above news item as saying, the holy Qur’an insists on the existence of one and only God"
Islam is a religion that recognizes the rights of the non-Muslims to practise their religions. As the suspect had been purportedly quoted by the above news item as saying, the holy Qur’an insists on the existence of one and only God. But the same Qur’an asks the Prophet to tell the other religious communities “I do not worship what you worship, you do not worship what I worship, I will never worship what you worship, you will never worship what I worship, you have your religion and I have mine.” What more religious freedom one needs than this? If the suspect really had quoted the holy Qur’an to justify their crime, it clearly shows that they have not understood this small chapter in the same Qur’an.
On the premise of the statement by the said suspect one has to raise another important question. If they really prompted to vandalise the statues by the teachings of the Islam, how can they send their message to the idol worshippers by fleeing after vandalizing them stealthily in the dead of night? Besides, now they have been compelled to tell hundreds of lies to escape the long arm of the law. No religion sanctions lies even in the name of it. Neither Islam nor the suspects, if they are the real culprits, would gain anything, nor would a single Buddhist get a good impression on Islam or Muslims through this kind of provocations. We have witnessed in many places in the world in the past that provocations against other religions brings in nothing but disgrace in return.
"We cannot rely only on the police investigations to find out the truth, as they have proved their expertise in extracting confessions on any crime even from the most innocent man on earth"
Vandalising religious statues is a means of imposing force on members of other faiths which is against the holy Qur’an which says there is no compulsion in religion. It also decrees to the Muslims not to revile what others worship, leave alone vandalizing.
Yet, we have to repeat two points. One is that suspects are innocent until they are proven guilty. Secondly, unlike the period before 2014, religious leaders in the country are more dedicated to maintain the communal harmony which was proved again in
this as well.