Sunday, March 24, 2013

THINK – Has our Desire for an ethnic and religious identity made us lose our value for humanity?

After the exhaustion of a three decade war and the having the taste of a country free of bloodshed over the last four years still we see that racism exists in modern day Sri Lanka. If we do not act accordingly now Sri Lanka will be heading into another ethnic conflict which results in bloodshed. We are currently witnessing voices being raised again in support of racism. While the issuing of the “Halaal Certificate” has been a talking point for everyone it has been the root cause for many extremists to find it as an excuse to raise their extremist views. Recently I was shopping in the streets of Colombo with my teacher and the bitter experience that we had to go through made us realize that how bad the tensions have been between the Muslim and Sinhalese communities.

I was wearing a shalwaar (Clothing which most Muslim women wear) while on the streets of Colombo doing shopping with my school teacher. The exhausting heat of the sun made me wear the shawl of the Shalwaar wrapped around my head. This can be defined as a common sight in Sri Lanka to see Muslim women wearing a shawl on top of their head as an obligation to their religion. But once I entered a shop with a shawl wrapped around my head. I suddenly realized that a worker at the shop was staring at me in a rather peculiar manner. Suddenly one of the worker’s at the shop pointed her finger at me and told my teacher “She is Halaal”. Outraged in disgust by the words that she uttered I asked the worker “Why? Will you not sell any clothes to Muslims?” utterly disgusted and saddened by the incident which had taken place, I walked out of the shop without buying anything. I came to the conclusion that there was no use of having an unnecessary quarrel with someone who does not understand the situation and that she is only pawn in this game. Still I strongly believed that this story should be told to the world for them to open their eyes on where the country is leading itself into.

It does not matter whether we are Muslims or Sinhalese, what we all should understand is that we are all humans. Having born into the world as an infant we would be given labels of a race or a religion. We come to choose our religion not because of we were given the independence in selecting it but because of what our parents follow as a religion. However we should remember that our ethnicity/race is to complete our identity and our religion is a guide to live in harmony while helping us in being a good citizen of the country. Although we all have been singing national anthems like parrots it seems a majority of us do not seem to understand the meaning of the words it contains. A verse in our National Anthem says (Eka mawakage daru-kala bawina, yamu yamu wee nopama) “Together as children of one mother, let us move without delay” by Mr. Ananda Samarakoon was accepted by all citizens of Sri Lanka as the national anthem, but now it seems that it’s just another song among a thousand others.

Not all Muslims understand Buddhism and not all Buddhists understand Islam. There is an ancestral saying which says if you try to explain something that you do not understand is similar to a blind trying to describe an elephant. Any one should understand that accusing a race or ethnicity without sufficient knowledge of it is an act of disgust and can lead to rather disastrous consequences.

Apart from the Halal Issues another pitiful act of some of the extremist groups have been the accusation made against attire worn by Muslim women in society. All Muslim women should have the right to wear the Abaaya in Sri Lanka according to the laws of their religion and the laws of the country.

There were sixty two different religions in India at the time of Lord Buddha. But, Lord Buddha has never said “this religion is wrong, don’t follow it, follow mine” at any point. Once Nigantanatha Puthra, who was a religious leader of another religion had one of his follower’s called Upali was sent to humiliate Lord Buddha, but having talked to Lord Buddha he then started to follow Buddhism as his religion. Although Upali now became a Buddhist, Lord Buddha had asked him to continue his regular hospitality and respect for Nigantanatha Puthra as he respected the existence of other religions.

Think, when two religions becomes center point for causing hatred will this not cause another ethnic conflict which will lead the country into another war. No religion promotes hatred rather peace and harmony into the hearts of people. As Sri Lankans we need to find unity in diversity and have the courage to stand up against those who promote racism.

Written by A Sinhala Buddhist Student from Polonnaruwa

1 comment:

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