In shades reminiscent of Nazi fascism of yesteryear, Buddhist militancy in Sri Lanka has lately begun to rear its ugly head of intolerance towards the island's minorities. A massive rally was held in the capital city of Colombo last week by the belligerent Sinhalese Buddhist group, the Bodu Bala Sena, and the message was very explicit.
"This is a Government created by Sinhala Buddhists and it must remain Sinhala Buddhist.
This is a Sinhala country, Sinhala Government. Democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race."
In speeches charges with provocative rhetoric, the group's party leaders demanded that
President Mahinda Rajapaksa ensures the protection of the "sacred Sinhala franchise' that swept him into power. Extremist monks denounced Muslim practices, such as their use of conservative clothing referring to it as "gorilla' outfits, and have called for a total ban on halal products for the community. Clad in white or t-shirts bearing a "No-Halal' slogan, the supporters carried Buddhist flags and cheered enthusiastically when extremist Bodu Bala Sena monks denounced particular Muslim practices.
The word "halal' means permitted or lawful. Halal foods are foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines. According to these guidelines extracted from the Quran, Muslim followers cannot consume certain foods that include pork, animals that were dead prior to slaughtering, carnivorous animals and birds of prey. The rulings also include animals not slaughtered properly or humanely.
Whipping the mob into frenzy during the demonstration in the capital, the mob leaders exhorted the crowds to become a vigilante Sinhalese self-appointed civilian police force against Muslim practices and businesses. "From today onwards, each of you must become an unofficial civilian police force against Muslim mannerism. These so-called democrats are destroying the Sinhala race," Gnanasara Thero, one of the mob leaders exhorted at the frenzied crowds. He also vented anger against evangelical Christians who, he claimed, were attempting to perpetuate Christian extremism in the country.
Another leading Bodu Bala Sena monk said that pluralistic values had robbed the Sinhala people of money, jobs and enterprise. "This is a Sinhala country; there is a global principle that minorities must reside in a country in a manner that does not threaten the majority race and its identity."
Issuing a direct challenge to the government, the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary said the organization would give the administration until 31 March to ban the halal certification. "Don't make us take the law into our own hands," the monk announced in his ultimatum, pledging to commence a relentless anti-halal campaign until the Government announced the ban halal products by 31 March.