Wandha pethi and Facebook racism

Saturday, 3 March 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Prime Minister and Minister of Law and Order has suffered a blow as he assumed his new portfolio with the unleashing of violence by some Sinhala Buddhist vigilante groups against Muslims at D.S. Senanayake Veediya, Ampara. The litmus test for the Prime Minister as Minister of Law and Order lies in his willingness to take firm action against violence on minorities and making sure law and order prevail.

A mosque, a local teashop, many vehicles and other property belonging to Muslims were vandalised and burnt, causing millions in losses. 

The extremist mob this time has claimed that Muslims are introducing contraceptive tablets in food sold in restaurants that would make Sinhala men and women barren. They maintain that the Muslims are mixing these dangerous tablets to ensure that the Sinhala population does not grow and the Muslims could become the majority community in the country. Statistical evidence shows that there has been a proportional population growth of all communities since the census of 1871.

The violence in Ampara could not have been a spontaneous reaction by any affected person as hundreds gathered within minutes in the middle of the night. How and why this large group gathered at such short notice at a little known location where this violence broke out needs to be investigated. If it were due to any conflict with the proprietor of the teashop, why would they attack and destroy a mosque, which is 150 metres away from the teashop? 

As in all communal or ethnic violence in the history of Sri Lanka, the Police had arrived after the horse had bolted from the stables. They have failed to arrest any of the culprits who caused so much destruction within a short distance of the Police Station. The local Police Station was not even 100 metres away from the scene of violence and local residents say it took them over one hour to arrive at the scene after it was reported. Serious charges of Police complicity have been levelled for failing to control this racist attack not just in Ampara, but also in Aluthgama and many other places as in the past.

Gynaecologists and health experts confirm that there is no oral pill available anywhere in the world that could make a person barren, yet some Buddhist priests and racists continue to brainwash the average Sinhalese with this canard so that hate is propagated against the Muslim community. Social media has become the main platform for these extremist hate mongers. (blob:https://web.whatsapp.com/58e221c0-0284-471f-a1c9-83e5abfc5637)

This myth of contraceptive use to control the population growth of Sinhala Buddhists by Muslims was created a few years ago to target the textile retail chains owned by Muslim businessmen. There have been periodic calls to boycott Muslim eating-houses, textile retailers, etc. The call to boycott Muslim textile dealers often happens a few months before the Sinhala/Tamil New Year, confirming the suspicion that these are undertaken or financed by commercial interests. 

The usual claim is that toffees mixed with contraceptives were given free to their Sinhala female customers, special contraceptive sprays have been used in lingerie to prevent pregnancy, jells are embedded in brassieres, etc., to affect the reproductive system of Buddhist females. The average Sinhalese started believing these, with growing suspicion and hatred towards Muslims became common in Buddhist majority cities and villages. 

Successive governments have ignored the various complaints made to the Police and to other Government authorities by hundreds of Muslims. A lie repeated continuously convinces many as the truth as even enlightened Buddhists have become suspicious of Muslims.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has called upon the Prime Minister and Minister of Law and Order to investigate these charges through the Sri Lanka Police and Health authorities. They have also requested the authorities to appoint a team of doctors and health scientists to investigate whether there is any possibility of making people barren using any drug introduced through food consumed in restaurants or elsewhere. A thorough investigation and clarification by health experts will dispel this myth and restore peace amongst the different ethnic communities. 

Rupavahini’s 8 p.m. news bulletin of 28 February carried total dismissal of this myth by a few respected doctors. The media should play its role in dispelling this myth.

The majority of Muslims voted for the Yahapalanaya coalition in January and August 2015 mainly because of the extreme racism experienced during the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Now, we witness the re-emergence of that trend in the recent months by hate mongers mainly using social media. Immediate attention is needed by the Government to nip it in the bud. Some may say the bud has already blossomed!

Facebook heroes and hatemongers continue to intimidate Muslims and post live videos threatening violence against innocent people. The Evangelical Christians too face the wrath of these hatemongers. Their churches and prayer centres are constantly attacked and destroyed. Christians participating in prayer meetings are also assaulted. This is a major scam mainly done as a fund raising gimmick for personal monetary gain by a few Facebook heroes. The gullible, especially the Sinhala diaspora, continue to donate to these Facebook heroes. 

Where were these ‘defenders of the Sinhala race’ who are unleashing hate and violence now, during the war? Why did they not have the will or courage to protect country and race then? They now ride on the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers and citizens, on their tears and blood, to realise their personal and political agenda. 

The extremists started their assault on the Muslims by destroying a 400-year-old historic shrine in Anuradhapura and moved to remove a 65-year-old mosque in Dambulla claiming that it was a historic Buddhist city. Between 2013 and January 2015, there were 538 incidents of hate, intimidation and violence against Muslims in different parts of the country. Successive governments have failed to maintain the rule of law to ensure the freedom to practice one’s religion.

Former President Rajapaksa sadly missed a golden opportunity. Yahapalanaya of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should not make the same mistake, to miss the opportunity of uniting Sri Lankans and forging ahead with development to ensure Sri Lanka is placed on the global map for peace and not racial intolerance.

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