Extremism with a Veneer of Good Faith

Violence against the minorities; especially against Muslim communities in this Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka has increased in the last two years. Religious places were destroyed along with shops and homes that belong to the minority. Sri Lanka suffered its worst religious violence in decades this June, when riots broke out in Aluthgama and Beruwela. Despite the fact that the media was gagged regarding this incident, the truth eventually came to light.

The Bodu Bala Sena, known to many as the BBS has been accused of instigating this violence upon the country. At the Maha Sangha Council the BBS held a few days back, several monks spoke of extremist Muslims and extremist Christians posing a threat to Buddhism. Of course, in that same breath they also said Sri Lanka is not a multi-national country but a country exclusively Sinhala and that someone should re-design the Sri Lankan flag omitting out the parts allocated to the minority. However, that’s beside the point.

What is extremism, in the true sense of word? It is an ideology known to violate the common moral standards. In layman’s terms, extremism is a common idea among a certain group. Now, while this idea is common among the members of said group, it is unacceptable among the rest of us, mainly because it violates the rights of those who don’t believe in it. Extremists are capable of extreme behavior in order to achieve what they want. They are, in a sense, overachievers and dangerous ones at that.
Returning to the case at hand, the BBS claims that Buddhism is in danger due to extremist minorities. The Muslim Council claims that they are in danger due extremist Buddhists. However, what the common man should see here has absolutely nothing to do with either religion, but it has everything to do with politics.

An incident that was discussed behind closed doors this past week was the arrival of monk Wirathu. This monk is widely known as the instigator of the nationalist 969 movement in Myanmar. Sri Lanka and Myanmar share a common Buddhist heritage and have close cultural ties and in Myanmar, Buddhist-Muslim clashes have left at least 250 people dead and tens of thousands displaced since fighting broke out in the country’s western state of Rakhine in 2012.

The fact that the BBS has links with Wirathu’s nationalist 969 movement was cause to some fear and agitation, mainly because the 969 movement is an anti-Muslim movement. When the Aluthgama and Beruwela incidents took place, the BBS leader Galagodaatte Gnanasara was referred to as the Wirathu of Sri Lanka. However, Gnanasara has described both of them as “peaceful monks with no blood on our hands”.

Taking into consideration all the incidents that have so far taken place in the name of this peace, we can safely say that the word has been seriously misunderstood. The main problem here isn’t the word extremism per say. It is the fact that religion and faith is used by one particular group or person to further their own cause. The real issue here is the fact that religion is being used for various political agendas and the truly sad part is the fact that this drawback is now global.

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