Five years ago, on a day like today, 7 students of my school: D.S. Senanayake College and their baseball coach were killed at a suicide attack at the Fort Railway Station in Colombo. 3rd February 2008 was also a Sunday. The students were returning back home having finished their club matches in Kandy. While the city was readying itself for the 60th Independence Day Celebrations, a female suicide bomber of the Black Tigers Wing of the LTTE; slowly got down from the train and blasted herself during rush hour on Platform 3.
D.S. is a school where students of different ethnicities and faiths study together: in all three media of instruction: Sinhalese, Tamil and English. Among those killed, was Rajarathnam: a Tamil medium student. It’s not pleasant to recall such, bloodcurdling memories, but when one sees the kind of ethno-centric hatred exhibited by certain individuals in the recent past; it should, perhaps help to recall the repercussions of similar acts by our previous generations. Those students didn't die for a war they started. Many of them wouldn't have been born when mobs ransacked Tamil households, and killed innocents in broad day light: but decades later, they paid the price for the acts of stupidity committed generations ago.
This anti-Muslim hatred spread in the name of chest beating, flag-waving, drum-banging, stone-throwing nationalism is not in the name of the moderate Sinhalese Buddhist, and is certainly not in the name of the Buddha. Nor is it remotely in line with the teachings of the Buddha. Ironically however, those expected to preach us these very teachings, don’t seem to understand this. Buddhism is an accepting religion; perhaps the most tolerant of religions. In the Karaniya Metta Sutta the Buddha said ‘Sukhino va khemino hontu sabbe satta bhavantu sukhi-tatta’ May all beings be happy and secure. May all beings have happy minds; In the lines that followed, He added that this applied to all human being without exception, weak or strong, long, large, middling, short, subtle …’’ Sinhalese or otherwise, Buddhist or otherwise.
In the recent past, we saw attempts by certain factions of society to demand Sinhalese Buddhists to boycott Halal food in protest of a Muslim conspiracy, reproduce double quickly in the face of the numerical rise of Muslim nationals, picket Muslim businesses in the light of alleged unethical practices etc… Surprising yet, is the large amount of racist/anti-Muslim content posted on Facebook and other social networking sites. Certain explicitly anti-Muslim pages and groups, the likes of ‘Allah gey ammata enna kiyapiya’ and ‘Helayani Nagitiyawu’ have thousands of fans regularly posting outrageously anti-Muslim, racist content. We need to leave politics aside respond to these sternly, and take action against the perpetrators. Silence condones. Inaction in the face of wrongdoing is to take the side of evil.
In a country that boasts of ethnic diversity; the Muslim community remains largely separated: residing in separate electoral districts. Most children attend segregated schools, or schools that enroll only students of a particular ethnic group or study in a particular language. Human beings are always afraid or someone or something that is different. Perhaps the root cause for this issue is ignorance. Rarely does one find someone with a Muslim friend, co-worker or neighbour at these protests. I have many Muslim friends and once you know someone in person, it’s easy to see through the racial profiles and stereotypical labels that we’ve been asked to believe. It’s also easy to comprehend that there is no organized Muslim conspiracy to take over our women, land, religion and eventually, country.