| by Victor Cherubim
( November 30, 2012, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) A massive gathering of Sri Lankan Buddhists has been called to assemble at Navinna Raja Maha Vihara, Maharagama on 30 November 2012, to protest among other issues against the arrest in Saudi Arabia of a Sri Lankan male Buddhist domestic aid worker who is on death row for practicing his religion, the fourth Buddhist Sri Lankan youth to be beheaded.
This campaign called “Uprising in 12” according to sources has been organised by the Buddhist Defence League. Besides this rally is also urging Buddhists to petition to save the ancient Buddhist shrines, including Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara among others and to give pride of place for heritage development.
A wave of unrest is becoming apparent with mosques and madrasses being moved all over the island from Dambulla to Dehiwela, with little prior consultation and acceptance. Observers feel this growing tension is further exacerbated by the strict adherence to sharia law, where Buddhists are unable to practice their religion, pay obeisance to Lord Buddha as domestics abroad.
A poster campaign has been staged and orchestrated, over many months in Badulla, Matale, Kandy and Colombo, leading to this mass assembly at Maharagama, not to rouse ant-Muslim sentiment but to rally public opinion.
Muslims meanwhile state at first they witnessed perpetrated attacks by thugs and hooligans attacking their places of worship, with impunity and scant protection by the security services to maintain law and order. Other incidents against them in recent times include abductions of Muslim women and children, attacks on vulnerable Muslims in villages by “Grease Yakkas,” particularly during the month of Ramzan. As this phenomenon was eradicated, an ongoing campaign against the slaughter of “hallal certified meat “has commenced.
Religious tolerance, a hallmark between both Sinhala and Tamil speaking Muslims and the majority Sinhala Buddhists has eroded further over recent months, so that many fear the balance is upset and could lead to civil unrest against innocent Muslims in Sri Lanka.
As this animosity gathers momentum, Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka and abroad, have gone on the defensive. They have appealed to the government to bring calm. Some Muslim leaders have pleaded with the Government to seek pardon and obtain the release of the victim awaiting death sentence in Saudi Arabia.
Sri Lanka Government has also sent deputations to Saudi Arabia to officially negotiate an appeal for pardon and clemency. Muslims in the Government too have appealed for calm, to allay fears, before the anger spills over into violence.
The Government has recourse to quiet diplomacy to contain this problem both at home and abroad.