Sri Lankan Finance Minister takes on Buddhist monk’s racially charged comments

He urges ‘true Buddhists’ to unite against the ‘Talibanisation’ of the religion.

June 19, 2019 12:34 pm | Updated 04:09 pm IST - COLOMBO:

A file picture of Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

A file picture of Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Wednesday slammed a Buddhist monk’s controversial comments targeting Muslims and urged “true Buddhists” to unite against the “Talibanisation” of the religion.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday morning, Mr. Samaraweera said: “True Buddhists must unite NOW against the Talibanization of our great philosophy of peace & love of all beings. No Buddhist can condone a statement to stone another human being to death, even if it emanates from the robed orders. #lka”

His message comes days after a senior monk attached to Asgiriya Chapter — one of the two most influential Buddhist orders in Sri Lanka — accused Muslims of “destroying the country”, and called for a boycott of Muslim-run shops and businesses . “Don’t eat from those [Muslim] shops,” the monk said at a temple ceremony in the central city of Kandy, near the famous Buddhist temple of the tooth relic.

In the two months since the April 21 Easter bombings, which killed about 260 people , reactionary forces in the country have resorted to anti-Muslim violence and targeted hate-speech in more than one occasion.

Further, referring to a Muslim doctor who has been in the centre of an unsubstantiated sterilisation scare, the senior monk said the doctor was doing a “heroic” deed by destroying “hundreds of thousands” Sinhalese children.

“These traitors must not be allowed to live in freedom. Some female devotees said that they should be stoned to death. I don’t say this, but what should be done is this,” the monk said, according to translations by the local media of his speech in Sinhala.

The Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka wield significant influence in national politics. Hard-line monks have in the past resorted to hate speech with little consequence, evoking concern among many Sri Lankans troubled by the apparent impunity enjoyed by saffron-robed religious leaders.

Mr. Samaraweera, the only prominent politician so far to directly challenge the Asgiriya-affiliated monk’s racially-charged comments, earlier challenged a fasting Buddhist monk’s demand that three Muslim politicians resign over alleged links to Easter suspects.

Following the collective resignation of nine Muslim Ministers early in June, he tweeted: “ Hatred is never appeased by hatred. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal. Today, it was left to our Muslim Ministers to exhibit this sacred teaching of Lord Buddha while impostors in robes incited hatred in his name. A shameful day for our beloved #lka”

Earlier, Mr. Samaraweera accused Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of “fanning the flames of hatred and communalism by visiting fasting robed MP Rathana”, the monk who went on a “fast unto death”, demanding that the Muslim politicians step down.

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