The Sunday Leader

“The Slow Spread Of Discord”

  • From anti-halal to anti-Muslim protests

Rishard Bathiudeen

On January 19, an unruly group protested in front of the Maharagama No Limit, demanding that the shop be removed from the town. On Thursday (January 24) protesters in Kuliyapitiya burned effigies and waved offensive placards, calling for an end to halal-produced foods in Sri Lanka.
Both these incidents were said to be connected in some way to the Bodu Bala Sena group at the time. However, the Bodu Bala Sena group vehemently denies the allegations.
Executive Committee member Dilantha Withanage is eager to prove that Bodu Bala Sena is not a terrorist group as has been reported in the media. The group behind the Kuliyapitiya protest was alternatively called “Sinhala Api” and “Hela Sihila Hiru,” and were not connected with their group at all, Withanage said. Last Monday representatives met with the President to discuss their own concerns. The President in turn had reportedly told the group not to incite hatred, and that strengthening Buddhism should not come at the expense of other religions.

Bodu Bala Sena Logo Misused

Protest held in Kuliyapitiya    
Picture Courtesy:, Bodu Bala Sena at a conference. The group has on earlier occasions called to stop the issuance of halal certification and One of the pictures found on an ‘anti-halal’ Facebook page. Bodu Bala Sena said that their logo has been misused by Facebook groups during protests in Maharagama and Kuliyapitiya

The group had spoken publicly about their antipathy towards some Muslim extremist movements, Withanage said, which led to some Muslim leaders asking for the President to intervene. “They never initiated dialogue with us. Instead, they went to the President and said [all the protests] had been done by the Bodu Bala Sena,” Withanage said.
The movement the Bodu Bala Sena had spoken out against was ‘Wahhabism’- proponents of Wahhabism often received funding from Middle Eastern countries, to construct more mosques, according to Withanage. “When people from overseas dump money into the country for unnecessary construction, it would definitely create suspicion and stress,” Withanage explained. In addition, Withanage alleged, some of the funds were sent with the aim of converting more people to Islam. “We have an issue with people being converted because of foreign funding,” Withanage said, adding that such extremism was unwelcome.
Upon being asked whether Bodu Bala Sena receive foreign funds themselves, Withanage replied, “Not really,” adding that most of the work done was voluntary or funded through donations.
However, he revealed that one of their first events, a dhane for 1,000 bhikkus in memory of people who had lost their lives in the war, had been funded by a Buddhist monk in a foreign country.
The Bodu Bala Sena logo was misused during the protest in front of No Limit on January 19 and in the campaign in Kuliyapitiya, Withanage said, adding that the organization was not involved in either of these incidents and condemned them.
Apart from this, the group also pointed out to the President that the constitution calls for giving priority to Buddhism as well as protecting it, and had asked for a clearer definition on how Buddhism was to be protected. A Buddhist commission in 1959 had made many proposals in this regard but at the moment these were mere words. The 1959 commission had included rules to protect Buddhist temples and devalayas, but had been in colonial times, Withanage said.
The Bodu Bala Sena had also asked for amendments preventing temple land from being sold. They had also voiced their condemnation of a recent ‘Buddha Bar’ party in Beruwala, where the venue had been described as ‘Nirvana-style’. ‘These words were not used in a proper ethical manner and discredited Buddhism,” Withanage said (two hotel managers were reportedly arrested for organizing the event).
The group had also asked that Sri Lankan history be taught in all schools, including international schools, and voiced their displeasure at the Family Planning Act, asking that unethical abortions be stopped. With regards to recent events, they had also petitioned the President to stop sending women to the Middle East, but provide such women with social and economic development so that they can stay in Sri Lanka. They had asked that all communities be governed by one rule, and that party politics on religion, language and similar issues be prohibited.
The halal issue had also been raised at the meeting, Withanage confirmed. “We completely understand the right that Muslims have to use halal certification for business purposes. We just ask that Buddhists not consume halal foods,” he said. Just as Muslim organizations asked Muslims to eat solely halal food, Buddhists should refrain from eating such food, Withanage said. As such, they had proposed that a special corner be introduced in supermarkets where halal certified foodstuffs could be sold.
This suggestion had not drawn much response from the President, with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa explaining that the issue was a thorny one as Sri Lanka was promoting goods in the Middle East. “We did not expect him to intervene on this issue,” Withanage said. “We understand that most of these issues cannot be initiated immediately.”
In the past, Bodu Bala Sena has been accused of claiming that money from halal certification goes towards funding Hamas or groups connected to Al Qaeda. Asked about this, Withanage cited a Point de Bascule article which claimed that an authority handling halal certification in Quebec was sending funds to a Hamas fund collector. However, Withanage denied that they had claimed the same situation occurred in Sri Lanka. “We have received this information about other countries… we are just asking people to be vigilant,” Withanage said.
However, the group bemoaned the fact that they had been branded as a terror organization, citing several foreign and local newspapers.
Withanage said there were a number of youth groups who were using Facebook to create groups, some even disrespecting the name of Sri Lankan kings. “We condemn these groups. We do not need Facebook heroes, but real heroes”, Withanage said, adding that the Bodu Bala Sena was a transparent organization which had no secret affiliations with any groups as some media personnel had suggested.

Muslim Community Deeply Hurt

Even as Bodu Bala Sena vehemently denies involvement in the inflammatory riots, Muslim politicians and activists voiced their hurt about the recent demonstrations. Educator and diplomat Javid Yousuf said the protests had not only caught the Muslim community by surprise, but had also contributed to a sense of unease. The protests were no longer about halal products, he said, but were targeting the Muslim community at large. This was unfortunate due to the cordial relations the Muslim community enjoyed with Sinhalese and Buddhist communities in the past, he said. Yousuf added that non-Muslims had certain misunderstandings about the concept of halal, which did not just apply to food but rather to every aspect of their lives, including trade. Some protesters had even accused the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) (the Council of Theologians, who levy a charge to cover the administrative costs of issuing a halal certificate) of contributing these funds to Al Qaeda and jihadist groups.
Yousuf pointed out that the ACJU had been incorporated by an act of Parliament, and was thus subject to the rules and regulations of the country. In recognition of this, the Government had even donated land for building the ACJU headquarters. “It is unlikely that such a donation would have been made by the Government at the height of the civil war if there was even the slightest suspicion of any links with Al Qaeda or Jihad groups,” Yousuf said. He added that Muslims had always taken care to consume halal products, but he understood that non-Muslim communities are not compelled to eat such products. As such, he said, he would support having ‘halal corners’ in supermarkets.
Speaking about the Bodu Bala Sena’s objection to Wahhabism, Yousuf said this was ‘puzzling’ as there was no group of Muslims in Sri Lanka who called themselves Wahhabis- the term was usually used by some Muslims to refer to those who strictly follow the Quran’s teachings and those of the Prophet Mohammed. “The mere fact of overseas funding is no reason to oppose Wahhabism or any other ideology. Funding locally or otherwise becomes objectionable only if it is used for illegal or anti social purposes,” Yousuf added. “What one should be more concerned about is not whether a mosque is built with foreign or local funds, but whether there is need for a mosque in a particular area, whether it is built in conformity with all local laws, whether it functions in a manner that does not inconvenience other communities in the area, and so on.”
Yousuf added that the rapid mushrooming of websites spewing anti Islamic sentiment were ‘extremely disconcerting’ and dangerous to national stability. Yousuf added that a further problem arose with lack of accountability on the part of these websites, unlike with traditional media. These websites were quietly planting seeds of religious discord, and youth were vulnerable when exposed to these messages of hate, Yousuf said. As such, Yousuf said it was time for the state to curb this menace by registering websites to ensure accountability. He added that in order to maintain freedom of expression an independent statutory body should be entrusted with this task, thus safeguarding against hate speech.Also troubling was the fact that the police had remained passive bystanders during several of the demonstrations, Yousuf said.
“If the Police act impartially and enforce the law without fear, these incidents can be controlled without being allowed to snowball. The Police have a solemn duty to ensure the protection of the people irrespective of their race, political or religious belief,” Yousuf said.
However he added that there had also been police officers who had tried to be even handed and these officers should be commended. Finally, Yousuf exhorted the Muslim community to act with restraint, identify the areas of mistrust between Buddhists and Muslims and work to build up confidence in these areas. At present, the demonstrations were slowing down the process of national reconciliation.
“If the goal of the protestors is to articulate Buddhist rights or grievances that is understandable and legitimate. But the articulation of the rights of Buddhists or indeed any other community should not be done in a manner to hurt the feelings of other communities,” Yousuf said.
Minister of Trade and Commerce, Rishard Bathiudeen also spoke to The Sunday Leader, saying the Muslim community was deeply hurt by the protester’s recent actions. “Even though we speak Tamil as a language, the Muslim community has always stood for one country. This is why the Muslims were even kicked out of the North by the LTTE,” Bathiudeen said, citing the shooting at Kattankudy mosque and the eviction of Muslims from Muttur during wartime.
“The Muslim youth have never taken up arms against the state, although they use names to describe them such as ‘jihadist’ or ‘Al Qaeda’” Bathiudeen said. He added that even when the UN resolution was taken up the Muslims always supported Sri Lanka, even while a religious leader in Mannar was asking people to vote against Sri Lanka. “We pray to Allah to give the protesters guidance to not hurt other religions again,” Bathiudeen said.
Bathiudeen said that he met and spoke with the President, explaining that the movement was not against Muslims but was in fact moving against the Government. “We suspect that there is foreign money involved and this might be an anti Government movement,” Bathiudeen said. He added that there had previously been attempts to interfere with Parliament affairs in 2007, when attempts were made to buy Members of Parliament to the other side. Given the high rate of development and advances in the tourism sector, certain influences might be trying to create problems for them, Bathiudeen said.
Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, M. K. A. D. S. Gunawardena would only confirm that the meeting between the Bodu Bala Sena group and the President took place. “They came and stated their case and had a discussion,” Gunawardena said.
The question remains as to the identity of the group named ‘Hela Sihila Hiru’- the Bodu Bala Sena group have already dissociated themselves from the groups which have been stirring up trouble, both online and off. No record can be found of the Hela Sihila Hiru group save the articles naming them as the instigators behind the Kuliyapitiya protest. There is however an ‘Api Sinhala’ page which has 570 ‘fans’. It is unclear whether this group participated in the Kuliyapitiya incident. The posts of this page include pictures with the logo ‘no halal’ and other posts proclaiming Sri Lanka to be a Sinhala Buddhist country. Several other similar groups also exist which bear anti-halal messages. As ominous as these mushroom Facebook groups are, what is even more troubling is the accusation that police are not intervening, even when things spiral out of control.
As Yousuf notes, the protests are no longer against halal certification but are turning out to be anti-Muslim protests. In Kuliyapitiya, the protesters carried pictures of pigs and burned effigies; acts clearly aimed to hurt and outrage. It remains to be seen whether the President’s words to the Bodu Bala Sena will dissuade the smaller extremist groups from continuing their protests, and indeed, what these groups hope to achieve in spreading their message of hate.

27 Comments for ““The Slow Spread Of Discord””

  1. Nafeel

    Eating halal is better for all human beings than eating the carcass. See

    • edward

      nothing better than eating any unless its not dead body , halal is made of stories to this world , who ever eat halal there life time is shorter , coz its more sins killing when you remember the God .
      all religion says do not kill. by knowing its a sin why make halal ? its stupid to halal coz its more sin you gain God never forgive ,

    • Bufeel

      Bodu Bala Sena fellows have no time to read your link. They are too busy burning shops in Maharagama .

    • Tasty Food

      It is statements of this nature which tend to provoke Non-Muslims. Muslims should not try to tell Non-Muslims what is good or bad for them – unless asked to do so. Each group must be left to make such decisions for themselves.

    • suren soysa

      You do not have to see old Chinese news but it happens in Sri Lanka even under the Halal Label. You have eaten enough & more dead carcases.

    • Ruwan

      Not eating any animal is good for all human beings. Imagine eating a cut-throat animal that bled to death in excruciating pain.

    • Rajani

      Halal also carcass and it is unfair asking other religious people also to eat the same paying more money. This is a Budhist majority country and you have to listen to our concern also.


    • cuttige

      The ignorance of a fool can not be erased by reasoning.

      These BBS extremists are having a very low IQ. They are unable to grasp basic truths about buddhism but make a big hue & cry about protecting Buddhism by enforcing laws. THis is completely against Buddhists philosophy.

      Muslims can eat Hala only…. others can eat anything they want. Who cares what the other person eat??

      Do they care about how many sinhala buddhists children are malnourished in Rathnpura, Monaragala and Puttlam districts? These are the most poverty striken areas of sinhala majority areas….Look in to the needs of these poor … feed them, cloth them, build them houses and schools.

      I don’t think these morons can think that deep.

    • Jayantha

      There organizations and institutions to test, control and certify foods for consumptions. This Halal is for just collecting money from non-muslims and only for the benifit of muslims.

    • hiran

      by the time you cook any flesh it is a carcass , moron. In any case it is better to go back to stone age and live with nature than be a coward country and a race. Sinhala race should be prepared to forgo anything to preserve buddism and sinhala values in srilanka. to hell with international opinion.

      It is not a bad idea to establish srilanka as a kingdom.

  2. edward

    Should be given equla rights too religion,races ethic , make sri lanka beautiful
    fight for no reason about this makes things worsen and never find a solution , remember same issues came up in past better learn a leasson from past and avoid any anger,hates amoung sri lankan people .
    This is a political advantages for gaining indudual power who wanna power and show so called love to the country ,people must all get to gether and understand and not to get invloved on this silly movments

  3. Kekula

    The Muslims of Srilanka can eat Halal Foods including Halal Pork…No Objection from Buddhists,Christians,Catholics and Hindus…Also tell me if Halal is really practised in Srilanka?Every morning 300 cattle are slaughtered in Hendala by Muslim Butchers for the marrket…Can you guarantee these 300 cattle are slaughtered with Halal practise??? No they are slaughtered in a inhumane way…Halal too is a barbaric killing method practised…Islam is a violent religon preached by a pedophile…

  4. sadath mohideen

    Wahabism is a state religion of Saudi Arabia is funded by saudi or middle eastern countres to destroy communal harmony in SL. Mr. Yousuf is not disclosing the real face of wahabism but covering in this interview..After the arrival of wahabism only muslim in sl and elsewhwre need to pay high prices and confront many hate campaign such as these.Unfortunately in SL all islamic instituion is associated with wahabi ideology including Jamyathu Ulama, Jamiya Naleemiya, especially state muslim media unit. Wahabism is kind of cancer it effects not muslim but also harbour disharmony within community.all wahabi instition should be banned in sri lanka so that muslim can live as muslim as was always….

  5. Gonraja

    Bodubalasena or boru bana desana was a product of those sick men champika, gammanpiula, rathana, amarasekera, nalin silva etc for the survival of the gon-king and family with the bleesings of the same family. buddists and muslims and tamils should think wisely and nip this cancer in the bud without doing something stupid. this family is a deadly virus which will do anything to stay in power. it was tamils before now eyeing the muslims for a muslim uprising and tomorrow it will be sinhala versus sinhala. if people use the brain and send this family behind bars its good for the country if now there will be criminals and blood bath everywhere in the country. when you vote for uneducated uncultured this is what you face. down with gonraja.

  6. Rasheed Moor

    It was just Crocodile tears from BBS after the meeting with the President denying they are not against Muslims. One need to look at their websites on Facebook to see how much hatred they have towards the Muslims and also Christians. Recently they destroyed Christian Stature in Avissawella, what do they say about it. These BBS will only take Sri Lanka back to the stone age.

  7. LIMA

    by inciting communal harmony what is one going to achieve , he/she is inciting their own family by doing this to any other religion. who knows one day one of their siblings or down the line will accept the accord of other religion and what will be the status at that time. one shud be educated to know what is right/wrong instead of just blindly belieivign

  8. senavir

    one thing – the business community has to follow rules. they have no ethics and do all kind of shady things which make people unhappy

  9. Park

    By the Buddhist monks asking Buddhists not to eat halal meet, are approving the Buddhists eating meat, which I thought was against Buddhism!

    As long as Rauff Hakim is the leader of SLMC nothing will be done by the Government to protect the Muslims as the President can hold a carrot to Hakim and he will immediately jump on to the lap of the President.

    Muslims will be treated the same way Tamils are treated in Sri Lanka. Oh I forgot the way the former Chief Justice was also treated the same way.

  10. Insula

    February 4, 2013


    No Surprise here.

    Exposing Sinhala “Buddhist” Racism and Absence of Tamil “Buddhists”

    Sri Lanka has been in the news a lot lately. Upon limited research, it appears that Sinhala Buddhist racism seems to have something in common with the Ku Klux Klan, the white Christian racism against the blacks and the Nazi racism against the Jews.

    The Sinhala Racist “Buddhist” Bodu Bala Sena misrepresents and is against the principles of Buddhism. Their racist supporters are an insult to the great philosophy of Buddhism. Similarly, the Wahhabis are high jacking Islam from the true and moderate Muslims to push their intolerance and Bedouin traditions and innovations by force and threats. It is truly the moderate Muslims who are under attack, especially the Sufis. Is there a difference between the Wahhabis and the Sinhala Buddhist Wahhabis? Yes. Wahhabis discriminate based on beliefs, and the Sinhala’s discriminate based on race.

    The Sinhala racists are tarring all the Muslims with a wide Wahhabi brush, and the world is tarring the Sinhalas with a wide racist terrorist brush, especially after the war and the ongoing UN war crimes investigations.

    What a shame to write on the 65th Anniversary of Independence of a country.

    “There is still an underlined sense of suspicion between the Sinhala and Tamil races of this country and now it is shown to spread even against our Muslim brethren. There is a nagging sense of insecurity in the hearts of people, which can erupt once again into violence and yet another unending conflict”.- Cardinal Ranjith –Archbishop of Colombo.
    From Asia Tribune-
    ….reflect upon the quote of Emperor Ashoka who gave Sri Lanka the greatest of all gifts, Buddhism, to reflect on his time tested words:
    “One should not honor one’s own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honour other’s religions for this or that reason. So doing, one help’s one’s own religion to grow and render service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grace of one’s own religion and does harm to other religions. Whosoever honors his own religion and condemns other religions does so indeed through devotion to his own religion, thinking ‘I will glorify my own religion’. But on the contrary, in so he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others.”

    The racist Sinhala Bodu Bala Sena defends the imported Sinhala “Buddhist” racism and there is no room in this for Tamil Buddhism. If there was true Buddhism, the immigrant Sinhala racists would never have demonized the immigrant Tamils for 20 centuries, culminating in the recent 30 year ethnic conflict. To sugar coat the argument for racism against the Muslims, the Bodu Bala Sena brings in Christians and Hindus so that it looks like others support the Sinhala racism against Muslims as well. What an insult to the true Sinhala non-racist Buddhists, Christians and Hindus, after having demonized the Tamils and Christians for so long.

    Bodu Bala Sena is part of the Sinhala “Buddhist” Nazis, an agent of the yellow robed terrorists, is using Nazi strategies used by Nazis during 1933 first to demonize the socialists, the Jews, and other opponents, that ultimately resulted in the destruction of Germany and the death of 5 million Germans, and the expulsion of 14 million ethnic Germans from other countries. Is the writer and their Sinhala racist “Buddhists” going to support the expulsion of 1 million Sri Lankans who are making a living in the Middle East and giving billions of dollars of foreign exchange to keep Sri Lanka afloat where a maid was executed on trumped up charges? What is the Sri Lanka State doing to keep law and order? Are they cowards? The current GSP Plus fiasco and the economic fallout, by EU looks tiny compared to the catastrophe the Sinhala Racist “Buddhists” will bring in by their bigotry and hate they have been directing at all those who are not Sinhala and not Buddhist. Are these terrorists Buddhists or they just Sinhala terrorists? What a shame!

    This is raw Sinhala racism, is spearhead by the racist “Buddhist” priests under the cloak of Buddhism and their racist Sinhala henchmen. Who killed the late Prime Minister in 1959?
    S.W.R.D. Bandaranaikewas the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), serving from 1956 until his assassination by a Buddhist monk in 1959

    The actions of Sinhala “Buddhist” racist priests and their henchmen because of the institutionalized racism against the Tamils ultimately led to the separatist war. Yellow robed Sinhala “Buddhist” racists and their racist Sinhala “Buddhist” henchmen were behind the 1958 communal riots against the Tamils. Facts speak for themselves that directly lead to the Tami Separatist Terrorism. A lie has a short life, but truth lives on forever.

    What is the Buddhist Philosophy?

    The Sinhala “Buddhist” racists are hiding under the cloak of Buddhism. What a shame. They are an insult to the true non-racist Sinhala Buddhists.
    See Negative Comments on Buddhism, and its practitioners. What happens to boys?

  11. singing fish

    Yes the muslims never took up the arms against the state but they took up the arms to kill thousands of tamils,thus aiding and abetting the srilankan goverment to carry out a genocide.Who killed the tamils in THANGA VELAUTHAPURAM at thirukovil,in MALWATTE at Sammanthurai,in SATHTHUKONDAN,in VANTHAROOMOOLAI êtc?.MR.RICHARD BADIRUDEEN,don’t think that tamils are blind bats,at present what is happening in Vavuniya and Mannar,you are allocating houses,fishing equipments to muslims who were not at all affected by the war.I openly accuse you for bringing disharmony between tamils and muslims.Today you will be with the goverment and friendly with the sinhalese but very soon you will say that sinhalese are bad.This the character of muslims,you people are like chameleon and as far as i am concerned sinhalese are thousands times better than the cutthroatsand culprits.

  12. Rajani

    What bodu bala sena is telling is correct. Why should we pay for their believe? We do not need halal food and we will follow our way. Harming anybody not acceptable and bodu bala sena must do it in a peacefull manner. Rishad says there is no any muslim extremists and they are abide by our country laws. But, he himself facing a court case against him. I would like to ask him a question, if they are not supporting terrorism why are they opposing parliament act against the Taliban and Al Queda?

  13. Aru

    A fiberglass statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, valued at around Rs. 650,000, which had been installed on 26th of January , with a prayer service, on a bare land close to St. Mary s school in Avissawella, had been set ablaze by saboteurs in the early hours of 28th January. Parishioners had obtained the approval of the Mayor prior to the installation of the statue there as it was a bare land and there had been no objection from any party. According to information, it could have been the act of an old boy of the school, running a grocery store close to the Avissawella police station, who was eying the spot for a shop. He had earlier scolded the parish priest in filth for trying to use the land to install the statue. This is the reason why, the police had attempted to convince parishioners not to proceed with the project to install the statue at that spot. The police reputed for being living on other peoples’ hand outs are sowing discord among the Sinhalese as anyone can see from this incident. Have they also formed a Hotu Bala Sena taking a cue from the other Bala Senas. Most newspapers had surreptitiously kept silent on this issue whilst focusing only on Bodu Bala Sena Vs Muslims and Halal.

  14. Acs hameed

    mottayo rata kanawa

  15. Jesudasan

    Issue of this certificate adds to the cost of Meat. Producers have to pay to Muslim organuisation for the certificate and all of us have to contribute for that. The result is higher prices. Best thing to do is to REFUSE to buy meat with Halal certificate over the long term (not for a month or two because they will reduce the price to get you back in). Sri Lankan public can do this if they are determined. Why do you need a special certificate when All the butcheries are run by Muslims ? This is the THIN edge of the wedge ! Next wuill be the introduction of Sharia law, with the influx of Muslim lawyers coming out of the law college. Do you think these happenings are accidental or planned ? Ask your self.

  16. Kamarajan Kuttaya Suttu

    I don’t know why this Buddhist Monkeys Monks do politics rather than stay inside the temple, currently Muslims and Sinhalese are living with no fear and each one happy but this monkeys are creating trebles between us.

  17. Mohammed Rizvi

    Let’s put Podu Balla Sena and All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama in one table and discuss the issues to kill roamers…………………………………We all Sri Lankan………….

  18. cuttige

    This shows how stupid most of our sinhalese pseudo patriots are. Its time that the silent majority of moderates put forward their case. No more stupidity ! We had enough trouble and more for past 50 yrs or so.

    Let this country prosper with all citizens contributing their best to uplift this nation from the ashes of racism and war.

    No more Sinhala only ! Let all Buddhists propagate dhamma by observing them. Buddism will survive only by living according to dhamma.

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