By Farzana Hassan
June 19, 2014
Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, issued a statement Monday condemning systematic violence against Muslim communities in Sri Lanka.
He called the atrocities “troubling attacks targeting the Muslim community in Sri Lanka” and stressed the importance of all people being allowed to practise their faith without the threat of violence.
Buddhist leaders in Canada and across the world should remind themselves about a cardinal principle of their faith: Hate can only beget hate.
The governments of Sri Lanka and Burma must protect all their citizens, regardless of their creed.
Bennett’s statement came amid news from around the world of atrocities by Islamists against members of other faith communities.
He chose to focus on the attacks against Muslims in his statement, although he did make an oblique condemnation of all religious attacks.
His motivation in choosing a particular atrocity to condemn appears not to be the extent of its barbarity.
North-east Nigeria remains a burning cauldron, even worse than the abduction of young girls suggests.
In Kenya, the terrorist group al Shabab went on a rampage in which terrorists murdered all their trembling victims who could not prove their commitment to Islam by reciting the profession of Muslim faith.
The Islamist capture of Mosul seems to have been just as savage.
This brutal takeover is catastrophic for the Middle East and the wider world, especially since the area the radical group, ISIS, controls straddles the Iraq/Syria border and can comprise a hostile Islamic mini-state.
Radical Muslims commit such outrages more often than Buddhists.
Bennett’s condemnation of the Buddhist atrocity against Muslims, amidst all the ongoing Islamist violence, should put to rest Muslim claims the world unfairly associates terror and violence only with them.
Many of my co-religionists drill the mantra into their followers that the media demonizes Muslims, that whenever Muslims commit an act of terror, sound bites with “Islam” and “Muslim” pulse from TV and radio.
When others commit atrocities, they claim, their faith is never mentioned.
Not true. The media are replete with references to Bodu Bala Sena, an extremist Buddhist group which incites mob violence against Muslims.
Articles from all over the world denounce this violence against Muslim communities.
The European Union and the United States have specifically condemned it and urged the Sri Lankan government to protect Muslim civilians.
One of the reasons often cited for the radicalization of Muslim youth in the West is that they feel Islam is unfairly discriminated against in the media.
This is a skewed perception.
It is natural that in a developed society where commentators are free to say and write what they choose, criticism of outrages committed in the name of Islam will feature prominently simply because they are so common.
This is not an attack on Islam per se; it is an attack on barbaric behaviour which often happens to be committed by extremist Muslims. Their critics are merely defending universal principles.
Bennett’s statement is evidence enough there is no conspiracy against Muslims and Islam.
As he states: “Canada will continue to condemn all religiously motivated attacks.”
Indeed, his singling out of atrocities against Sri Lankan Muslims suggests that if there is any Western bias in government or media, it actually favours Islam.
One hopes the Sri Lankan government will heed Bennet’s advice and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.