Wednesday, August 25, 2010

man bites dog: buddhist fundamentalists and muslim prisoners of conscience

I totally missed this story when it happened but it seems worth noting as an example.
An expatriate Sri Lankan woman who wrote two books about her conversion from Buddhism to Islam has been arrested while on holiday in Sri Lanka, apparently for causing offence to Buddhists.

Sarah Malini Perera, who was born in Sri Lanka but has lived in Bahrain since 1985 and converted to Islam in 1999, was arrested last week under the country’s strict emergency laws, according to the police.

They declined to give precise details of the 38-year-old writer’s offence, but suggested that her books were deemed to have caused offence to ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists, who account for about 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people.

For the whole story, see: Author Sarah Malini Perera held ‘for offending Buddhists’ in Sri Lanka

The same piece mentions that the Sri Lankan government denied a visa to Muslim (yes Muslim) singer Akon because the video for his song Sexy Chick included images of video "vixens" dancing with a statue of the Buddha in the background. Part of the backlash included a crowd of over 200 angry rock-throwing Buddhists attacking the offices of Akon's concert promoters, damaging property and injuring a few individuals. You can find more details on that story here.

Both these stories, especially taken together, totally invert the usual narratives we are spoon-fed about religion and the tolerance/ sensitivity and peacefulness/ violence of Buddhism / Islam respectively. I'm a little surprised (but not really) that they didn't get more attention. A few more accounts like these and the dominant narrative would begin to crack. If members of a "good" religion like Buddhism can be pushed to violence when their sensitivities are threatened and if even Muslims can be victims of censorship and exclusion for acting on their conscience then who are the heroes and who are the villains?

1 comment:

xey said...

i had never heard about these incidents. interesting stuff. nice blog, mA...