Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is It Offensive?

A Sri Lankan resident of Bahrain has been arrested in Sri Lanka after writing two books in Sinhalese allegedly offensive to Buddhism. Sarah Malanie Perera, 38, was detained in Colombo on Saturday as she was due to leave Sri Lanka after a three-month holiday. Relatives in Bahrain fear she may not be allowed to return here as her residence permit expires today. Ms Perera came to Manama in 1985 to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gifts and flowers shop called Madhuri in The Palace Hotel, Adliya. She worked there for two years before staying at home to care her elderly mother. Ms Perera later worked as an assistant accountant for the US Navy, before becoming a teacher at the Child Development Centre, Juffair. Born and brought up a Buddhist, she embraced Islam in 1999 after studying religion at Discover Islam. Her father, mother and sisters later also converted to Islam at separate times. ‘Ever since she (Sarah) embraced Islam, she was compiling a book on Islam and comparative religion’, said her sister Mariam yesterday. ‘In September 2009 she has completed her compilation. She has printed it into two beautiful books entitled From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers. During her visit to Sri Lanka, she printed the books and was due to come back to Bahrain on Saturday. "She was sending some copies of the books through cargo and the owner of the cargo office, who happened to be linked with an organisation called Helaurumaya, contacted the police claiming the book was offensive to Lord Buddha.’ Mariam claimed the group forced the police to detain her sister beyond the 24-hour limit before a case must be transferred to the courts.
‘Sarah went home after taking three months holiday to finish a property issue, as my father died six years ago and no one was there to care for it’, she said. ‘As we all are married and have families plus jobs, it was impossible to go back earlier and thought she would finalise the matter during her vacation. But we didn't know she would be arrested for writing the book.’ A Discover Islam official said the arrest of Ms Perera was unfair and demanded Bahrain’s authorities take action to ensure her quick release. ‘We want all the international authorities and human rights organisations to help sister Sarah’, they said. Relatives say Ms Perera’s books were not abusive to Lord Buddha and merely explained the original teachings of Buddha according to the Buddhist scriptures. They said she wrote it to explain why she chose to convert to Islam and it was an attempt to bring people of all faiths closer by recognising their similarities. Ms Perera is being held in Mirihana Police Station, Colombo, while investigations continue.
Gulf Daily News


yuri said...

The choice of religion is or should be completely free. The problem is somewhat different - when you are not given enough opportunities to choose. That is what happens in Russia nowadays, when all mass media of all-nation status is propagating one religion only - the Ortodox Christianity. No room for atheistic views, and hardly any for Buddhism. While in regions with Moslem traditions it is Islam. Buddhism is OK in culturally Buddhist regions, but then it is also exclusively Vajrayana. As to offence, I think the Buddha taught to study any criticism (and in whatever form it is made) if there is some truth in it to improve the practice or understanding of Dhamma. Detention or any such methods is losing the boost for the opponents.

yuri said...

Sorry, the slip of the keys - in the last line the word "losing" is this slip!

Ben said...

Every 'holy' scripture is in some sense offensive for another religion.

Anonymous said...


Has anyone read the two books?

A fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie was issued. And there are many such cases. Probably, this is karma? Just kidding :)

Judging by the Islamic standard, if those two books are offensive, then the Sri Lankan's action is right.

A better way would be for Sri Lanka to come out with a refutation or clarification of those alleged offensive remarks.

Hmmm....Telling another country what to do may make me appeared trying to interfere in another country's sovereignity. (I hear this kind of statement very often in my country)

Perhaps, we better stick to the principles of non-interference.

Anyone detect a sense of humour in my post?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Before posting a comment just keep in mind that this woman has not been detained for changing her religion but for allegedly denigrating Buddhism in writing.

yuri said...

Dear S.Dhammika,
Your remark was addressed, as I see it, to me. Yet I mentioned the detection in connection with the idea of religious offence. Still I see it as a part of government protection of Buddhism as a religion. Same attitudes or tendencies can be found in some other countries, like Russia and, for instance, Mongolia, where protection of Buddhism is included into the Constitution as one of the duties of the Government (or so I've heard). As to the teaching of Buddha, I feel, that feeling offended is falling into the trap of DOSA even if it is religious offence.

fable said...

Rahula - Humour detected affirmative.

The countries self-defense on any hint of sovereignity infringement is the upscale of "Don't tell me what to do! I'll do what I want and what I like"

Anonymous said...

How embarrassing. The Sri Lankan officials might not be aware of the very first words of the Buddha recorded in the Sutta Pitaka:

"Monks, if anyone should speak in disparagement of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not be angry, resentful or upset on that account. If you were to be angry or displeased at such disparagement, that would only be a hindrance to you." (DN 1)

mchean said...

Is there really a Sri-Lankan law on the books against disparaging the Buddha? How strange - didn't know that. However, this act show a real lack of confidence in the teachings of the Buddha on the part of the Sri-Lankan authorities.