Tuesday 24 December 2013

Niqab; A dress code in troubled waters

Yesterday, on the Christmas eve, someone tagged a post on the topic "Niqab" on my wall in FB. 

Unless, a post is unreasonably sexual oriented, spreading hatred or insulating a community or person, I do not remove it from the wall. 

This post, written in Sinhalese, appears harsh and painful to the target community, but I let it be there. 'Cause, I think that it opened opportunity for people to defend their thoughts and break the defense of the others. Such interaction, in this type of open forums, most often alleviate the tension..... however, there is a chance of things going off hand, as well. 

The reasons for the raging debate in Sri Lanka, on the subject of niqab, the face-veiled robe of Muslim community, is the recent incident at the University of Moratuwa, where a Muslim girl was prevented from entering the university premises with this dress. 

Despite being a sensitive issue, I immediately decided to put my finger into this soup.  In order to view my thoughts in this regard, I browsed through the net looking for the quotations in Al Quran, the holy book of Islam, on women's dress code. 


“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their zeenah (charms, or beauty and ornaments) except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimar (veils) over their bosoms and not display their zeenah except to their husbands, their fathers …. and that they should not strike their feet so as to draw attention to their hidden zeenah (ornaments).”  (24:31-32)
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should draw over themselves their jilbab (outer garments) (when in public); this will be more conducive to their being recognized (as decent women) and not harassed. But God is indeed oft-forgiving, most merciful.” (33:59)
“And know that women advanced in years, who no longer feel any sexual desire incur no sin if they discard their thiyab (outer garments), provided they do not aim at a showy display of their zeenah (charms or beauty). But it is better for them to abstain (from this); and God is all-hearing, all-knowing.” (24:60)


As a Buddhist, I have been trained to look at any concept rationally. I think, I will not be able to find anything more logical than what the above statements specify on the women's dress code. 

What it simply says is that women should wear in such a way that they should not unnecessarily agitate or arouse the opposite sex with their beauty and charm. Isn't this what we find in Buddhism as well....?      

I live in Malaysia for the last 4 years with my family. I worked in a state university where almost 80% of student and staff population may be Muslim.  I have never felt alienated in this society. So, does my wife as per her true feelings. 

If you ever get a chance to witness a staff or student meeting at this university, I am sure that you will never forget it. What will remain in your memory will be a land of colorful butterflies. Whether men or women, Malay Muslims wear elegantly. Malay ladies cover their hair, not the face. Extremely pleasant and beautiful, but never sexually agitate the opposite gender. 

I think that is exactly what is said in the holy book. Isn't it the same that is preached by Lord Buddha?

Even my wife wear the head cover, when we take our visitors to the elegantly made Putrajaya Mosque. Do you think that she is ugly in that dress...???? hahaha...........

I have witnessed the same picturesque atmosphere when I visit the Universities in Pakistan as well. 

Let's now come back to the topic, the Niqab. It is very clear that the holy book does not make Muslim ladies to wear the niqab compulsorily.   

Is there a need for such dress...?

Has everyone got the right to wear in public what he/she wants ..?

I don't think so.

Do you like a bikini clad or topless lady or a man in underwear in the bus where you travel with your family....? In the society we live today, especially in Asia, such dress-code will not be tolerated.

Similarly, many people will not like to be surrounded by somebody in full body covered dress.

As the one who posted in my wall commented, everyone has the right to know whether the one next to you in public is a gorilla, zombie or human being... if it is the last case whether it is male or female. 

Usually, a decent woman may not mind sitting tightly pressed in a bus with another woman. Will she do the same with a man...? I doubt.  Imagine if the one next to her is in full body cover....!!! Won't she be restless in mind, whether Muslim or non-Muslim..

It is true that in most countries, no one is allowed into public places, shops, banks etc. in full face helmet; even in Malaysia. I think this is a very fair regulation with respect to public security. Isn't this applicable to niqab as well...?

I have never seen anyone in our university wear a niqab in the university premises. Perhaps it is banned within the university (I am not sure). 

As I see, in both Islam and Buddhism, the women's dress code has been formulated to serve two criteria. One is the self dignity of a lady and the other is the prevention of sexual agitation among males (other than the legal partner) which may lead to social chaos. 

Do you think that uncovering the face of a lady will violate any of the above criteria in the society where we live.......?  Perhaps, in a less-civilized tribal society in the far remote desert of Afghanistan or Libya, things may go wrong when women open their face...!!!

This is how I see this issue. It is up to you to decide what is the best for the society..... 

But don't forget that we are an integrated part of the society.... 

We cannot define our norms, isolated from that domain.....

Monday 16 December 2013

Wasantha's Father

වසන්තගේ තාත්තා

වසන්ත, මම තුන් වන ශ්‍රේණියේ ඉගන ගනිද්දී පන්තියේ සිටි තවත් සිසුවෙකි. වසන්තගේ තාත්තා වැඩ කලේ ආමි එකේය. මේ නිසා වසන්ත පන්තියේ හැමෝටම චන්ඩියා විය. ඔහුගේ වැඩිම තාඩන පීඩන වලට ලක් වුනේ පන්තියේ සිටි අන්තිම අහිංසකයා වූ උදිතයි.

කෙසඟ සිරුරකින් යුත් අවශ්‍යම දෙයට විතරක් කතා කල උදිත කොපමණ පැත්තකට වී සිටියත් වසන්තගේ ග්‍රහණයට නිරන්තරයෙන් අසුවිය. ශාරීරික වදයක් නොදුන්නත් වසන්තගේ භය කිරීම් උදිතට මහා කරදරයක් වූ බව මට එදත් වැටහුණි. උදිතට නොයෙකුත් වැඩ කරන්න කියා වසන්ත නියම කළේය. කොළ ඇහිඳීම, තමාගේ පොත් මල්ල ගෙන යාම, අනෙක් ළමයින්ට ටොකු ඇනීම ඔහුගේ අණ දීම් අතර විය. මේවා නොකරන්නේ නම්, තමාගේ පියාට කියා උදිතව බාල්කයේ එල්ලා පහර දෙන බවද. උදිතගේ පියා එයට මැදිහත් වුවහොත් ඔහුට තම පියා වෙඩි තියන බවද වසන්ත නිතරම කිවේය. මේ නිසා  උදිත නිතරම සිටියේ බියෙනි. සමහර විටක ඔහුගේ ඇස්වල කඳුළු පිරී තිබෙනු මට මතකය.

වාර අවසානයේදී පන්තියේ සියලුම ළමයින් තම දෙමාපියන් (එක්කෙනෙකු හෝ) සමග පැමිණිය යුතුය. මුල් වාර දෙකේම උදිතගේ අම්මා පැමිණි අතර වසන්තගේ දෙමාපියන් කිසිවෙක් ආවේ නැත. මේ ගැන පන්ති භාර ගුරුතුමිය ඔහුට තදින් අවවාද කලත් ඔහු කියා සිටියේ දෙමාපියන්ට එන්න වෙලාවක් නැති බවයි. ළමයින්ට ඔහු කිවේ තම පියා පැමිණියහොත් ළමයින් මෙන්ම ගුරුතුමියද භය වන බැවින් ඔහු නොපැමිණෙන බවයි.

වසර අවසානයේදී පියා හෝ මව නොපැමිණිය හොත් තමාව ඊළඟ ශ්‍රේණියට සමත් නොකරන බව ගුරුතුමිය වසන්තට දැඩි ස්වරයෙන් දැනුම් දුන්නේය. මෙවර තම පියා පැමිණෙන බවද, එදින බොහෝ විට ඔහු උදිතව අල්ලාගෙන යනු ඇති බවද, එසේ ගෙනියන ළමයින්ට තම පියා බිම වැටෙන තුරු පහර දෙන බවද වසන්ත නිතරම උදිතට කිවේය. උදිත මේ නිසා බොහෝ සෙයින් බිය වී සිටියේය.

දිනය උදාවිය. වසන්තගේ පමණක් නොව උදිතගේ පියාද එදා පැමිණියේය.

දෙදෙනාම ආවේ එක වාහනයේය. එය යුධ හමුදාවට ඒ කාලයේ තිබු හොඳම ජීප් රථයකි. මුලින්ම බැස්සේ වසන්තගේ පියාය. ඒ රියදුරු අසුනේ සිටයි. වාහනය  වටා අනෙක් පසට ගිය ඔහු දොර හැර සීරුවෙන් සිටගෙන සැලියුට් එකක් ගැසුවේය. වාහනයෙන් බැස්සේ උදිතගේ පියාය. ඔහු පිටුපසින් වසන්තගේ පියා දෙකට තුනට නැවී නැවී උදිතගේ පියා අසන දෙයට උත්තර දෙමින් පන්තිය දෙසට පැමිණියේය.

පසුව අපට පන්තියේ ගුරුතුමිය පැවසු පරිදි උදිතගේ පියා කර්නල් වරයෙකි. වසන්තගේ පියා ඔහුගේ රියදුරුය.


මට මේ කතාව මතක් වුනේ, ලංකාවේ දේශපාලකයන් ජාත්‍යන්තර ප්‍රජාවට ගුටි බැට දෙන හැටි ගැන රාජ පාක්ෂික ජනතාව කඩ මන්ඩියේ, දුම්රියේ, බස් රියේ, මුහුණු පොතේ, ආණ්ඩුවේ පත්තර, වෙබ් පිටුවල කොමෙන්ටු තීරුවේ ලියන කියන දේවල ඇසූ දුටු විටය.

Saturday 14 December 2013

What is Buddhism...?

One day two young Buddhist monks, Rev Nang and Rev Dong were walking along a village path, in a deep discussion on sins and merits. 

On their way, they reached  a small stream across which the wooden bridge was broken. A beautiful lady was there, staring at the broken bridge; needs to cross but scared to get into the water. 

Rev Nang, without any hesitation, lifted her, crossed the stream and placed the beauty on the other side. She thanked him and went away. 

For the next 10 miles there was deep silence between the monks. 

Rev. Dong, who was surprised to see that his friend carried the lady, was in a deep thought. 

"This is totally against Buddhism. We, monks, are not permitted even to touch a small girl. What he did was totally against the restraints of a Buddhist monk. Is it a right decision to have such a friend. Am I also be dragged into sins by this friendship. Should I follow a different path?"..... The chains of thought were never ending. 

The monk started breathing hoarsely, his heart beat accelerated rapidly, his chick muscles started twitching. Wiping the beads of sweat on the forehead he started muttering to himself, something in anger and disgust. 

Noticing this unusual behaviour of his friend, Rev Nang asked his friend whether he has any problem. 

Rev Dong said that there is nothing. 

As the same behaviour continued for another 5 miles Rev Nang asked the question again and Rev Dong gave the same reply.

After about another 5 miles, as the situation was becoming worse Rev Nang stopped and talked to his friend in a firm voice. "Look, Rev Dong, you will be fainted if we move further like this. Please tell me the problem or pain that you are suffering from".

Then, reluctantly Rev Dong started talking. "Rev Nang, you see, it was a terrible thing. I never expected you to carry a lady in your arms like that. You made me ashamed of myself being a friend of yours". 

Then with a smile on his face, Rev Nang calmly said, "My dear Rev Dong, I left that lady there, but you are carrying her now for 20 miles. I can clearly see how heavy she is, when I look at you".

.....I used to read this short Zen story again and again when I was young. It fascinated me. I knew that there is something deeper than the obvious advice that it gives. 

Last week, as Nelson Mandela passed away, there were many articles about him allover FB and newspapers. A part of the speech given by Mandela in his inauguration ceremony as SA president, to which he has invited the jail guards who harnessed him,  caught my eye more than any other. 

This is the essence of that part of the speech, although the exact wording may be different.

"The day that I stepped out of the prison, I left everything behind. I left my anger, hatred, revengeful-thoughts....... everything. Otherwise, even today I would have been a prisoner... A prisoner of my own thoughts".

With this speech, together with the Zen story, I found the long awaited answer for a question that many people asked me over the years............. 


As I understand, Buddhism is the guidance for giving up the ego..........

First you give up the bad deeds and bad thoughts (evil deeds and thoughts as some of you may refer)
Then you give up the greed for over satisfying the five senses
Then you give up your love for good things as well
Finally you have to give up everything.... even Buddhism 

This may take many many births..... but you can start now

Let's talk about this in detail,  some other time.......


Saturday 7 December 2013

කැසිනෝ ආදරය

Casino is an interesting topic, at least now in Sri Lanka.

The government's push over the Mass Centralized Casino Project has developed unified platforms for several sectors. Buddhists and Muslims are taking hands for protecting their fundamental principles. The segments of opposition that usually cut one another's limbs, even within their own quarters, have flocked together for a common cause.

Here, I am not trying to discuss the philosophical or political good-bad sides of Casino in Sri Lanka. This is to give an economic perspective as I see with my limited knowledge in the subject, in very simple language. 

Any rationally thinking citizen could smell, even if he cannot fully understand, why the casino tycoon James Packer is waving a 400 million USD to get the green light for the project. Perhaps he may already have thrown a few millions in air. It is not that difficult to understand why several politicians and few notorious monks are trying their level best to justify the project.

If you take the world topmost casino destinations such as Las Vegas, Macau, Monte Carlo etc.; you will find them all having one important aspect. The gambling is spread over a large spatial area and the capacity of game spots varies from one dollar bet dungeons to several million chip paradises. A whole spectrum of gamblers are attracted to the city whose sheltering varies from 10 dollar backpacker's dens to 5000 dollars per night 7 stars. 

The gambling city gets income from various sources: the roulette table itself, accommodation, food, prostitution, amenities, porn industry, music, etc. 

Is such income generation suitable for Sri Lanka....? You can debate it for the next few decades.

Now let's look at James Packer's proposal.

He proposes to build a huge hotel with all the facilities in the heart of the capital. All casinos in Sri Lanka will be located only there. The income out of the whole project will be given a couple of decades of tax holiday.

Do you expect any business tycoon to throw 400 million dollars for a gambling based hotel and promote the tourism of the country.....? 

Which casino owner wants to attract a visitor who stays one night at his gambling arena and spends the rest of the visit on sight seeing; Sigiriya, Kandy, Hikkaduwa, Arugam bay..... ...?

A rich tourist who goes to Pathaya beach for a holiday may bet few hundred dollars at a gambling spot in the city. Such tourist and a professional gambler that may come to James Packer's hotel in Colombo are different. 

The essence of gambling business is to suck the pocket of the client at the shortest possible time and kick him out. 

The motto of professional gamblers (those who earn their living from gambling; as a gambler) is to get whatever they can within the shortest possible time and switch to the next gambling point. 

Thus both parties will stick only to their main focus for the total period.

If the visitor wants any alcohol there may be many bars in the hotel; Women..? There may be Indonesian, Russian, Brazilian...whatever they want; Thai Spa or fish therapy to relax their muscles; They will be provided with every amenity within the hotel premises to ensure that they will not be escaped until they dry out. 

The visitor will most often spend all his money and leave the country empty pocket making James Packer even richer while the Sri Lankans will be satisfied with a meatless bone such as an odd job in the hotel. 

James Packer will get his return on investment within 2-3 years, thus the rest will be his pure profit. 

Just a single hotel with gambling in the city does not make Colombo a gambling city by it's true meaning. However, the investor can give such notorious label to the city by spending a couple more million dollars. Such pseudo publicity will have a serious negative impact on our tourism industry. 

A gambler is not a tourist as we discussed above. Thus a centralized gambling industry cannot promote tourism. 

On the other hand,  the present day statistics clearly show that family tourism has now taken over the bachelor tourism. If you are a regular traveler, you may have noticed that at airports, the sight of white people with kids has a significant increment.

Most often family tourists avoid countries famous for gambling. They prefer countries with scenic beauty or amusement themes (the country may have ample casino industry but not giving prominence to such promotion). Malaysia is a good example of such family tourism. 

Finally my conclusion is that economically viable decentralized gambling is not suitable for Sri Lanka due to its social impact to a nation with rich cultural heritage.

The proposed centralized gambling business is not suitable due to the economic disaster that it will bring to the country.

Thus, simply, the Casino Industry, is not suitable to Sri Lanka.