Islamic fundamentalists burn “Buddha statue”

Islamic fundamentalists burn “Buddha statue”

December 17, 2011 : With two events in as many weeks, the Maldives has been making news both on the home front and in the global arena, for reasons that had been better left untouched.

Coming as they did after the successful SAARC Summit in the southern Addu City, these developments have the potential to become a major political and poll issue ahead of the presidential elections of 2013, if the current trends remain un-reversed.

The first incident flowed from the SAARC Summit itself. Forgetting that Pakistan too was an ‘Islamic State’, religious fundamentalists in Addu ransacked the SAARC memorial erected by Islamabad for depicting what they claimed were idolatrous, ‘un-Islamic’ symbols.

Customary as Pakistani memorials have mostly been, this one carried a bust of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the nation’s flag. At the foot of the pedestal were reliefs of archaeological finds from the Indus Valley Civilisation sites in the country.

Fundamentalists, first in Addu and later in the political capital of Male, claimed that a relief motif represented Lord Buddha. They burnt the whole monument one night and took away the rest. It is as yet unclear if their protests were only over the presence of a perceived representation of Lord Buddha, who is worshipped in many of the SAARC member-nations, or it also related to Jinnah’s bust, as worshipping fellow-humans was also banned in Islam.

It was possibly not without reason that subsequent to the destruction and disappearance of the Jinnah statue, fundamentalists also targeted the Sri Lankan monument, a replica of the nation’s ‘Lion’ emblem. Investigators have to find out if this attack had anything to do with the Buddhist character of Sri Lanka, or was aimed at defusing the embarrassment flowing from the earlier attack on another ‘Islamic Republic’, where again fundamentalism and religious extremism were thriving — targeting not just the immediate neighbourhood but the rest of the world at large.

In contemporary context, Pakistan, along with neighbouring Afghanistan, are considered the global capitals of fundamentalism, from where Maldivian groups are perceived as deriving their strength. In Pakistan, unlike the other two nations, certain State agencies are believed to be aiding, abetting and funding fundamentalist efforts — and for carrying the message to the rest of South Asia and outside, too. Thus the contradiction in the fundamentalist attack on the Pakistan monument was palpable.

A full month after the SAARC Summit, local media reported that the Nepalese monument for SAARC too has been ‘stolen’. They quoted officials to say that the ‘theft’ had taken place when the police on guard duty were in between shifts. With three such desecrations, the authorities, if is said, were considering the wisdom of shifting all SAARC monuments to a central place in Addu and providing 24-hour police security.


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