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A Buddhist's curse to Islamists' bigotry

by Asoka Weerasinghe, Asian Tribune, Feb 15, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- Asoka Weerasinghe reminds the Muslim world, the blasting of The Bamiyan Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan, by the Islamic fundamentalists in 2001, that stood for 23 centuries.

<< The 2300 years old Bamiyan Buddha, before they were destroyed by the Afghan Talibans

He poses a pertinent question, "I wish the Muslims who are furious over these cartoons and rampaging blazing the Danish Embassies had the same sensitivity when the Talibanis blasted to smithereens the Bamiyan Buddhas that stood for twenty-three centuries in the Bamiyan valley, which hurt me to my core as a Buddhist."

In a letter to The Editor, Asian Tribune Asoka Weerasinghe writes, "And if I am expected to cultivate religious tolerance and be respectful of others religions, then I expect others to do the same towards my beliefs as a Buddhist."

In his letter he further reveals his frustration and anger, "by writing a therapeutic The Taliban Trilogy and not going around burning places, and country flags which most nationals feel is their sacred country symbol."

The full text of the letter written by Asoka Weerasinghe is given below:


The Editor
Asian Tribune
Sir:

While I do not condone the insensitive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a Danish paper and reproduced elsewhere in a paper in France and Canada, I wish the Muslims who are furious over these cartoons and rampaging blazing the Danish Embassies had the same sensitivity when the Talibanis blasted to smithereens the Bamiyan Buddhas, that stood for twenty-three centuries in the Bamiyan valley, which hurt me to my core as a Buddhist.

Let me remind the Muslims who seem to be so angry about these cartoons that my knife cut both ways, and just not one way. And if I am expected to cultivate religious tolerance and be respectful of others religions, then I expect others to do the same towards my beliefs as a Buddhist.

I took my frustration and anger by writing a therapeutic The Taliban Trilogy and not going around burning places, and country flags which most nationals feel is their sacred country symbol.

Here is the first poem of the Trilogy.

The Bamiyan Buddhas

"We are Buddhas of the Bamiyan,
for twenty-three centuries
we have stood tall in the sun,
gigantic, gazing benevolently
from our homes in the mountainous terrain
as wars raged during the centuries
across the Afghanistan plains,
but then we were not harassed
and were left alone.

And now the Islamic Taliban leader
Mullah Mohammad Omar says
we should be blown up and destroyed.
And we are aware that Buddhists
around the world are shocked and annoyed.

But, why, why, why? we tend to ask
"the statues violate the tenets of Islam
as laid down in the Koran"
the Talibanis say in a hurry.
But then Islam entered the valley
only in the ninth century,
and we cannot agree
and have difficulty to comprehend
the intended vandalizing spree.

Praise! Our eyes were carved
and we saw the busy stream
of weary travelers
and mostly merchants often tired,
pitching their tents and wired
at the end of a camel caravan
when the nights set in on Bamiyan valley
with a sky of an indigo parchment really
for the stars to be pasted and twinkle.

In the morning
we would see caravans parade
criss-crossing to trade
along the Silk Route,
some with silks from China
others with glassware from Alexandria,
bronze statues from Rome
and carved ivory from India.
Accompanying the caravans,
Buddhist monks came and went.
Carved in the cliffs were monasteries
where yellow-robed monks spent
their time in meditation.
The valley was devoid of lush trees.
When Buddhism was thriving,
there were festive rituals. The silk canopies
were decorated with pennants striving
to add colour to the occasion.
Today, the Bamiyan valley
is an austere place.
The monks and pilgrims
went away many centuries ago
without leaving a trace
after Islam took over the valley.

The rock carvers draped us
in Hellenistic togas with deep folds
and ridges that were straight
inspired by the invading soldiers
of Alexander the Great.
Our faces were painted gold
and our robes with bold
colours of red and blue.
The reason for the two colours
we just don’t have a clue.
But we looked impressive
yet so despondent and vulnerable,
but still we were able
to survive the hostile onslaughts
of factions that fought.

We were alright for twenty-three centuries
having been sculpted, inspired
by the invaders
but now faced death and destruction
by the Talibani marauders.

In early March
in the year two-thousand-and-one
we were attacked and hit by
an anti-aircraft weapon.
We were inanimate to defy
so lost part of our legs
and then parts of our faces.

Later on March ninth
our lower bodies and soles
of our feet were drilled with holes.
The Taliban soldiers stuffed
them with sticks of dynamite,
and about an hour after noon
they blew us to dust
and out of their sight.
The blast was greeted soon
with the Islamic rally’s best
cry of "Allahu Akbar", "God is greatest"
by the Talibanis who witnessed.

By then the civilized world was in shock
by this dastardly act, a knock
on the belief that religions can co-exist.
It was an act of Islamic religious bigotry
and perhaps a
Fundamentalist medieval brutality.

Among the Buddhists
there is revulsion at the thought
that the Talibanis think the act was fine,
and they stand condemned in the eyes of mine
and that of the civilized world."

- Asoka Weerasinghe - Canada.

Asoka Weerasinghe, originally from Sri Lanka, is an award winning published poet, who has won the University of Wales Eisteddfod Poetry Award, Sri Lanka Literary Award for Poetry, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Poetry, Gloucester Arts Board’s Arts Award 2000 for Poetry and The City of Ottawa Appreciation Award for Arts and Culture 2003. He is also the Co-founder of the Gloucester Spoken Art Poetry and Storytelling Series in Ottawa.



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