Facebook implicated in Sri Lankan religious clashes

The Sri Lankan government has accused Facebook of not acting swiftly enough to take down and counter posts that the government says have inflamed passions among Buddhist hardliners in the country who have been instigating mobs to attack Muslims and destroy their homes and businesses. The government has now moved to block many social media platforms.

The Sri Lankan government has accused Facebook of failing to control rampant hate speech that it says contributed to anti-Muslim riots last week that left three people dead and the country under a state of emergency.

As mobs of hardline Buddhists rioted and lit fires in towns in the central district of Kandy, Facebook, WhatsApp and several other platforms were blocked across the Indian Ocean island.

Harin Fernando, the Sri Lankan telecommunications minister, said the government had taken the unprecedented step in response to fears that widely circulated videos claiming to show mosques and Buddhist temples being torched would ignite further violence.

On Tuesday, he highlighted a tweet from a user who claimed to have reported a Facebook post in the Sinhala language that read, “Kill all Muslims, don’t even let an infant of the dogs escape.”

The extremist leader Amith Weerasinghe, who was arrested last week in Kandy after being accused of helping to instigate the violence, had amassed nearly 150,000 followers on his Facebook page before it was taken down last week.

Posts by other extremists that remain online include calls for Buddhist rioters to “hit them [Muslims] as hard as you can”, while another, by an activist who was arrested last November for targeting Rohingya refugees, promises groups will be going “from town to town to safeguard the future of the unborn Sinhala race”.

Sri Lanka seems to lurch from one conflict to another, fueled by the usual toxic mix of religious fervor and ethnic nationalism. Politicians have long fanned those flames to gain power but then act shocked when mobs act on their words. Those in the US who support Trump who uses those same tactics should learn from the example of other countries where they have been used.

But of course they will not learn the lesson. Such people never do.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Do these guys make any attempt at all to reconcile their rants with Buddhist doctrines?

  2. says

    What Pierce said. I don’t understand it at all, how the hell do Buddhists talk themselves around to ‘kill the unbelievers’??

    Do you have some insight into this you can share, Professor Singham?

  3. says

    Bombs are being left on the porches of black folks in Austin Texas. An administration packed with white supremacists.

    Meanwhile buddhism defenders in this thread, why even bother? A lot of progressives like to think there’s a “nice” religion but it’s crap. Any religion can get used for hate, or be used by peaceniks.

    As others are fond of pointing out, zen buddhism was the state religion of the perpetrators of the Rape of Nanking. You can “no true scotsman” them with scriptures, but the average shitty moderate xtian will do the same regarding xtian homophobia & such right here.


  4. says

    Pretty sure you had a reading comprehension failure if you think that was ‘defending’, so crawl down off your high horse and read it again.

  5. Mano Singham says

    abbeycadabra @#3,

    I am afraid the reasons as to how reconcile violence with their religious beliefs is too complex for me to attempt to clarify. The common thread often is that when a religion is in the minority, they preach peace and love and tolerance. When they are in the majority, they decide to oppress others to establish supremacy. It may be as simple as that.

  6. deepak shetty says

    The common thread often is that when a religion is in the minority, they preach peace and love and tolerance

    Not my experience in for e.g. India -- you can find enough examples of the minorities preaching hate -and the majority too ofcourse.
    I’d say the simple answer is no one -- Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Jew/Jain has any intention of practicing whatever it is their religions preach. Religion is contradictory ,so it was never going to be possible anyway. They only like showing that they are part of the same tribe. You wouldn’t see a rich Christian or a dogmatic Hindu or a violent Jain otherwise.

  7. Holms says

    #3, #6
    Same reason christians can be violent despite the ‘love thy neighbour’ portions of the Bible -- ignore those portions, and focus instead on any bit that endorses violence. I expect even buddhism has such passages somewhere.

  8. Dunc says

    People’s actual behaviour frequently bears absolutely no relationship with the contents of the scriptures, holy texts, or ethical, moral, and intellectual principles they claim to revere. And this is not just limited to the religious…

  9. says

    People’s actual behaviour frequently bears absolutely no relationship with the contents of the scriptures

    Yes, I KNOW. I’m not asking about ‘how do they get over the hypocrisy’, I know very well these kinds of people never even notice it. It is weird to me that people think it is necessary to explain this to a regular on this site.

    My question has more to do with what excuses do they use. I know how it works for Christians and Muslims: despite the claimed message of their religions, their holy books contain plenty of passages that can be interpreted as hateful, liscense to kill the unbelievers, or anyone who is or commits an ‘abomination’. For Christians, Leviticus comes up a lot, for example, and Romans.

    I’m curious about what pieces of Buddhist writing -- which I am not familiar with -- get twisted to this purpose.

  10. bmiller says

    People compartmentalize and invent excuses.

    Look at the peaceable kingdom of Bhutan, often held up as a model Buddhist alternative to evil westerners. Thety expelled 40% of their population for not being Buddhist or Bhutanese enough. 40%!

  11. Mano Singham says


    I cannot speak authoritatively as to what Buddhist writings inspire this behavior. As far as I am aware, there are none. As far as Buddhist scripture and philosophy goes, it seems to be consistently non-violent.

    However, I can talk about what is happening in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist triumphalists have got it into their heads that they are the people who have been entrusted to preserve Buddhism in its purest form. They see Sri Lanka as being the home of pure Buddhism and all these non-Buddhist interlopers are undermining that mission. This has been mixed with nationalism because the Buddhists are ethnically members of a group known as Sinhala who have their own language. They see Sinhala Buddhists as the rightful ‘owners’ of the country who are threatened with extinction by the others and are committed to expelling or suppressing them by any means necessary, their own scriptures and philosophy be damned.

    It seems like what is happening in Myanmar is driven by similar feelings to what is going on in Sri Lanka. In both countries, the government seems to be either sharing those beliefs or fearful of not kowtowing to the extremists in the Buddhist majority population.

    These paranoid beliefs are not unlike those of people in the US who see this as a white Christian nation that is under threat of becoming multicultural and thus all others do not really belong here and thus need to leave.

  12. deepak shetty says


    despite the claimed message of their religions, their holy books contain plenty of passages that can be interpreted as hateful, liscense to kill the unbelievers

    It is not my experience that the religious followers actually point to specific passages to justify their behavior (other than a few popular ones). For e.g. a conservative christian once replied when asked what would Jesus do when faced with Hitler -- He simply replied Jesus would not just sit by non violently protest. He didnt need to and wouldnt provide any justification for his views . other believers merely say its a guide book not a book where every single alternative is spelled out.

    In the specific case of Buddhism though , there is a view that ones own experience , reason, common sense etc should drive one to do whats good even if it goes against tradition or what the Buddha says . So as long as you can convince yourself that the actions are good and righteous , you could go ahead.

    Im guessing the devout look at it this way 🙂 (from Sandman)
    Monk : Seek not revenge, Seek the Buddha instead
    Fox : the monk told me to seek the Buddha instead of vengeance
    Dream King: That is good advice. Vengeance is a never ending path. And..?
    Fox : I shall seek the Buddha….But first, I shall seek revenge!

  13. file thirteen says

    There is no difference between religions when it comes to conflict. It doesn’t matter even if the religion explicitly forbids violence. Here’s how it goes.

    Your religion is a beautiful thing. Full of truth and wisdom and love and peace.

    You are far better and purer than others because of your devotion to your religion. Unbelievers don’t give your religion a fraction of the respect and veneration that it deserves.

    If your religion is threatened, you have to defend it. Nothing is more important than your religion. You will, and are justified to, do absolutely anything in its defence. At this point, what the religion actually says in its scriptures is irrelevant.

  14. says

    abbey -- But this high horse is so comfortable! Even so, I should probably be more circumspect because I have the same metaphysical beliefs as TJ Kincaid and a million other horrible dickheads.

  15. says

    Mr. G. A. Satan --

    And me. I have a few unusual notions about “magic”, but they’re a matter of perception and psychology (don’t tell Marcus). Metaphysically, I’m a hardline atheist and skeptic. Not a Buddhist.

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