Religious Sensitivity in Lanka: No Buddha Tattoes please

Item in Island, 14 February 2013, with title “Tourist fined for having Buddha statue on her body”

Acting on a tip off, the Kandy police have arrested a foreigner who had a tattoo of the Buddha on her back. Kandy police said that Patrina Irene Bronco (26) had been with a male companion at a leading restaurant in the town, when a squad from traffic police took her into custody. The police alleged that she was dressed in such a way that her tattoo was visible. Having seen the tattoo some local youth, who had been also in the restaurant exchanged words with the couple before alerting the Kandy police.

While her statement was being recorded by the police, Bronco, said she had got the tattoo done in the Netherlands, and she was not aware that it was an offence. She also said that, if having a tattoo of the Buddha on her body is considered sacrilegious in Sri Lanka, she would tender an apology. The Tourism Unit of the Kandy Police had produced the tourist before the Kandy Magistrate, who had warned her and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000. She was released thereafter.

ITEM II: from Sunday Times, 15 March 2013 — “British tourist with Buddha tattoos refused entry into the country”

Sri Lankan immigration authorities have deported a British national who arrived on holiday to the island, PTI reported. The Briton, who arrived yesterday, was quizzed by the authorities at Bandaranaike International Airport about the images of the Buddha tattooed all over his body. The Briton explained that it was his personal choice.The act was deemed offensive and airport officials in consultation with their seniors decided not to allow him entry.

Item III: see for another report entitled “Sri Lanka bars Briton with Buddha tattoo

However, while this item of news is significant in revealing the force of Buddhist fundamentalism and raising contentious issues relating to the forms of rspect expected in places of worship,** UK NEWs ventured into unethical territory by presenting it beside an AFP file photograph of a “Sri Lankan soldier [keeping]watch at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo on February 12, 2008” soldier at airport In 2008 !!! Eelam War IV was in full swing then and the prospect of LTTE attacks quite high. This sort of pictorial twist littered the story of Western media reportage throughout the war and was especially marked in the coverage of IDP detention camp.

** It is standard practice in churches for people to remove their hats and one cannot enter the Catholic Basilicas’ I believe, in skimpy shorts. Likewise one does not enter some Buddhist places of worship in shorts or with shoes/slippers on one’s feet. Hre, however we are speaking of public space writ large. BUT, note that one cannot enter some  Muslim countries  wearing a cross around one’s neck or with bible in hand. Note, too, that I can think of some pious buddhist friends whoa re by no means extemist or Fundamentalist who would see a Buddha tattoe on person as an offensive act [albeit unknowingly imprinted thus].

1 Comment

Filed under cultural transmission, fundamentalism, life stories, sri lankan society, tolerance, world affairs

One response to “Religious Sensitivity in Lanka: No Buddha Tattoes please

  1. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry about this story.

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