Drive against insensitive use of religious symbols
From Neville de Silva in London
Sri Lanka has taken the initiative to muster international support against the commercial exploitation of Buddhist and Hindu religious symbols. High Commissioner Faisz Musthapha has discussed the recent use of the Buddha image on commercial products with the London-based envoys of Japan, South Korea and Myanmar and is awaiting a meeting with the Thai ambassador to take a common position against the use of religious symbols by manufacturers of commercial products, diplomatic sources said.

The High Commissioner has also written to the British Foreign Office about the offence caused to Buddhists and Hindus by the insensitive use of their religious symbols on products on sale. The High Commissioner has requested the Foreign Office to inform relevant departments to be alert to the use of such offensive material which hurt the religious feelings of the Sri Lankan people.

Mr. Musthapha has also written to the British Chamber of Commerce drawing its attention to the commercial exploitation of the Buddha image and that of Lord Vishnu in male and female garments and other commercial ware.

Besides other products, he referred in his letter to the chamber's chief executive to the sale of cassettes with a pictorial representation of the Buddha and called the "Buddha Bar".

He is said to have requested the organisation to make its members aware that misuse of religious symbols is hurtful of the susceptibilities of Sri Lankan people and is unacceptable. The High Commission's offensive against such exploitation follows a move by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to initiate collective action against such offensive commercial exploitation.

The flurry of diplomatic activity comes after this correspondent informed the High Commission four months ago about the sale of packets of tea with a Buddha image on the package by a leading British supermarket Sainsbury.

Following this the High Commissioner promptly wrote to the chairman of Sainsbury, Sir Peter Davies protesting against the use of the Buddha image. Sainsbury apologised for causing any offence and promised to withdraw the offending packages.

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