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Arrests made over 'Buddha Bar' meal

Sri Lankan police have arrested two hotel managers after they arranged a dinner for French tourists at their premises, which played music from the 'Buddha Bar' collection and was described as a 'nirvana-style' buffet.

The two men are being held in custody until Monday for 'causing offence to Buddhists' said Police Spokesperson Prisantha Jayakody.

The arrests follow the hotel premises being raided by the Buddhist group 'Bodu Bala Sena' (Buddhist Power Force), accusing the hoteliers of insulting Buddhism. The organisation's leader Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, allegedly told members of the media that his group would shut down the event if needed, as their menu was named 'nirvana'.

The 'Buddha Bar' is an international chain of restaurants in locations across the world including London, New York, Beirut and Egypt. The Paris-based chain also released its own lounge music collection, having sold over a million copies worldwide (See the link on Amazon here).

However, the music has been slapped with a ban by Sri Lanka, where the albums are illegal. It is alleged the hoteliers were playing music from the forbidden albums.

Sri Lanka's constitution states that Buddhism has "the foremost place" on the island and it is the "duty of the state to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana", which the island's Buddhist community has been increasingly aggressive in doing.

The 'Buddha Bar' chain was previously under investigation by the Sri Lankan government, who alerted all their European missions to give a detailed report on the restaurant with the Daily Mirror reporting 'Sri Lanka is seeking information if patrons at this bar chain consume liquor and dance in front of Buddha statues and will take necessary action if found to be true'.

Event organisers state that the dinner was prepared under the request of tourists from France, a country which had visitors arrested and convicted for imitating poses of the Buddha alongside statues, and reportedly kissing one of them.

A London restaurant called "The Greedy Buddha" was also amongst those that earned the scorn of the Sri Lankan government, for allegedly insulting the religion. In 2010, R&B singer Akon was refused a visa to enter Sri Lanka and sparked violent protests in Colombo after a music video of his was also deemed offensive to Buddhism.

Also see our earlier post: A disrespect to Buddhism (14 January 2012)

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