By Ummu Hana –
“Pluralism is a fact and now we have to deal with it and try to find solution. It starts with our mind, our intellect, and our way of understanding and putting things and its quiet challenging. When we speak about pluralism, we should be at the same time rooted in our tradition and open to the other traditions.” Philosopher Tariq Ramadan, at 18th annual commemorative lecture of the late Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka M.A Bakeer Markar, 21st September 2015.
Sri Lankan Muslim community of 21st century is in desperate crisis to understand and reconcile between the scriptural text and the exemplary traditions of prophets in line with the higher values and objectives of Islam such as justice, dignity and respect to humanity in a rational form.
The Oxford Professor Tariq Ramadan’s philosophical thoughts explicitly interconnect the scriptural values (that are Sri Lankan values as well) with prophet Mohamed’s tradition and illustrate the consistence between specific individual texts with the overall objectives of scriptural text (Quran) and demand Sri Lankan Muslims to be consistent with the values and objectives and become as an asset by their contribution witnessing and struggling for social justice toward all Sri Lankan communities.
Tariq Ramadan’s thoughts are healing to Sri Lankan Muslim community who is in desperate need to understand and reconcile within, as to how to be fully aligned with faith of god and at the same time fully engaged with local development in every social spectrum to enrich the humanity at large and witness them as a mercy to humanity.
During the colonial era, Sri Lankan Muslim community intellectuals were preaching to isolate their community form colonizers to protect their culture from that of the colonizers due to fear of conversion or losing faith by the attraction of wealth and mew language. However subsequent to the freedom from colonizers, the transition from fear, lack of confidence and self-isolation to mutual understanding, respect and collective and active contribution within Sri Lankan communities yet to take place in Sri Lanka, though this post-colonial crisis is common to all Sri Lankan communities including Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims of this country. The transformation need to take place within each communities form colonized victim mentality and ethnic oriented isolation led by fear and increasing unfamiliarity with historically rooted values of our own references, stereotyped cultural possessive mentality etc… Professor Tariq’s thought are timely food to make this transition which was overdue for decades within all Sri Lankan communities in common as well as Muslim community in particular.
During September 2015 tour to Sri Lanka Philosopher Tariq was speaking louder toward the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankan citizens stressing to get back to their centuries old historical values and come with value addition in every socio-political domains and be mercy to all Sri Lankans and beyond. More than that, his talks were heavily targeted to Sri Lankan Muslims in particular touching their scriptural text (Quran) and the traditions of prophets.
Citing the scriptural texts professor stated that their faith of Muslims should motivate them to be active in social contribution in every social domain until ensure justice and freedom to all Sri Lankans, alleviating poor from the whole country while respecting the diversity of culture and identities of people around them. In this respect professor stated that Islamic philosophy or teachings does not promote or export any unique system in terms of economy, education, politics etc.… but it demand to ensure the values of justice and dignity is being embodied within every systems in a given context. According to the professor speech, the notion of Islamic Banking, Islamic Economy, Islamic School are not rooted with the spirit of the values of Islam and in fact Muslims should be adding value to each and every systems in this country and ensure those systems uphold social justice, common good, dignity and prosperity of all citizens and the environment. These thought are extremely challenging the prevailing conception of understanding of Islam and Islamic system and demand to re-think of the conception of Muslim Schools, Islamic banking and other institutions.
Though Professor Ramadan was addressing precisely toward Sri Lankan Muslims based on the Islamic reference and stressed that the Sri Lankan Muslims to witness their faith by being an assets to the context and add value to each and every people and systems and these values such as justice, dignity and respect derived from the teaching of Islam, those values are values taught within Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity as well as aesthetics. Further those are collective values embodied in the constitution of Sri Lankan as well as universal values. Therefore the issues Philosopher Tariq demands to address are relevant to whole Sri Lankan communities and that can address collectively as common issues in Sri Lanka with a common narrative and at the same time with diverse perspectives.
When it comes to education system as the Oxford professor says that ‘there are no separate system calls Islamic education system’ instead we need the education system that serves people with wisdom, rationality, dignity and respect and ultimately enable to bring healthy value based human being and societies. As we know the prevailing Sri Lankan education system from kinder garden to higher education system is highly ethnically and racially profiled and common narratives are yet to address. Accordingly Tariq’s speech let us as Sri Lankans to think collectively toward a radical shift in our education system that ensure that our students are having decent education that enable them to live as one human society with understanding and respect of diverse cultures and identities.
In the same manner when it comes to economic and banking system we need a value based take and continued reform to ensure that the system leads to social justice. These value additions can come from the learning rooted from diverse religious and cultural background and that will be looked at complementing and competing toward making good for all communities. In the same manner we need value adding contributions from every social, cultural and faith based groups in every domain that world bring mercy in terms of justice, affect the Sri Lankans.
This is a challenge but unavoidable and need of the time. On this respect the arrival of world renounced intellectual and one of the top hundred influential thinkers’ of world is a milestone value addition toward the academic and intellectual base in Sri Lanka and can be seen as an eye opener toward rebuilding our country collectively and ensure every citizen of this country breath justice, freedom and dignity in all the way.
*Ummu Hana contributes on various domains including Pluralism, Reform, Policy review & development and cultural studies. You can reach UmmuHana at firstname.lastname@example.org