21 April, 2024


An Open Letter To UN Commissioner For Human Rights

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

Your Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein,

In your capacity as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, I write to your Highness with much hope and confidence that the office of the United Nations Commission For Human Rights will provide and protect the human rights of Sri Lanka’s multi ethnic, multi religious and multi cultural population.

Your Highness, as you are well aware, all three communities in this country, i.e. the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims suffered in numerous ways and faced untold hardship during the 30 years of armed conflict that devastated our country socially and economically. The Muslim community in particular, who were not part of the armed conflict, paid a heavy price when ethnic cleansing took place in the Northern Province, when they were forced to leave their homes in a few hours taking nothing of value. The entire population of the Northern Province was ethnically cleansed. The Muslims in the East too suffered extreme violence including the gunning down by the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) of 147 Muslims while they were in prayer inside a mosque in Kathankuddy, Sri Lanka. The Muslims paid this price because they refused to join the Thamil separatists in their quest for a separate state (Eelam).

The evicted Muslims of the North have remained in refugee camps and shelters in different parts of the country for over 25 years and still continue to live as a “Forgotten People”. They have been denied their right to return, their land and properties forcibly taken from them and their livelihoods lost.

RanilAt the end of the war in May 2009, the Government followed a policy of resettling the ‘last in, first out’, that deprived the Muslims of their right to return to their homes and restart their lives and livelihood.

During their displacement, most of their land and property have been taken over by the LTTE and settled with families of their war heroes and other Tamil population of the Northern Province. The Government, the International Community and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) have done very little to address the grievances of the Muslim IDPs.

In 2012, the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in one of the most controversial declarations had professed large extents of land in the Northern Province as forest reserves. This was undertaken as a knee jerk reaction to the possible loss of control by the then government of the Northern Provincial Council in the elections of 2013. The The 13th Amendment gave the Provincial Councils rights over “Land, land tenure, transfer and alienation of land, land use, land settlement and land improvement.” It specifically says “Land shall be a Provincial Council subject to certain limitations.” The Supreme Court determined in September 2013 (Three weeks after the TNA won the Northern Provincial Council) that state land was vested in the central government and not the provincial councils.

The Muslims were the worst affected by this declaration as almost all their lands that they were forced to abandon due to their eviction had forest growth beyond the stipulated height. They could not go back to clear the shrub growth due to the military engagement of the LTTE and the government forces.

At the end of the war in 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Presidential Task Force (PTF) for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province. The President’s powerful sibling, Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, led the PTF. It was mandated to resettle the 300,000 IDPs from the war within the shortest possible time. Almost the entire displaced persons of the last stages of the war were resettled, but IDPs from 1990 were not part of this impressive resettlement scheme as they were considered old refugees.

In 2012, the PTF identified and started distributing some land in the Mannar district (Musali South) previously owned by Muslims for the resettlement of the Muslim IDPs of the 1990 eviction. In the absence of substantial support from the Government, benevolent donors from many Muslim countries supported these returning IDPs with housing and other basic infrastructure. This led to various protests by extremist Buddhists and they began, with the support of some Environmentalists, a campaign claiming that these IDPs were being settled within the boundaries of the Wilpattu National Park. When evidence was provided that the Muslims had title deeds to these lands, some under the seal of King Edward from 1906, they changed their stand and said that they are being resettled in the forest reservations of Kalaru, thus depriving the rights of the Muslim population to return to their own homes.

Further, with the end of the war in 2009, some extremist Buddhists began targeting the Muslim and evangelical Christian population of the country. The Secretariat for Muslims (SFM) has recorded over 500 incidents of violence, intimidation and threats against each of these communities during the last four yers. The Government has taken no action to stop this violence. With the change in government in 2015, there was high expectation amongst the minority communities that the new Government of good governance would address these concerns, but regretfully there has been no firm action against these extremists.

The hate campaign orchestrated by these extremist Buddhist groups led mostly by Buddhist monks culminated in the Aluthgama pogrom that resulted in loss of lives, property and livelihood of the Muslims. The demand from the Muslim community for a commission of inquiry has not been heeded. We earnestly request your office to address this issue as priority and bring the perpetrators of this violence to justice.

The Muslim community expects your Highness and the Office of the United Nations Commissioner For Human Rights to include the legitimate concerns of the Muslim community as part of the Geneva process in finding a lasting solution to our country’s long drawn conflict. Any solution without addressing the concerns of the Muslim IDPs and the hate campaign towards minorities will cause the rights of the Muslim community to be violated.

I thank you for your kind consideration.

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    Sufism or the Sufi Muslim Ideology

    Traditionally, Sufism or the Sufi Muslim ideology had been the predominant Islamic spiritual tradition observed throughout Southern Asia, including Sri Lanka. Sufism is considered to be the mystical, ascetic branch of Islam which emphasizes personal experience with Allah. Sufis can be members of either the Sunni or Shia divisions of Islam who share most of the basic principles of Islam. These two divisions stemmed from ancient political strife among Muslims. Of the total global Muslim population, 87-90% are Sunni Muslims and 10-13% are Shia Muslims. Most Shias live in just four countries – Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.

    Threats to the Dominance of Sufism

    Sri Lanka has a long history of Sufism dating back several centuries, although some modern elements have been imported in recent years. During the past five decades the dominance of Sufism has been undermined by the increased presence of other Islam sects. Among them is Tabligh Jamaat, which has been active since the 1950s and has developed a mass following in the last two decades. Initially it avoided explicit political activity and concentrated on encouraging Muslims to engage more actively in religious rituals. It particularly focused on encouraging performance of daily prayers and religious rituals, and also promoted rigid dress codes for its members. It promoted and encouraged a more conservative view of Islam.

    Tabligh Jamaat was initially a religious movement founded in India in 1926 as a response to the deteriorating values and negligence of fundamental aspects of Islam which was becoming a threat to Muslims. Subsequently it became a transnational movement with followers in many countries. This ultraorthodox Islamic sect preaches that Muslims should replicate the life of Muhammad and tells them it is their duty to travel across the country converting non-believers to the Islamic faith. It has become common practice for Tabligh members to make regular journeys around the country to propagate the virtues of Islam. Young members are particularly encouraged to do so. This is said to be giving the younger generation of Muslims a chance to mix with other ethnic groups. Although Tabligh was of appeal to different classes of Muslims, its rather simplistic approach to religious belief and antipathy towards political and social action made it less popular among the educated, middle-class Muslims.

    Jamaat-i-Islamiya (JI)

    Jamaat-i-Islamiya (JI) became active in Sri Lanka since the 1950s, and gained many adherents during the past fifteen to twenty years. The JI was founded in Pakistan in 1941, starting as an Islamic political party with the objective of establishing an Islamic state, governed by Sharia law. The JI opposes Ideologies such as capitalism, socialism and secularism, and practices such as bank interest and liberalist social mores. In its operations in Sri Lanka, the more intellectual approach of Jamaat-i-Islamiya (JI) generated greater appeal among the more educated middle class Muslims. It largely concentrated on religious orthodoxy and did not openly advocate radical political ideas.

    Emerging Trends of Ultraorthodox Islam

    According to reports, in Sri Lanka, since the late 1980s there has been a strong growth in ultra-orthodox interpretations of Islam that have provoked conflicts with Muslims who traditionally profess Sufism. There are several emerging trends, with issues of identity and Muslim separatism also coinciding with the influx of some religious ideas from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere. These new trends appear to presage more difficult developments in the future.

    Arrival and Expansion of Wahhabism

    Wahhabism as opposed to Sufism, is an ultra conservative branch of Sunni Islam which is dominant in Saudi Arabia. It is a movement that started in the 18th century, in Saudi Arabia, among fundamentalist Islam believers who were promoting a return to the earliest fundamental Islamic teachings of the Quran and Hadith or religious law and moral guidance enunciated by Prophet Mohamed.

    After 1973, with the Arab oil embargo resulting in the enrichment of Saudi Arabia, the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, dominant in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, began to have impact on Muslims living in other countries. Soon, it began encroaching Sri Lanka and having impact on adherents of the traditional form of Sufi Islam prevalent in Sri Lanka. Wahhabis began establishing itself in Sri Lanka despise the Sufis. They started operating through a movement called Thawheed funded by Saudi Arabian sources. They were instrumental in the establishment of numerous madrasas in Sri Lanka where young Muslims are being subject to various forms of indoctrination and brainwashing in Wahhabism including the jihad approach and Sharia law. During the last few decades, many Sri Lankan Muslims found employment in Saudi Arabia. Also, many young Sri Lankan Muslims were awarded scholarships by Saudi Arabia to study Wahhabism in Saudi universities. Upon their return to Sri Lanka they undertook in an organized manner the propagation of the ideology of Wahhabism. They were instrumental in the establishment of numerous madrasas where young Muslims were subject to various forms of brainwashing in Wahhabism including the jihad approach.

    In Arabic, the word jihad translates to mean “struggle”. Persons engaged in jihad are called mujahideen. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. There are two meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties. The ‘halal’-haram- practices are related to this type of struggle. This is a non-violent struggle. The other meaning of Jihad is the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam. This physical struggle can take a violent form or a non-violent form. The proponents of the violent form translate jihad as “holy war”.

    Increased Propagation of Wahhabism

    With increased funding by the Saudi Arabia with their petro dollars, and other forms of penetration, the Wahhabi followers have increased in Sri Lanka during recent decades. This was clearly evident in the Eastern province. Wahhabis claim that the Sufis or the moderate Sri Lankan Muslims are ignorant of the basic teachings and practices in Islam. They claim to be the real scholars of Islam.

    This has led to sectarian clashes among peace loving Sri Lankan Muslims. There appears to be an increasing trend in this unruly behaviour pattern of some sections of the Muslim community, in the East and elsewhere where they predominate. It is a fact that there is a rising trend of Wahhabi Jihadism in Sri Lanka. Wahhabi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Sri Lanka partly because the House of Saud has financed the building of many madrasas and Mosques.

    Scholarships are offered to Muslim youths to go to Wahhabi institutions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt with the condition that those who complete their Wahhabi studies should return to Sri Lanka and propagate Wahhabism. This is happening extensively. Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Wahhabi terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia spends 87 billion US dollar per year to spread Wahhabism world-wide.

    Wahhabis are trying to take the peaceful Islamic community in Sri Lanka down the path of extremism and violence. The Wahhabis have already created deep divisions in among Sri Lankan Muslims and have formed gangs that intimidate moderate Muslims who speak out against Wahhabi fanatics. Like the Christian fundamentalist groups using NGOs to convert innocent poor families to Christianity, Wahhabis help poor Muslim families by providing cash and other material benefits to convert them to their cult. Wahhabis appear to be using Sri Lankan Government agencies to propagate Wahhabi activities.

    Clashes between Sufis and Wahhabi Muslims

    Wahhabism in Sri Lanka is headquartered in Kattankudi is a new politico-religious movement that is sweeping the Eastern province of Sri Lanka with more than sixty Muslim Wahhabi organizations helping in propagating the movement throughout Sri Lanka and has raced ahead and taken control of the Jihadist and Al Fatah groups in Sri Lanka under their wings. Wahhabism is imported and planted in the midst of peace-loving Muslims in Sri Lanka, mostly through the lavish inflow of Saudi money pumped into Sri Lanka has overtaken other Islamic organizations by threats, intimidation and coercion.
    Clashes between Sufis and Wahhabi Muslims in Kattankudi and Oddamavadi are regular occurrence. More than 200 homes of Sufi followers were burnt down by Wahhabi Jihadists in Kattankudi during similar clashes occurred in October 2004.

    One of the Sufi leaders Abdul Payilvan died in Colombo was buried at in Kattankudi the next day. Wahhabi Muslims observed a hartal and demanded the removal of the body from the burial grounds. Wahhabi Muslims claim Kattankudy soil is sacred and bodies belonging to those who preach views contradictory to Wahhabism should not be buried there. Wahhabis demanded that the body of Abdul Payilvan, who is from Maruthamunai in the Ampara district, should be exhumed and buried elsewhere.

    Wahhabis had dug up the buried body of another Sufi Muslim from Mosque burial grounds and dumped the body on a local road as an act of protest. Kattankudi Police recovered the body, re-buried it in the original burial ground and guarded burial ground for few days.

    In Kattankudi, the hatred between Wahhabis and Sufis has widened in the last few years and has grown in intensity, left many injured, and caused damage to several houses and vehicles. Though residing in Sri Lanka illegally, P Jainul Abedin – a powerful Wahhabi preacher from Tamil Nadu – is now leading the Wahhabi Jihadism in Kattankudi. A more recent 2009 clash in the south-western Muslim coastal town of Beruwala reflects similar religious tensions between a popular Sufi sheikh and a nearby Wahhabi congregation.

    Saudi agents have successfully penetrated Sri Lankan Muslims social fabric and have managed to defeat the Sufism in their game. Due to the training afforded by the House of Saud now the Wahhabis have prevailed over the Sufis. The Muslims in Sri Lanka have been subdued due to the Wahhabi influence.

    The House of Saud pretending to be the leaders of the Islam promote their Wahhabi ideology world-wide. The result has been the birth of al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Wahhabi terrorist groups which are killing Sunni and Shia Muslims alike in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. All the ‘Islamist’ terror attacks in South Asia including in Mumbai, Afghanistan and Pakistan had the hallmarks of Wahhabism. Wahhabi Jihadists are blinded by faith to believe that they have the mandate of Allah to rid the world of ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’. Until this Wahhabism is thoroughly discredited, combating Wahhabi terrorism is impossible. Since the Western countries subterfuge to destabilise Sri Lanka, by surreptitiously supporting the LTTE failed, now the Western countries will promote Wahhabi Jihadism to cause strife and trouble to destabilize Sri Lanka. Wahhabi followers – al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Wahhabi terrorist groups – have caused untold misery in several countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Sri Lanka appears to be their next target. Wahhabis have already built several illegal Mosques in Sri Lanka using Saudi Arabia’s petro dollar.

    Indoctrination of Younger Generation in Madrasas

    Zachary Abuza, in his book titled Militant Islam in Southeast Asia (Crusible of Terror), highlights the role of Madrasas or exclusively Islamic schools established by Muslim extremists in indoctrinating the younger generation. The author comments that “In their pursuit of the creation of Islamic states, many Southeast Asian jihadis established Islamic schools to indoctrinate, propagate, and recruit. The leaders of many militant groups in Southeast Asia, returned from training in Mid Eastern countries and established madrasas as the base of their operations and recruitment.” These radical Islamic madrasas, with unrestricted material support from foreign Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have begun to recruit and brainwash many Muslim children and youth in Islamic Jihadist movement and Islamic fundamentalism.

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    In the sectarianism that has been the unfortunate consequence of the end of the Eelam wars, the Minority voices that are being listened to, drowning out the fact that in this “multicultural” society of Sri Lanka the people in REAL NUMBERS who suffered most and gave willingly of their lives in order to bring a senseless war to an end are the Sinhalese.
    The attention given by the previous MR regime to repay and rehabilitate those who lost life and limb began to be resented by the Minorities, and today it is the Sinhala Defense establishment that brought the peace who are at the butt end of criticism by the Minorities, while appeals are simultaneously made to visiting dignitaries by the Minority leaders to get Defense/Sinhalas out of the North and East.
    Now it looks as though our brave soldiers and the Sinhala leaders of the country are going to be strung up for the lynching by internationals like the Prince from Saudi, while the weeping Minority groups turn on the tears and get their message through for more economic as well as other special attention. Vengeance by other Sinhala sectarian groups help in their effort.

    In the North and East there is deliberate underdevelopment in visible living standards, aimed at showing visitors a contrast with the South. Public and political officialdom promote a facade of “Underdevelopment” in order to demonstrate neglect to visiting dignitaries, whereas beneath that facade there is REAL economic improvement since the war ended. The huge profits made through agriculture, fisheries etc. are NOT used to show off newly acquired wealth in the area, but is used to acquire land and assets in the South where comfortable co-existence of all social/ethnic communities is possible.

    The Sinhala leaders and the Sinhala public seem unaware of what is going on beneath the surface in this island with Minority/Internationals displacement of the majority Sinhala in the island driven by out of control Sectarianism.

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    you should have added the followings also..

    We muslims are very honest people …..always speak truth….

    We carried arms as home guards to slaughter Tamils with the blessing of Sinhala Army…

    WE used to call for 6th prayer after midnight and asked Allah `s to assemble with arms in the mosque to attach Tamils living in the neighboring villages

    We change our caps according to the wind direction ..thus whatever government is in power we get minister posts

    IPKF wanted to finish off all the Muslims in the east .but Tamils never agreed this …so in Islamic way we are paying our gratitude to Kill them..loot Tamils Villages..destroy Hindu Temples

    We are living by trading to Tamils ..visiting interior of Tamil villages so we use to work as spies to Sinhala army who have paid us handsomely

    When wailing Tamils buried their kith and kin after slaughtered by Sinhala army near Muslim areas we use to enjoy picnic at the beach

    We have burned and looted many Tamil villages..

    Now with Saudi money we have change Katthankudy like Saudi Arabia and dressed like Arabs but speak our mother tongue Tamil not Arabic


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    Cholan: Enjoyed your satirical sense of humor…
    but seriously what are we Sinhalas, Tamils, and Muslims who love this island country going to do about ending what is being done to us from the outside to exacerbate the agonies going on in the inside?

    Can a wholesale apology from all the groups enable us to make up for all the past errors, and enable this country to be run with honesty, truth, and a sense of trusted purpose, to move it forward from the toxic rut we are in today?
    No foreign group OR DIGNITARY can set this right…we have to do this for ourselves, BY OURSELVES.

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    It is sad to see how divided we have become as Sri Lankans. While my sole intention was to drawn the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the plight of the Muslim IDPs who have not been supported to resettle even seven years after the war ended. My non Muslim compatriots continue on the racist lines, targeting the entire Muslim community. While I admit that there are the good, bad and ugly amongst all communities, please do not use the same brush on people who have been homeless for more than 25 years. I have visited this IDP/conflict area many times during the last 25 years, including at times of the military conflict as I had the privilege of going to these areas as a journalist.

    If any of you experience the trauma of displacement, you would not speak like this. Please remove your tinted glasses and see these people as innocent people caught between tow warring factions.

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    Hilmy, It is you who wears the tinted glasses . Certainly we believe you had special privileges to visit conflict areas because you are a journalist. But have you ever written about the oppression,abduction,torture and murder of poor Tamil civilians in those areas. No, because your tinted glasses did not allow you to see those.
    How about the Muslims who took over the homes and businesses of the Tamils when they were assaulted,molested and burned down by rabid Sinhala-Buddhist. Was it visible to your journalistic eyes?

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      Raymon, you must have been born yesterday. I as the owner of Young Asia Television was the only voice against the violence that we expereinced in the 30 year war. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government raided my office, and had got a search and arrest warrant issued on me by the Kaduwela magistrate. They branded me as a tiger sympathiser, just because we said that there is a need to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict. We have produced over 600 television programmes on peace and over 400 radio programmes. All these spoke about the hopes, aspirations and fears of all the communities. We are the only ones who spoke for peace. Balasingham threatened me with death, but we continued. So, we were atatcked both by the tigers and the government. So, those of you who are internet worriers dont tell me how to battle for peace

  • 4

    Hilmy Ahamed

    If you are an honest journalist who cares about the Internally Displaced Pople and your sole intention was to highlight the plight of your people its fine by all of us.

    I doubt your intention, as you went on beating the dead tigers (and vouched for the sanctity of the Muslims (“The Muslim community in particular, who were not part of the armed conflict”) which were blatant lies

    “The Muslims in the East too suffered extreme violence including the gunning down by the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) of 147 Muslims while they were in prayer inside a mosque in Kathankuddy, Sri Lanka. The Muslims paid this price because they refused to join the Thamil separatists in their quest for a separate state (Eelam).”

    The above has nothing to do with your sole concern for Muslim IDP, repeating the same mantra that you have said many times elsewhere. And in most part you are attempting to cover up voluntary participation of Muslim youth in various Tamil militant organisations.

    For example Basheer Segu Dawood SLMC MP was an important leader of EROS, elected as an Eelavar Democratic Front MP in 1988 until LTTE banned the party, who still reveres his former comrade V Balakumar (surrendered with his son in 2009, not accounted for) and there were hundreds of Muslim youth who either worked with or actively took part in militant programmes.

    You are silent on the role played by Muslim Home Guards in the Eat which was blamed for many violent incidents, death, rape and other politically motivated actions, which also caused mistrust between Tamils and Muslims.

    There was/is an element of Muslim involvement in militant tendencies in the past, present am sure will be in the future, cannot be denied, albeit at reduced scale. Muslims as a people cannot make a claim to the moral high ground when evidence suggest otherwise.

    You sound like a sanctimonious humbug and are a disgrace to many honest Muslims with whom I grew up.

    Get real and please stop denying Muslim involvement in the war. Their hands are soaked in blood too.

  • 0

    A propos what my on-line comment friend Native Vedda says above, I would like to repeat what I had stated before on this thread:

    “…what are we Sinhalas, Tamils, and Muslims who love this island country going to do about ending what is being done to us from the outside to exacerbate the agonies going on in the inside?
    Can a wholesale apology from all the groups enable us to make up for all the past errors, and enable this country to be run with honesty, truth, and a sense of trusted purpose, to move it forward from the toxic rut we are in today?
    No foreign group OR DIGNITARY can set this right…we have to do this for ourselves, BY OURSELVES.

  • 0

    There is no end to this Muslim bashing. Hilmy too is provoking this. Sri Lankans need to reconcile and move forward. The Muslim displacement needs definite attention

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