By Latheef Farook –
Latest step in the build up to commemorate anniversary of 1915 Sinhala Muslim Riots with July 83 type attacks on Muslims?
The timely settlement of the dispute over the mosque at the Swarna Chaithiya Mawatha averted a potentially disastrous conflict which had all the ingredients to turn the area into a killing field. This could have even spilled over to other parts of the country.
This farsighted and generous gesture, in the true spirit of Buddhist teachings, included the cutting of the nearby Bo tree and offering Muslims to pray in the temple “Banamaduwa”, (preaching hall)l need to be admired by Muslims all peace loving citizens of this country.
This is the need of the hour in a country which was torn apart due to a few hundred Buddhist extremist’s reckless attacks vandalizing mosques, Muslim owned businesses and a vicious hostile media campaign poisoning the minds of main stream Sinhalese against Muslims.
If peaceful solution is possible following violent attacks on the mosque this could have also been possible without violence. This is what we all should strive to achieve.
The attack on the Grandpass mosque came weeks after hooligans vandalized the Mahiyangana Mosque when they threw a slaughtered pig, its body parts together with organs and blood inside the prayer area.
Widespread suspicion among knowledgeable Muslims today is that these Buddhist extremists are preparing the mainstream Sinhalese to justify a major July 83 type attack on Muslims to commemorate the 1915 riots.
Today the island’s Muslim community remains a deeply frustrated lot. During the recent past they were subjected to severe attacks and harassments. Three years ago they were attacked by very well organized “grease yakkas, during the holy month of Ramadan.
Then came the destruction of 400 year old Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura under the watchful eyes of the police followed by the attack on Dambulla mosque. Since then these attacks continue unabated.
Buddhist extremists who had taken the law into their hands and emerged as government within government descended to such low depth that they painted a picture of a Muslim with a pig’s face with Allah’s name written on it in Arabic language.
However Muslims remained calm throughout during all these provocations.
Today there is growing feeling of helplessness and frustration among Muslims who were disgusted at the failure of the police to take perpetrators of these crimes into custody. It appears that these lawless thugs seem to be having the blessings of the police which is duty bound to protect the beleaguered Muslims.
They were also deeply disappointed that the government has failed to condemn these attacks. Extremist Sinhalese politicians demanded the government to take the perpetrators of the Sinhala Ravaya Buddhist Temple in the north this week. The question is why remain silent on bringing perpetrators of the attacks on Muslims to book.
Perhaps one law for Sinhala Buddhists and another law for Muslims. This shows where the country is.
In this climate of hate and fear, Muslims living under siege remain a discarded lot. Despite all the sufferings they were subjected to during the 30 year war racist war between the two major communities they are deprived of employment opportunities in the government, semi government, private sector and even in the armed forces including police, came the a latest attack on yet another mosque, now at Grandpass.
The day after celebrating Ramadan festival Muslims in and around Swarna Chaitiya Mawatha at Grandpass gathered at the mosque there for Maghreb, sunset, prayer on Saturday 11 August 2013.
While prayer was in progress a group of Sinhalese thugs entered the mosque and began attacking the worshippers. This was not something unexpected as there was tension there for sometimes and around fifty police officers were deployed in the area from early morning onwards.
According to the media more than 200 people, including women and monks, came in buses and other vehicles to attack the mosque.
It was the time when the feelings among the Muslims were “enough is enough and it is time to protect ourselves “as police failed to protect them. Inevitably the question asked is “what is preventing the police from arresting the perpetrators?
Explaining the attack on Grandpass Mosque a 12 August 2013 statement by The Secretariat for Muslims had this to state;
The reason for the attack was based on the claim that the new three-storey structure on Swarna Chaithya Road in Grandpass was an unauthorized building. However, the Mosque authorities had received a letter from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, permitting the functioning of the mosque at its new premises at No. 158 after the old Molawatte mosque on No. 166 of the same road had been acquired by order of the Urban Development Authority (UDA).
Led by Buddhist monks (allegedly the Sinhala Ravaya), the mob numbering around 50 to 60 which later swelled to 200 , started stoning the Mosque just five minutes after sunset prayers began. The signal for the attack was the ringing of bells at the adjoining Buddhist Temple. About 20 to 25 men then broke down the locked door and entered.
When the mob tried to enter, the imam (prayer leader) at the time, Mohammed Arshad Moulavi and other elders moved all the people from the first and second floors to the top floor. Two youths and three elderly persons on the ground floor were seized by the mob and severely assaulted. They sustained injuries and were later hospitalized.
Despite the presence of around 40 Policemen, with more Police personnel arriving as the attack was in progress, the Police were passive spectators. No arrests were made.
As news of the attack spread, the Muslims in the area rushed to the Mosque. Among these were office bearers of the Islamic organization known as the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath. They were joined by other Muslim elders. Together they started asking the Police to disperse the mob and safeguard the Mosque; however the Police were trying to disperse the crowd of concerned Muslims instead.
As more and more Police arrived, the Muslim leaders kept on demanding that the mob be dispersed and ring leaders arrested, but top Police officials insisted that the Muslims leave the area first. The Muslim leaders flatly refused to leave unless the people wanting to destroy the Mosque were arrested or dispersed and the Mosque’s security guaranteed.
A large number of Muslim youths then managed to rally to defend the mosque, resulting in the mob dispersing from the scene, with the help of the Police. A curfew was declared until 7 a.m. Sunday morning and again from 6 p.m. Sunday evening to 7 a.m. Monday morning.
Meanwhile, the next day August 11 a meeting was held at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, where the Government has decided to revoke the UDA order and return the old Molawatte mosque located at 166 Swarna Chaithya Road back to Muslim devotees. It was decided at the meeting that the Bo Tree on the premises would be removed and the mosque be granted permission to expand.
On the whole what the attackers fail to realize is the damage they had caused to the image of Buddhism and Buddhists in the island. The Buddhist extremists are not the sole owners of Buddhism which is the message to the entire humanity. They project themselves as the saviors of Buddhism and Sinhalese and hope to attain NIBBANA by attacking Muslims, Mosques and Muslim owned businesses.
Did they attack a single tavern selling liquor, casino, gambling center and other such places operating in violation of Buddhist principles? What does this demonstrate? They are not interested in Buddhism and the Sinhalese, but to poison the minds of Sinhalese to create the required environment to justify a major attack on Muslims for political purpose.
Perhaps to serve their local and foreign masters’ .With these racist elements learnt no lessons from the recent past and operating with free hand Sri Lanka does not need enemies.
The irony is so far the authorities failed to condemn any of these attacks on Muslims. Instead the gangsters were protected and pampered?
All what the Muslims and even the mainstream Sinhalese are asking is to enforce the law of land and ensure the security of all.