By Latheef Farook –
Special ceremonies were held by all four communities-Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians- to mark the first anniversary of the Easter Sunday bombings of hotels and churches and the massacre of innocent people. However all failed to highlight the atrocities the Maithri-Ranil government unleashed and sufferings inflicted on the Muslim community in the wake of this tragedy.
Though the bombers were senseless lunatics who called themselves Muslims, the Muslim community had nothing to do with their dastardly crime. Reiterating this time and again Cardinal Malcom Ranjith announced that Muslim community had nothing to do with this carnage as misguided local youths were used by foreign forces to commit this crime.
Former President Maithripala Sirisena too was aware that the Muslim community had nothing to do with this massacre. However exploiting the fact that the bombers were Muslims, the government, racist elements and suspected foreign forces unleashed a fierce campaign which virtually destroyed within 20 minutes the very foundation of the Muslim community.
As part of this campaign Mr. Sirisena imposed emergency laws and declared a campaign of violent persecution of Muslims. These atrocities, perhaps, the worst ever in the more than 1000 year history of Muslims in the island, went unnoticed during the first anniversary. Muslim politicians, controversial ulemas who observed a two- minute silence at the Kollupitiya Jumma Mosque as a mark of respect to the innocent people who died in the Easter Sunday bomb attacks too failed to speak a word about atrocities on innocent Muslims community.
For example in the wake of the carnage, the Maithri-Ranil government promptly deployed forces to search Muslim owned properties from mosques, houses, business establishments and anything and everything owned by Muslims. Muslim men and women were taken to custody on ridiculous allegations and produced before courts.
Dismissing the religious sentiments of Muslims, the government dispatched armed forces into mosques with boots accompanied by sniper dogs during the Holy Month of Ramadan fast. The mainstream media influenced by powerful foreign anti-Muslim forces, unleashed a well-orchestrated vicious anti-Muslim campaign provoking non-Muslims against Muslims.
Government swiftly imposed ban on Muslims wearing face cover, burqa and niqab. This was exploited to harass even Muslim women wearing traditional clothes. In the rush Prime Minister Wickremesinghe announced that madrasas will be brought under Education Ministry, Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act will be amended to increase the age of marriage to 18 and Sharia University will not be allowed.
Interfering further into the religious life of the community, the government ordered mosques to submit copies of sermons given within their premises. This is usually done in countries ruled by ruthless dictatorships.
Racist mercenaries began a campaign asking non-Muslim not to buy from Muslim owned shops. In Padiyathalawa a Buddhist monk rushed into a Muslim owned shop and forced out Sinhalese shoppers ordering the Muslim owners that they should close the shop and leave.
In this frightening atmosphere there emerged rumors of yet another violent attack on Muslims on Monday 13 May 2019. There were sporadic incidents on Sunday May 12 at Negombo which spread to Chilaw and other places before spreading to North western province.
There were organized attacks on Muslims in Kurunegala, Hettipola and other places. The government was aware of these attacks but did nothing to prevent. Yet the shameless Muslim parliamentarians who sold their souls for perks and positions and abandoned the community continued to remain with the government.
In this frightening atmosphere, instead of taking measures to prevent violence and protect besieged Muslims, Mr Sirisena left to China to attend an insignificant conference leaving Muslims at the mercy of organized murderous thugs.
As he left the country attacks began on Monday 13 May 2019. Mob of around 500 with iron rods, swords and other weapons began their killing and burning spree under the watchful eyes of the police and the army. Mob freely burnt mosques, houses, shops, business establishments and around 500 other units in around 30 Muslim villages.
Fasting Muslim women grabbing their children ran to Sinhalese neighbors for safety. Some accommodated and even provided food while others chased them out. Sinhala three wheel drivers refused to take a severely beaten and battered Muslim man, dragged on the street, to hospital. In the process he died.
Forty nine year old furniture shop owner Fouzul Ameen in Minuwangoda came home around 4 pm to end his fast at 6.20 PM when a mob began smashing windows, while the family stayed huddled inside. Amin came out to persuade the thugs to stop smashing the vehicle. A group of five men slashed his neck with a sword before pouring turpentine on his face. He died. Imagine the plight of his family whose 15year eldest son who watched the barbarity.
This was the plight of Muslims.Multi million rupee businessmen were made paupers overnight, thanks to Sirisena-Ranil government’s refusal to prevent these senseless attacks .
On return to the island from China there was no word from Mr Sirisena leave alone visiting places such as Minuwangoda – a lively business city burnt to the ground?
Instead, adding insult to injury Sarsen visited lawless Galagoda atte Gnanasara Thera, a man of violence known for his atrocities towards Muslims, at his prison cell. He was later released under presidential pardon and was entertained by Mr. Sirisena with Thera’s mother.
Bar Association of Sri Lanka said Mr Sirisena should not have exercised his executive powers arbitrarily when pardoning Galagoda atte Gnanasara Thera, who was jailed after being found guilty of contempt of court charges. It said it was an act based on irrelevant consideration.
However within 48 hours Gnanasara Thera began his vicious anti-Muslim campaign once again.
In the midst Ven Athuraliye Rathna Thero called Tamils to join Sinhalese to fight Muslims.
One columnist pointed out that “Life has become a nightmare for Muslims in their ordinary day to day living .Harassment, discrimination and well-orchestrated hate campaign had taken shape in the public domain, demonizing, alienating and fostering a besieged mentality towards Muslims. He added that racism has found a new meaning in Sri Lanka. And everything Muslims are being targeted. There was total harassment of Muslims in public places, buses, trains, taxis and even in work places
The campaign was so vicious that a Muslim company which provided daily free meals to around 3000 – breakfast-lunch and dinner- to cancer hospital patients and visitors cancelled this due to adverse comments.
The Muslim who suffered so much expected their politicians to speak a few words about these atrocities .In the same way they expected the highly controversial, politicized and commercialized ulemas to condemn these government sponsored crimes on the community when they had a special prayer for Easter Sunday victims.
Perhaps, it is too much for the community to expect such gestures from so called Muslim politicians and ulemas. Message is clear.Perhaps, time has come for Muslims to think of their future without these politicians and ulemas who have overstepped their limits and plunged into politics to the detriment of the community.