By Latheef Farook –
It is common knowledge that Sri Lanka, a shining example for political and economic stability, communal harmony and peace, during the time of independence in 1948, is today a corrupt and mismanaged country facing economic collapse.
It is passing through acute multiple crisis, including food crisis, causing misery to millions. The need of the hour is to seek means to solve these national issues. Under such circumstance one cannot understand the mighty hurry to thrust changes to Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMD) and Quazi Courts- related to beleaguered Muslim community.
Muslims lived in peace harmony for more than 1200 years until racism raised its head after independence when politicians from all shades of opinion exploited it as a weapon to retain or capture power. As former Chief Justice Sarath N Silva once said Muslims remain the most peaceful of the three communities. Their overall contributions to peace, prosperity and even the defense of the country, especially during the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupation, is history.
Referring to great Muslim contribution during the 30 year LTTE war former Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne said, ”we are alive today because of our brave Muslim military officers. He told the Cabinet of Ministers during the meeting to discuss violent attacks on the Muslims in Teldeniya, Kandy and in Ampara by organized gang of Sinhalese extremists under the Maithri-Ranil government that “Muslims did not deserve to be treated in such a manner”.
He added that the military owe a deep debt of gratitude to their fellow Muslim officers who were in the forefront of running intelligence unit. The LTTE attacked and chased the Muslims away from areas which were under its control in the North and East because they did not support their cause. Sinhalese who unfairly harm Muslims are traitors. We have a duty to protect the Muslims (The Island. March 11, 2008)
In the aftermath of the defeat of LTTE in May 2009, there began attacks on Muslims here and there, but later proved well organized as the perpetrators were given free hand by the government as none was taken custody.
It was strange coincidence that this violence against Muslims began in the wake of opening up of the country to Israelis and RSS front BJP whose hatred, violence and designs against Muslims is common knowledge. With this the global Islamophobia entered the island tearing apart communities,
Fed up of harassment and persecution, Muslims voted for Maithripala Sirisena who betrayed President Mahinda Rajapaksa and joined hands with opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, to contest the presidential election in 2005. The two promised good governance but betrayed and unleashed violence against the Muslim community under a very well organized conspiracy.
Maithri and Ranil knew very well that the Muslim community had absolutely nothing to do with the 21 April 2019 Easter Sunday tragedy. Yet he accused Muslims, dispatched armed forces to search every Muslim house including mosques where forces entered with shoes and dogs to insult and demoralize Muslims. Search operations became nightmare for Muslim families and hundreds were taken to custody on flimsy grounds and detained for weeks with reports of ill treatment.
Organized Gangsters were given free hand to set fire to houses, mosques, business establishments, factories and other such places during curfew hours under the watchful eyes of police which, according to reports, had the support of the army. An innocent fasting Muslim was chopped to death and another battered Muslim died when he was dragged in the street. Most of the attackers were freed on bail and a notorious thug known for his violence against Muslims in Digana was garlanded and taken in procession.
For three long weeks Muslim houses and business establishments were emptied of even kitchen knives using emergency regulations. Once Muslims were disarmed, street thugs attacked them. Adding fuel to fire Maithri swiftly banned face cover – burqa and niqab.
It was the Holy Month of Ramadan and the fasting Muslims were forced to flee to nearby jungles and paddy fields to protect themselves. Forty nine year old well-to-do furniture shop owner M.S. Fouzul Ameen from Kottaramulla who came home to end day’s Ramadan fast with the family, was killed when his neck and face were slashed in front of his 16 year old son.
Fasting Muslim women grabbing their children ran to Sinhalese neighbors for safety. Some accommodated and even provided food while others chased them out. Sinhala doctors refused to treat wounded Muslims insisting that they remove their head scarves. Sinhala lawyers refused to appear for Muslims who sought justice. Muslim shops were boycotted, a pradeshiya Sabah chairman prevented Muslim from trading in the market, and some temples began advising Buddhists not to deal with Muslims.
Maithri left to China leaving disarmed and helpless Muslims to face well equipped murderous thugs turning Dhammadipa into living hell for Muslims. Former Minister Navin Dissanayake said that the anti-Muslim violence were organized and systematically carried out.
The campaign ws 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 generosity due to adverse comments.
The mainstream media, perhaps, prepared in advance, went full swing demonizing Islam describing every Muslim a terrorist inflaming hatred towards Muslims.
This frightening political environment was exploited by Rajapaksa brothers to return to power with overwhelming majority in the 2019 parliamentary elections and presidential elections. Former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected president and Mahinda Rajapksa as Prime Minister.
The Presidential Commission inquired into Easter Sunday killings recommended criminal charges against Maithri-Ranil, soaked in Muslim blood, and top officials. Instead they were rewarded as Maithri was not prosecuted and Ranil’s bond scam forgotten. Shameful state of affairs is that Maithri is still in politics.
The new Sinhala Buddhist only government of Rajapaksa brothers took several hostile measures such as forceful cremations of corona virus dead Muslim bodies, banning Peace TV of Dr Zakir Naik, the world’s most prominent scholar on comparative religion and introducing a channel for Israel – a pariah entity created on Palestinian lands by means of lies, deceptions, conspiracies, manipulations, murders and massacres.
In this series comes the issue of MMDA and Quazi Courts. UNP Parliamentarian Imthiaz Bakeer Markar warned “it is a religious issue and playing with fire not realizing the consequences. These two issues can wait and no need to thrust these on the community exploiting its helpless nature.”
It is in the interest of all to do it in consultation with the community. The need of the hour is to save the people from hunger and hardships they undergo in their day to day life. Towards this end it is essential to bring communities together and jointly move ahead. People are fast losing faith in all politicians and political parties. Even prominent Buddhist monks who played a crucial role to bring this Sinhala Buddhist only government to power now call for all three communities to jointly work to save the country.
The inevitable first step towards this end is to ban hate speeches and mercenary media pitting communities against each other for personal benefits.