Muslim politics of today in Sri Lanka has virtually totally spoiled. A politics that emerged in the of Muslim politics in late 1980s with the slogans of uniting all Muslims in the country under one political outfit, preserving their unique political identity and winning their political rights and aspirations has been acting today against what it had vowed.
What has our Muslim Politics delivered for us over the past two decades? This is the question that needs to be asked simply by every Muslim as the polls for their local bodies are approaching them. So-called Muslim politics has done nothing to addressing Muslims’ grievances, preserving their interests, representing their aspirations and winning their rights.
Muslim politics has brought dozens of political parties and dozens of “National Leaders” to its community. It has produced politicians who are known notoriously for their ill and anti-social behaviours as local/national leaders for Muslim people. This politics has supplied its community with politicians who are greedy to use Muslims’ grievances, aspirations and rights as a tool to fill their pockets. The same Muslim politics has polarised Muslim people too into dozens of politically rival groups who are today blindly following their respective “National Leaders” and are treating each other as arch enemy.
In this post-war context today, tens of thousands of Muslims who were driven out of their homes in 1990s at gunpoint by Tamil Tigers tried to return to their homes after a 30 years of armed conflict of the country terminated, Muslim politics hardly did anything for the return of these helpless peoples suffering from years of displaced life. The “National Leaders” of Muslim politics did nothing in getting successive governments to send them back to their homes despite these “National Leaders” still having various powerful ministries in those governments. Even though it was their legitimate right, today the return of these people was being explicitly blocked by reportedly Tamil political forces. Yet, their “National Leaders” looked impotent to persuade such Tamil forces to allow their return even though these “National Leaders” professed they were mollycoddling to come up with a political settlement for Tamil-Muslim question.
In many places of the country, mosques of Muslims were attacked, they desecrated with pig blood forbidden in their religion Muslim politics and they even closed from praying. When all this was happening, these “National Leaders” remained muted and toothless to voice for this. When a senior minister of the government at the time apparently lied in Parliament that no mosque in the country was harmed, these “National Leaders”, also ministers, speechlessly nodded at that lie of their fellow cabinet member.
In Aluthgama, innocent Muslim people were assaulted, their houses burned and their economies looted. During this, these “National Leaders” who were enjoying a variety of ministries and other patronages from government could not use their sway to thwart this unpopular campaign against their people. They could not throw their portfolios away for their people. They could not boycott at least a cabinet meeting to show their protest against this unjustifiable violent attacks directed at their people and their interests. Shame, at the time when this anti-Muslim riot occurred, it was one of these “National Leaders” who was the Minister of Justice of the country. This “National Leader” and justice minister could not do a justice to his affected people who deserved this. These people are still waiting for justice despite almost all of their “National Leaders” still being different ministers in today’s government too.
Buddha statue was planted in Muslim land overnight and the land was declared as an archaeological site without any compelling evidence. This development stirred a fear among Muslims that their lands would be encroached further in the pretext of archaeological sites and that they would be targeted by another communal violence. These “National Leaders” rather than promptly acting on reaching a viable solution to the problem came to people on plane with a false promise to remove the statue within next a couple of weeks to placate people. But, the statue still remained so without being removed and the lands still remained so without being returned to their owners even though a couple of weeks promised by “National Leaders” became months today. When Muslim people who were deeply concerned by this went to these leaders seeking a solution, leaders’ solution was thus: “this is a Buddhist country where statues can be placed anywhere and no one can question about this.”
Recently, this Maithri-Ranil government presented a new electoral amendment bill in Parliament to reform the existing electoral systems in the country. The draft bill was unquestionably to target political representations of the Muslims if it came into force. Muslim people were gravely worried and afraid by this proposed amendment and they therefore asked their “National Leaders” not to support the bill in the parliament. These “National Leaders” raised hands for the bill to pass in the parliament simply disregarding their people’s legitimate fears and concerns. Later, these leaders shed crocodile tears in a live discussion on TV as if they found themselves guilty for what they got the bill enacted. These “National Leaders” will act on everything in the same manner in future also against their people because they have succumbed to a variety of government patronages.
Muslim masses need to appreciate the fact that this Muslim politics and these “National Leaders” they have accepted today have done nothing for them. They have not fought for your rights. They have not addressed your grievances. They have not protected your interests. They have not represented your aspirations. They have not brought anything for you to harmonize with other communities in the country. Rather, your “National Leaders” have surrendered your blood, your dignity, your grievances, your rights, your aspirations, your rights and totally your existence to local and foreign powers. They have made them money and filled their pockets. Your “National Leaders” have turned Muslim politics into a lucrative industry to offer a better future not to your children but to their kin and kith.
Your “National Leaders,” Muslim people should unequivocally understand, are united in disuniting you. They are united in auctioning you. They are united in different parties, different colours and different symbols to rob your ballots and sell you again to their domestic and global bosses and paying masters. What your “National Leaders” need is: you should be divided. Your mosques should be attacked. Your land should become Buddha statues. Your economies should be targeted. Your life should be threatened. North and East should be shown to be merged. There should be BBS, Hela Urumaya, Ravana Balaya and Sinhala Ravaya, so that your “National Leaders” can fool you and continue their political survival.
We, Muslim people should unambiguously understand, are no herd of sheep to nod at these betrayers (“national Leaders”) or to go behind them blindly. We should dare to reject this Muslim politics and these “National Leaders”. We should offer to bring a radical reform in our Muslim politics. We should come forward to create a new political culture with fresh blood. Muslims should take this local poll as an opportunity to disqualify this Muslim politics and send these “National Leaders” home. We should use our ballots as a vehicle to open such a new political culture. This culture should put Muslims in right place in national politics as a community who aspires to cohabit with other communities in peace and harmony in this united Sri Lanka as its citizens.
*Dr. Salithamby Abdul Rauff, Assistant Professor, teaches at Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman