26 July, 2021

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Imran Khan’s Visit & Muslim Expectations

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

Ethnic-based politics is being used to exhort people, to serve own ends – this is anathema to nationalism (Imran Khan)

Cricket fame Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is expected to arrive on a state visit to Sri Lanka on 23rd of this month. As always, the arrival of any Muslim Head of State from abroad is an occasion to celebrate for Sri Lankan Muslims, not because those leaders would help advance the status of the community materially or otherwise, but because of a feeling of belonging to a universal Islamic community or umma. This is something unique to Islam, which others may find difficult to understand. Such a feeling of togetherness and enjoyment reached a climax in 1976 when a galaxy of Muslim heads of states arrived in Colombo for the Non-Aligned Conference. It was the greatest show on earth for Sri Lanka and its Muslim community. In keeping with this tradition, one would expect Muslims of Sri Lanka to welcome the Pakistani leader and discuss with him issues currently facing the community.  

Unlike with other Muslim countries, there is a romantic attachment towards Pakistan at least among the educated elite of Sri Lankan Muslims. This attachment goes back to the very origins of Pakistan, when an intellectually and emotionally awakened Muslim intelligentsia became emotionally attracted to the idea of Pakistan as advocated by its philosopher poet Muhammad Iqbal. For example, educationists like A. M. A. Azeez, community leaders like Razik Fareed, and poets and writers like Abdul Cader Lebbe were in the forefront of campaigning locally the idea of Pakistan, and they became staunch admirers of its leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. They were captivated by the brilliance of Jinnah’s political and Iqbal’s philosophic case for Pakistan. In fact, a couple of poems written by Lebbe in Tamil and in support of Pakistan were censored in Madras at that time. Also, it was A. M. A. Azeez and Lebbe, who were instrumental in introducing the reformist thoughts on Islam by Iqbal. Pakistsan in their view, represented the only hope to take the world of Islam to its past glory after the demise of the Ottoman Empire. They suffered their greatest shock when Jinnah passed away on 11 September 1948.  I still remember as a school kid, how on that sad day, Kattankudy, the most conservative Muslim township, was turned into a sea of black flags. Even today Iqbal Day is celebrated by Muslim scholars and writers in many parts of Sri Lanka.    

However, the Pakistan, which those early leaders and intellectuals dreamt of was not the Pakistan of Imran Khan today. Let alone leading the Muslim world and restoring the past glory of Islam, Pakistan is not in a position even to rescue its own people from oceans of poverty, illiteracy and insecurity. Having lost its Eastern wing to Bangladesh, the country is struggling to hold the rest of its territory from splitting apart. Corruption and nepotism are endemic and Prime Minister Khan, though not a religious fanatic himself is always under the threat of being thrown out by religious bigots acting in collusion with fanatical elements in the military. The country is riven by religious factionalism and sectarian violence. The military is no doubt controlling the government. Imran Khan is walking on a tight rope.

Economically, the country is virtually bankrupt like Sri Lanka with a total public debt in August 2020 amounting to $270 billion, which is 106.8 percent of its GDP. Like Sri Lanka, Pakistan is also under China’s economic clout with its $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and another $6.8 billion railway renovation plan. This economic nexus with China has obviously kept an outspoken Imran Khan silent on China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, just as the same nexus has prevented the Rajapaksa regime to be critical of China’s treatment of Tibetan Buddhists.         

Be that as it may, the timing of Imran Khan’s visit is critical, especially at a time when Sri Lanka’s relations with India, Pakistan’s arch enemy, has hit the rocks. Soon after Sri Lanka’s volte face on the trilateral deal to develop the East Container Terminal with India’s Adani Group and Japan, Sri Lankan cabinet has agreed to allow China develop three renewal energy projects on the islands of Delft, Analaitivu and Nainativu, which are only 48 km away from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. The presence of China so close to India obviously raises security concerns, and is considered by India as provocative. India’s displeasure at these developments was shown when it refused to roll over the $400 million currency swap deal with Sri Lanka’s Central Bank for another three months, without Sri Lanka’s successful staff level agreement with IMF Program, which it does not have. 

On top of these difficulties comes UNHCR’s damning report on Sri Lanka’s human rights record, which is scheduled to be taken up for debate at UNHCR Council in Geneva in March. It is in this context that Imran Khan’s visit receives crucial importance. There is a strong possibility that President NGR and Prime Minister MR would not only canvass for the support of Pakistan in Geneva, but more than that, they would be pleading with him to canvass on their behalf the support of Arab and Muslim countries. Given the composition of the council, if Muslim countries, along with Russia and China, could vote against the report, Sri Lanka could get away from an embarrassing confrontation with Western powers and their allies. Whether Imran Khan is that influential among Arab leaders is yet to be tested. After all, he is an ajam or non-Arabic speaker who is not at par with an Arab. Besides, what will Pakistan get from Sri Lanka in return for this dirty work is also unclear. In any case India’s R&AW will be secretly watching these moves and recommend countermoves to its authorities in New Delhi.  

As far as the local Muslim community is concerned the burning issue at the moment is that of forced cremation of Corona killed Muslim bodies. It would therefore expect the Pakistani leader at least to urge his Sri Lankan counterpart to relax his regime’s intransigence on this issue and allow burial as the alternative. Mr. Khan has already expressed his views against cremation and whether he could do anything more is doubtful. In all probability, the status quo would continue, because NGR’s and MR’s political survival depends on enforcing cremation on grounds of one-law-one-country principle, as insisted by hardline Buddhist Supremacists. Given the Corona provoked restrictions, it is also doubtful whether local Muslim leaders would even have an opportunity to meet the Pakistani guest. 

Muslims of Sri Lanka may well be advised not to build too much hope on the Pakistani leader. In fact, they should not and cannot expect much from Muslim heads of states of other countries, because those leaders would be acting purely in their own national interest. This is true of any country. There is no practical substance in the concept of umma. It is a vacuous concept. Just as the Muslim nations have given up on Palestinians, Uighurs and Rohingyas they will also give up on Sri Lankan Muslims, if the community builds any hope on their support. Alternatively, the community should find solutions to its problems internally by joining hands with a coalition of progressive forces that are operating currently. Any outside pressure on the regime is obviously a welcoming bonus. Hopefully, opposition to the Rajapaksa regime is growing both from within and outside the regime, and Muslims should join that opposition and bring about a regime change for a more democratic, prosperous and inclusive Sri Lanka.      

 *Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 12
    22

    Muslims expectations ? There should be mone. The Koran was written by a guy who rode around on a camel, had seven wife’s including underage girls and killed people. It’s was a good book 1200 years ago but since then the world has changed. Last week France announced that islam is a threat to the French culture. French gave the world democracy .Trump banned Muslims immigration from 7 countries and deported over 200 Pakistanis. The 1.6 billions Muslims live in the worst countries such somalia, Afghanistan, iraq, senagal, Yemen etc. Maybe muhammad got it wrong.

    • 4
      2

      While you take the opportunity to show your Islamaphobia, you should realize that your ignorance also shows.

      ALL three religions of the Abrahamic faiths are out of date, and at various times practiced polygamy. Young girls were given in marriage at that time, and even today there are Christians in the US marrying child brides, and having multiple wives as young as 12 years, some are now servicing sentences in jail.

      NOT all 1.6 billion Muslims live in poor nations, the majority of Muslims live in nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, and let’s not forget the wealthy Arab nations, where our Sri Lankan labor force have been flocking to for decades, to earn precious foreign remittances that our government badly needs for this country to survive. Sri Lanka’s main source of revenue comes from Muslim nations, not Buddhist nor Christian nations which never hire our people.
      Trump banned Muslims from poor countries whose citizens never attacked them, but allowed Muslims from wealthy nations, like Saudi Arabia, where the terrorists of 9/11 came from, because Bin Salman was using Trump and Kushner as his PR men.
      Biden has reversed this racist policy.
      It is better to get your information from credible sources, you sound quite ignorant while having a go at Muslims and their religion.

    • 12
      0

      Calm down sinhalaya, I know you’re probably itching to run into a Forrest and sleep with some animal you see in there like your forefathers. We cannot allow some idol worshipper to attack a monotheistic religion and get away with it. We must look at this logically.
      .
      How can buddhism be true when we have no way to authenticate any of these preposterous stories ? the monk-eys in charge of it have been caught lying and more with worse crimes. buddhists claim the giant foot print at Adams peak belongs to budda, so did budda have one small foot and one giant foot ?? How did he walk if he had such a deformity. sinhalayo claim their mothers slept with lions, now there’s no way to look at that story but that buddhism promotes beastiality.

      • 11
        0

        How can budda be any form of devine when he wasn’t even self sufficient ? he literally had to beg people for food ! Why how down and pray to someone that can’t even help himself.
        .
        How can cremation be a recommendation to dispose of a read body when it is literally one the most polluting methods; its pollution is so bad that most cities have put limits to how many cremations can take place. In my opinion such harmful methods should be banned.

        • 11
          0

          How can the concept of rebirth be true ? It states that good people will achieve nirvana or be born as humans but the evil people will come back as animals. But in the last century the world has witnessed two world wars, countless genocides, mass murder, millions of killed; however the human population has only increased. And it has not increased slowly but it went from millions to multiple billions. Which clearly proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the concept of rebirth is absolutely false and buddhism is nothing but a bunch of folklore. buddhism should not be considered as a religion. What’s even worse is that this folklore is now being used to spread terrorism.

          If anything for the progress of this country buddhism should be banned. And those + 2 million cattle monks should be given job training so they can contribute to society instead of raping underage boys in their temples.

  • 3
    3

    Dear Dr Ali

    I love this man. His visit is a joy for the Sri Lanakns (I guess anyone from Muslim religion and a Sri Lankan also welcome to cherish the visit).

    It is actually very Racist that you put a spin on all into something “Muslim”.

    In our Nation we have 2 languages and several religion. I do not even agree with the state religion status because Buddhism does not need any status because this challenges the mere essence of Buddha. It is very stressful reading everything referenced to Muslim religion?? why??

    Dr Ali my fellow citizen and I do not see any religion nor languages in that. Respect is total.

    Just as the FP/TULF…Tamil would have just been fine so are the people who happened to speak Tamil…but see what happened??

    None of this identity politics is irrelevant in a secular society we should set example??

    • 0
      0

      correction….relevant

  • 5
    10

    What dr. Ameer Ali telling me is that Sri Lankan Muslims do not belong to Sri Lanka.
    I had thought that it is our majorararian mind set – now I find it is actually true.

    Soma

  • 4
    1

    The cloud is already cleared . Mahinda has announced that Burial will be
    allowed . Imran Khan now does not have dark clouds surrounding his visit .
    The Muslims of the East extending its support to Sumanthiran +
    Chanakyan protest March and Internationalisation of the issue , all , together
    have forced the regime to back off , at least temporarily ! I don’t take it
    serious because it was a right snatched away and returned after enough
    damage done ! There’s nothing to appreciate when the thief returns the stolen
    goods under pressure ! Lakshapathi winner Shukra too deserves some credit
    for creating an Island wide attention to Muslim co-existence efforts with
    other communities !

  • 4
    2

    I think Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapakse’s have started their game plan for forthcoming UNHRC sessions this month. In this regard I understand that Mahinda Rajapakse already announced that burial of Corona Muslim Bodies are allowed. Similarly, they also have agreed to the pay Rs.1000/day salary for Hill country estate workers. So, Rajapakse’s have now solved two demands of P2P of North East Tamil speaking people within a day. Don’t assume that Rajapakse’s have also listened to people voice. It is also necessary for Rajapakse’s to avoid any further protests from Muslims when Pakistan PM Imran Khan visits demanding the burials right. This is temporary measure to cheat UNHRC but you will have to see the real Gota face after UNHRC sessions. Gota also already appointed a Presidential Commission to cheat UNHRC. Imran Khans visit to Sri Lanka now is multi dimensional
    and primarily to assist China’s influence. We should remember it is Pakistan who played a key role in defeating LTTE and killing thousands of Tamils using cluster bombs.

  • 4
    15

    Is Imran coming to bury the ashes of the dead Muslims?

  • 6
    0

    MR has saved the burial issue for Imran Khan’s visit. MR will reverse this ridiculous cremation-only rule and gain US approval. Imran Khan will return to Pakistan with a foreign affairs victory. Everyone’s a winner (baby that’s the truth).

    • 5
      0

      Svenson

      Seems there is trouble already with various Govt. MPs claiming that the PM’s statement has been misunderstood/misquoted.

      Apparently, the PM himself has expected opposition to his statement. He seems to have remarked on his way back from Parliament on the very same day, that he did not consult the President before he made the statement about the Burial and that could create problem. Two MPs, viz. Suren Raghavan and Cader Masthan were close by and the former is supposed to have passed this information to MP Mujibur Rahman.

      Does it mean that Cremation is Really the idea of the President? If that be so, then there is little chance that the PM’s opinion will see the light of the day. Then what will Imran Khan do? Will he continue with the visit or cancel it if the Govt. does not permit Burial? How will the Muslim countries vote at the UNHRC?

      • 6
        0

        Muslim country or not these extremist sinhala buddhist terrorists should be taught a lesson. All country’s should vote to punish these rats for their violation of human rights.

    • 1
      0

      MR announcement in parliament about the burial was immediately
      challenged by the state minister of MR . This can be labelled a well
      planned deliberate game plan to fool everyone concerned with the
      issue . This could be part of their ugly plans to create anarchy in the
      country !

      • 2
        0

        WHYWHY,
        .
        MR announcement in parliament is now being interpreted as said nothing like that, but what he might mean ” to burial rights about anyone in general”. Can you imagine ?
        Mafia boss was made by their PREMIER by stupid majority of this country. This bugger once added during his visit to neighbouring India that he would offer 13 plus. But on his return, he behaved as if he said nothing like that. So, that are their genetics.
        :
        I have no doubt, all these are just to balance the upcoming UN resolutions which UNHRC is about to impose against MEDAMULAN rascals get srilanken govt.

        • 2
          0

          leelagemalli ,

          Wealth , Health and Law and Order (makers and breakers) all
          in the hands of Rogues . So , the development too is meant for
          rogues of the country . Raising Rogues , is it development ?
          You will only see more Rogues on the street ? Anarchy round
          the corner !

  • 5
    5

    “The presence of China so close to India obviously raises security concerns, and is considered by India as provocative.”
    —-
    This dumbo does not know that India has a boarder stretching thousands of kilometers with China.
    Big brother putting its nose into internal affairs of Sri Lanka is the biggest security concern for Sinhalayo.

    • 1
      2

      In fact we are sending Tamil Nadu brigades to India/China boarders for war and all the Tamils around the world being recruited….only the new generations…not the olden goldies sorry…..the terrain is too cold for survival.

  • 1
    7

    It s important that the Hon. President of the Republic of Pakistan bears it in his mind that he is indeed an Honored Guest of the State of Srilanka and not a political agitator nor an apologist

    • 1
      0

      HP,
      .
      Entire world is doubt about if SL remains to be a respectable state or rather or pariah state- from what we the outsiders get to here about srilanken today. This was not the case between 2015 to Nov 2019.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pariah_state

  • 0
    0

    India’s wicket is getting stickier in Sri Lanka.

  • 4
    0

    Has Imran got any self respect? PM announced that Burial will be permitted, but then the Minister informs he cannot make such a decision and the so called expert committee should make the decision. This also showed the world that our PM is only a “rubber stamp”, thanks to 20A approved by Muslim politicians and SLPP MPs. Well if the expert committee consisted of experts in that specific field the nation will accept, but they are not. Hence its a political decision similar to Rajapakse brothers showing India they were giving Eastern Terminal but behind the scene added fuel to the union and Buddhist Monks’ protest to stop India from getting it.

    Rajapakses think that India, Pakistan, USA, UK, Canada, Japan, EU etc are all fools. When they think like that throwing water on Muslim expectations is nothing to them. How long can they rule the country like this? How long are the Sinhalese Buddhists going to support them especially when the country is experiencing not simple racism but systemic raci

  • 3
    0

    Contd/…

    systemic racism. Systemic racism will bring about strict international restrictions which in turn will hurt the same Sinhala Buddhists.

  • 1
    0

    Ameer Ali, Imran became a true Muslim only after turning into politics. You can expect some cricket tips (reverse swing, leadership role) nothing else.

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