By Haider Mohideen –
Many are watching what Rauff Hakeem would do within the next few days. Interesting to monitor but that would not do much of an impact as far as Muslim votes are concerned.
Two main reasons affected the decision of the Muslims in voting against Mahinda Rajapaksa at this election. One was his nationalistic approach in every single act he performs. He did not dare to humiliate Muslims even during official meetings. I can remember how he requested paddy merchants not to allow Muslims traders to purchase paddy at a meeting at Temple Tress somewhere in 2007. Ironically there were a few Muslim traders participating in that meeting but for Mahinda it was a slip of the tongue, but never dared to correct it. Mind you..! This was an official meeting at Temple Trees. This was just one example but his anti–Muslim sentiments were everywhere throughout the regime.
Then his shadows in creating Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) against Muslims in this country that turned into a boomerang. This, according to some informed sources was an outcome of an uprising of the Thawheed factor in Beruwala just after the war against LTTE. The uprising was not against the state or Sinhala Buddhist but to promote its own ideology which became a worrying factor to the state mechanism which is understandable. But the response from the state was entirely unprofessional and counter-productive. The “state-sponsored” attacks against Muslims and their business establishments resulted in economic hardships among Sinhala Buddhists in several production sectors. One small-scale garment factory run by a Sinhala Buddhist family living closer to my house was shut down as their suppliers like Fashion Bug and No Limit were suffering economic hardships following some attacks. Those who lost their jobs were all Sinhala Buddhist girls.
In all these instances Muslims were left unsecured and helpless. We saw how what happened in Aluthgama and Beruwala attacks and how law and order mechanism responded to the riots. This was entirely through the state patronage and innocent Muslims were targeted for no reason. If there is a fear of Islamic extremism (which we the moderate Muslims in this country also fear of) in Sri Lanka, then we must be strategic in our responses and there are plenty of Muslim leaders who would stand against such a danger – but this juvenile response invigorated Muslims to stand united for their own safety – and most importantly which would further strengthen the extremist elements for obvious reasons.
I am still struggling to fathom out how some Muslim political leaders are still siding with this anti-minority regime. Of course we need to have a policy of constructive engagement in managing conflicts but this immature regime does not have the basic depth or understanding on such crucial issues.
Thus, I think the Muslims in this country have already taken a decision which is clear. This has become a force of the people which the political leaders have to follow. If Muslim political leaders do not see the trend of their own community, then they would get isolated and become invalid coins. People like Hakeem, Azwar, Fowzie should understand this reality soon. Otherwise they will be too late in a few days time.