By Latheef Farook –
For the first time most Muslim religious, social and cultural organizations and individuals buried their differences and formed a National Shoora Council NSC, on 25 January 2014 to deal with to deal with burning issues faced by the community.
The NSC, consultative council, which has been under discussions for more than a year also elected in its inaugural session last Saturday a permanent general assembly and an executive committee.
Tariq Mahmud, son of late Muslim leader Al Haj Dr Badiuddin Mahmud, who functioned as interim working committee chairman, was unanimously elected as permanent chairman of NSC.
Response to NSC from Muslims of all walks of life and from all corners of the island has been spontaneous as it comes into being at a time when the community is passing through, perhaps, the most difficult time since the Portuguese persecution of Muslims in the 16th and first half of 17th centuries.
During the past few years the island’s Muslim community has been subjected to numerous political, religious, economic, social and other problems threatening their very existence as citizens of this country.
Muslims, who suffered immensely due to the war between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, the LTTE, expected some relief in the aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.
However their hopes were dashed. Instead of relief and rehabilitation they came under attacks from organizations unheard of during the three decades of war, claiming to be Buddhist but in total violation of Buddhist teachings. A small number of ethno religious fascists began unleashing a fierce anti-Muslim campaign aimed at pitting the mainstream Sinhalese against peaceful Muslim community.
According to the local media last year alone there were around 250 incidents of hate all over the island striking at the very root of the fundamental rights of the island’s Muslim community. Such dastardly crimes were unheard of even during the ethnic carnage.
What is shocking is the failure on the part of the government to bring to book these lawless elements. In fact some of these crimes were committed under the watchful eyes of the police. This shows that these lawless racist elements have official blessings.
Within almost two and half years they had done considerable damage to put the Sinhalese against Muslims- to an extent that children refused to purchase from Muslim owned shop. This trend needs to be arrested in the larger interest of all in the country which has just emerged from a destructive war.
Under the circumstance the beleaguered and besieged Muslim community expected their politicians to raise these issues with the government of which most of them remain constituent partners and stop this anti Muslim mayhem. Unfortunately they betrayed the community and opted to cling onto the government, despite all humiliations, to ensure their positions and perks. Today Muslim politicians have become shameful liabilities on the community at a time when even the Muslims’ feeble protests were being brushed aside.
It was in this gloomy, helpless and voiceless atmosphere that a group of enterprising young Muslims belonging to diverse professions and committed to the welfare of the community and the country met around January 2013 to discuss what could be done to safeguard the community and arrest the deteriorating traditionally harmonious relations between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities.
The group held its first meeting in one platform under one roof at Wellawatta Miami Reception Hall on Thursday 2 May 2013 to announce the formation of an Interim Consultative (Shoora) Council-ICC. On Saturday 25 January the general assembly held its inaugural meeting and elected both a permanent executive committee.
The characteristics of the NSC will be inclusive and participatory, widely representative, consultative and able to make decisions binding all.
As part of its overall agenda the NSC will be concerned about any threat to communal harmony by local and international forces and extremists from all communities besides doing everything possible to ensure peace and harmony in the island.