4 December, 2020

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My Land Is Not Truly Free Until We All Free At Home: My Independence Day Wish!

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

The Independence Day marks the freeing of our country of the shackles of the colonizers. Our country won her freedom through the sweat of our predecessors who united in driving away the occupiers. As a Sri Lankan, I love my country and feel that I belong here and nowhere else. As I join my fellow sisters and brothers in celebrating our independence, I long more than ever, that our motherland would be blessed with a vibrant society with people of different ethnicities and religions coexisting peacefully.

Born to a traditional Muslim family in a remote village in the Kandy district, I had the good fortune of studying at the “best school of all”, a Church Missionary Society school where we did not really care to what religion or ethnicity our friends belonged to. Religion was confined to our homes and all of us in school ate off the same plate and cherished our brotherhood; we broke up for our lessons on religion and returned, leaving what we had learned to be practiced in our private lives. We entered the playing fields, and did not know the difference between Perera, Nayagam, Ahamed or Jurianz. We were comfortable in Church or at the mosque, wherever we gathered to celebrate our differences. We need to wonder how we did it, when we think of how we live as adults today.

The thought of our 69th Independence Day brings back memories of my childhood, school, teachers, friends, and colleagues. It also reminds me of how distant we have grown on ethnic and religious lines, each of us believing we are superior, and growing intolerant of the other. We are all guilty of not following the true teachings of our respective faiths, led blindly by the loudest religious and political leaders who are intent on realizing their personal agenda. We have forgotten and fail to hear, and let the most vociferous rants sweep over the love, understanding, respect, and human values that our faiths teach us.

The divisions, which have been created, is a glass wall that has separated us, and it needs to be broken down. A wall as delicate as glass could shatter the hopes and dreams of a nation. It should be the easiest material to break, but needs to done with extreme care, without injuring or hurting anyone.

Where do we start? We’re told that any change should first start from within. As a Muslim, I see that the private practice of our faith has been dragged to the public space. The company we keep, our dress, our mannerisms, our interests, and even the terms we use in our everyday speech measure our religiosity- all of these have become public markers of being ‘a good Muslim’. This has made us Muslims look ‘different’, different from the Muslim community that lived and interacted as Sri Lankans some decades ago. I also see changes in religious and cultural consciousness along the same lines in other religious and ethnic communities living in Sri Lanka. All of us need to revert if we are to celebrate our differences and independence while standing united. Let’s keep our practice of religion as a private affair. We can certainly practice our faith without compromising on religious teaching and still be a proud Sri Lankan. Didn’t our parents and grandparents live that way?

The British who ruled us through their strategy of ‘divide and rule’ implanted racism and segregation amongst Sri Lankans. They made sure that the majority Sinhalese were kept ‘under control’ by bringing the Tamil community in to administrative services, and encouraged the Muslims, who were traders to continue in commerce. The Sinhala Buddhists continued to be peasant farmers, deprived of their basic rights, necessities, education, and freedom. This gave rise to Buddhist revivalists like Anagarika Dharmapala to incite hate not just against the white colonialists but also towards the Muslim and Tamil population. Yet, since the greater enemy was the colonizer, there was unity amongst the political leaders of all communities to fight the common enemy.

This was rewarded by our blessed independence on February 4th, 1948, where our great leaders accepted the challenge of marching forward as Sri Lankans together. Regretfully, in less than a decade SWRD Bandaranaike introduced racist and ethnic politics to Sri Lanka, with the Sinhala Only slogan. His assassination by a Buddhist monk put paid to the Bandaranaike inspired racism. The governments that followed attempted to bridge the gap that was planted by the colonial masters and Bandaranaike to divide and rule. More Sinhalese were absorbed in to State service, educational opportunities were made available, competition was encouraged in business, and a semblance of justice was beginning to take its place. The minority communities saw these sudden changes as discrimination against them. State sector employment had more competition, business monopoly was challenged, and access to education for a larger population threatened the dominance of the elite.

Sadly, discrimination also seeped in, and increasing disparity led to the ethic conflict resulting in a 30 year brutal war which cost over 300,000 Sri Lankan lives, trillions of rupees to the nation and left behind a completely divided citizenry. The military victory of the ethnic war in Nanthikadal in May 2009 brought about euphoria amongst the majority Buddhist community leading to a ‘victor takes it all’ attitude. Further, the extremist Buddhists who assumed that they had finished off the Tamils now began targeting other minorities, particularly the Muslim community. Over 650 incidents of violence, hate and intimidation have been recorded against the Muslims since 2013. The evangelical Christians too have recorded similar numbers. Commercial interests played a major role in this destabilization process. Mosques, homes, Churches, and businesses were targeted, thereby creating fear amongst the religious minority population. President Mahinda Rajapaksa who claims to have united the nation when he won the ethnic war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) failed to reconcile the divided nation even though all communities gave him a record mandate for his second term as President. A great opportunity wasted! He also manipulated the head count in Parliament by welcoming crossovers from the United National Party in Opposition with perks and privileges hereto unknown in Sri Lankan politics. This also gave him a 2/3 majority, which encouraged him to change the constitution and attempt a 3rd term at the Presidency. The coalition that came together to fight the Rajapaksa nepotism, corruption, racism, and violence brought about a government that promised Good Governance. Two years on, the promised good governance, recovery of the stolen loot, investigations in to the murders of Lasantha Wickramatunga, Prageeth Ekneligoda and rugby player Wasim Thajudeen seem only a mirage. Sri Lankans have once more become disillusioned by politics in Sri Lanka. This needs to be changed, and this can certainly be changed if we all resolve to do so.

My plea to my fellow Sri Lankan brothers and sisters- let us resolve from this day of independence on February 4th 2017 to not mistrust or hate each other and reestablish our ties of Sri Lankan kinship, and return to the days when we were one, as a nation. Respice finem.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    “My country is not truly free until all its citizens feel at home”

    As the well-known proverb states : Home is where the heart is
    The question then is do all the different minority communities perceive and more importantly are they seen to perceive Sri Lanka as the place where their hearts are ?

    If there is a minority group that advocates the bifurcation of Sri Lanka, would that contribute to the development of ‘national harmony’ ?

    If another minority group promotes the building of social & cultural ‘walls’ isolating itself from the rest of society on religious grounds, would it contribute to the development of national harmony ?

    Where is the love, trust & mutual respect that is so essential for the continued existence of a group of individuals living in a common ‘home’ ?

    After 69 years of independence, the fact remains that the term ‘Home’ means different things to different groups. So our collective hearts are focused on different goals.

    The challenge is to be able to use the twin processes of empathy and compassion to neutralize and overcome the forces that are continuing to polarize the communities and to rid ourselves of this zero-sum mentality and one-upmanship that continues to plague our inter-communal relationships.

    • 3
      0

      Hilmy Ahamed

      RE: My Land Is Not Truly Free Until We All Free At Home: My Independence Day Wish!

      Yes, and in addition everybody need to accept and agree that

      This Land is your Land, and this Land is my Land, This Land is for you and me..

      This Land Is Your Land [Live]

      Para-Sinhala, and other Paras, please note, this is the original Land of the Native Veddah Aethho!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzpH3ZrLSEM

      • 2
        0

        Amarasiri alias paraya

        you know very well human evolution taken place in Africa around twenty millions ago. ever since hominds roamed every corner of the earth without any restrictions. As chimps and monkeys still share even after twenty millions years. everybody on earth should share genetic affinities with some other nations nearby or distance away,show me any comprehensive test results done on sri lanken population to prove that majority’s primates were from India. show me any test results done including every one live in every corner representing in that research at least one person from every corner as sample.

        geological researches indicated existence of early hominid habitations in this Island even fifteen hundred thousands BP. if you can prove it wrong.though an idiots do not show it. do you know great vulcanic errution took place around seventy five thousand years ago in sumathra.as results of it sun hidden at least half a year due to dust. most of the flora and fauna disappeared. survivors subjected to various genetic mutations. some hominids left the Island to north east India.sensing water and vegetation availabilities in that regions.early hominids did have sensing capability just like today monkeys, chimps and apes have. do you know that. they returned after decades.after dusts settled down and sun came out. do you know that paraya or Amarasiri.can you say no interbreeding taken place during their stay. some hominids stayed here survived. they came up as vannila aththo.do you know that idiot.

    • 2
      1

      After 69 years of independence, the fact remains that the term ‘Home’ means different things to different groups. So our collective hearts are focused on different goals.

      It is the govt that promotes “not homely” attitude of minorities by promoting minority – specific agendas. See how the govt is advertsing and making the majority community lost in the wild and while other communities to promote their separate identity.

      Muslims will feel home the day, they have their homeland and in Muslim areas and when other areas are full of mosques.

      Until that they talk BS, they don’t care about anything except them.

  • 4
    2

    Ekelbroom

    Well said . If “feel at home” means the rapid enforcement of extremist medieval customs and practices
    which are quite alien to a vast majority of Sri Lankans , then we are surely heading for a major disaster .
    Let us all unite as Sri Lankans undivided by race , caste or religion .

  • 5
    0

    Ekelbroom

    You are absolutely right!

  • 0
    5

    ekelbroom

    “If another minority group promotes the building of social & cultural ‘walls’ isolating itself from the rest of society on religious grounds, would it contribute to the development of national harmony ?”

    Then answer to your question to bring peace not merely limiting to Sri Lanka but the whole world is to have ONE world and no countries building walls separating people. This is why people are fighting and wars between groups of people. So let there be one people one world. We all elect one leader to rule the world.

    No… No….No now do not think like how minorities think. We should think like majority when it suits us but change and think like minority when it does not suit us. I will accept your views if you accept one world one people. In Sri Lanka you want every one to be ONE Sri Lankans (this is only in words not in practice) but then you should also like the idea ONE world and one people and accept that this will not only in words but in practice will also will be implemented.

  • 2
    7

    Ekelbroom, you need to be swewpt in to the dusbin. Hilmy is making a plea to unite the country and you as usual is [Edited out] to screw everything up. With guys like you, Sri Lanka has no chance

    • 7
      0

      The time for make sweeping pleas for unification is long gone, brother fazeel hussain. You and your ilk are living in a dream-world if you truly believe that verbal and written pleas from mere mortals will motivate communities to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’. The rift between the two communities is far too wide and deep for any stop-gap solutions.

      What is needed now is the identification of the various dimensions of the ‘muslim problem’ and the development of a sound, pragmatic strategy that will ensure that our future generations can live with self-respect and dignity in our Motherland without fear of verbal harassment and physical trauma simply because they are followers of Islam. The approach that I have suggested for this purpose is based on empathy and compassion rather than the stubborn, arrogant stance adopted by most Muslims like you who insist that they have done ‘nothing wrong’ and that the entire blame for the failed relationship between the two communities falls squarely on the shoulders of the Buddhists.

      Read my comment again, very slowly this time, and it may begin to sink in to your ossified brain that I have in fact made a very pragmatic suggestion as to how we should move forward rather than make yet another platitudinous plea for peace and unity.

  • 2
    5

    Great Thought Hilmi. Never give up. The Majority of Sinhala Buddhist will support you except a few extremists

  • 1
    3

    Yes, under a truly Ranil Wickramasinghe government, Hilmi’s dreams will come through but Sirisena would screw it up

  • 6
    0

    It is not a one way street brother Hilmy. The Muslim community will have to take many strides, They are creating the divisions especially the women in black tents and the men with their arab dresses. This is not saudi arabia.

    • 6
      2

      Yes, they insult us with the label ‘Infidels’ and insult Buddha, Buddhism and Hinduism in every turn.

      They only do business with fellow Muslims.

      They align with whatever party is in power, and join the other one when the current one collapses (look at faizar Mustapha. Bathiurdeen, Fowzi, and million other Thambis in the current government.)

      And they they cry discrimination!

      Nice strategy Hilmi, But we Bambalapitiya citizens know all about your brothers.

      Ik Fuslam.

    • 0
      6

      So Sajith, you want the women to walk naked. We see many who show everything and that is why there is rape and child abuse. There is no rape or rape is never heard of in Sri Lanka. But they have our Sri Lankan women for their pleasure.

  • 2
    0

    Is wearing Pants and shirts Shri Lankan ?:is wearing Jeans and low neck blouses with bossoms curving out Shri Lankan ? If people opt to dress western instead of our very classy Unique Oseriya Saree and also the unique radde Hatte with long sleeves and modest necklines in lace, it is okay if ppl decide to dress in Arabian fashion dresses or north Indian or why not even Japanese Kimonas if one could afford a kimono that is.That is basic human right for a Citizen of this country. You can not be prejudice and opt for western dress as ok because of the Colonial inferiority that has permenantly enslaved us and call every other dress as unexceptable .Who knows the rate the climate change is happening we all may have to get into black tents ,including men to save our skins from Skin cancer. Until the small fraction among the faiths & ethnicity harbour petty hatred towards one particular community, and be bias .. This beautiful Island will keep changing governments like ladies sanitary towel and be stuck in racist and bigotry menustration . let go man , there are more important battles to fight as one people ,one Country , we are a dead broke country after 30 years of bloody war and don’t forget the inbetween insurgents , we have a lot of poor people, hungry, homeless ,need of medicare, education, it would help if the lovers of their races and religions stop their hypocrisy and start reaching out to their people in need than sitting and whining about how other people dress and eat. Ask your good for nothing selves what have you done to help your own people ,most of you would not even bother to think even of your own kith and kin. +(including All races from all religion ) that is the truth and that is the reason why extremists and some corrupt politicians take advantage to use it to achieve their agendas.If each community takes care of each other ,there will be less corruption and the government will be forced to work better and do more. As long as there are hungry and homeless people among any community it is the fault of the entire Community and no one else. All it would take is to collect a ruppee a day and help each other ,share, develope your own micro financing and stop this petty issues. Why not get your girls who are creative and can sew to start making some real cool Arab fashions with some creative infusion of Lankaness in it. Think out of the box. And find ways to uplift your own communities ,without making excuses and stooping to low standards of making a bogey man out of a community .

  • 5
    1

    February 4th independance does not teach us anything except how to be subservient to the foreigners and get what ever we want.

    So many Sinhala heroes died in order to expel portugeuse and British. Finally they lost. Those heroes are not celebrated today. If they do it that would be good history lessons to Sri lankan children whether it is Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim.

    Instead, they celebrate February 4th independance which were handed over to us. Beacuse our english speaking Mudlier Kalusuddhas could bend very well infront of the white man governor.

    So, in the ancient times, when they built Ruwanweliseya or So many reservoirs in Rajarata, those kings did not ask for foreign aids and foreign know how becaused the king would get the commission. but, now we can not build a bulding or a road. Because, we don’t have money and we don’t have capable people.

    Hilmy ahmed Talk about discrimination. But, he does not talk how they have destroyed KAthankudi and wilpattu. How they have buold mosques in ancient buddhist towns. How they are invading and make fuss in Mahiyangana, Kataragama and buddhists and sinhala people are not allowed in those towns. None lf the muslims talked about beating a buddhist monk in aluthgama area or throwing stones from the mosque to the sinhala buddhist protesrt march.

    Even for 1915, muslims would say British shot at them but, they would never say how badly they were behaving towards buddhists.

    It is Hilmy ahmed who said, that Fashion bug is owned by a muslim who teaches girls and women to wear naked, while muslims force their women to cover the whole body. Any action against that is discrimination.

    Muslims are mourning and whining because, they want free passage to islamize Sri lanka.

  • 1
    0

    It is good if all can think one country one nation.but there is a few condition. one country, one nation is alright but one law for all. is it ok with you muslims dear friend.

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