23 June, 2017

On The Sauce That Is The MMDA

By Abdul Halik Azeez

Abdul Halik Azeez

Now there’s a word on everyone’s lips. MMDA is the new MD Sauce, competing with those Kist sauce ads of yesteryear. Remember the boy who could eat all those cutlets? Maybe many years from now MMDA will only evoke the social justice equivalents of fish cutlets.

A few Liberal activists have tweeted and messaged me to comment on the issue as a ‘Muslim male’. Conservative people have not even asked my opinion. In fact, I am fairly sure they do not even know I exist. Yet in a little bubble, I am known for my voice, and I am expected to use it. In fact, how could I not? In many circles of my liberal friends, and I say this with love, I perform the political function of being the token Muslim.

Yet I have also stood on the edges of conservative circles, or lurked more like, with an ear to what is going on. I have moved in conservative Muslim society, and I can tell you that at least in the Western Province and the Central province, most everyday Muslims are mute on the issue.

The power-brokering happens at the top. And in a community in which most languish in poverty, most of it happens in the dark. It is in these circles that the real fate of the MMDA will be decided. These circles comprise of many good people, thinking that they are doing what is best for everybody. It also has plenty of bad people; the corrupt politicians, the ambitious ladder climbers, the capitalists what have you.

The good people are all old. They have vested interests, friends and family to take care of. They have no idea that the world has moved on, that things get decided differently, that people talk via different means, that violence has different forms. The old crowd-out the young, the dynamic, the hopeful. The young have options and soon look elsewhere. And the old in their innocence, and captured by interests of power and money, simply end up parroting the bad.

On the ground you have a group of keen community activists pushing harder than ever, smelling blood. You have a tough clergy backed by the blind consensus of the public and fully funded, determined to not back down on the issue. It is an old fight. And has been going on for decades. MMDA is only its latest buzzword.

All the while at the bottom, the abuse has been happening. Against women, against children. But what has really caused the abuse? Is it a bit of legislation? Yeah, possibly. The lack of proper legislation and the lack of infrastructure to hold it up is a serious problem. And there is no use addressing the legislation if you can’t address the infrastructure. Without trained and sensitive personnel, qualified and paid well, proper office infrastructure and staff, how can you expect to run a post office let alone a justice system? Currently there are retired school principals, with no real expertise in the field of jurisprudence other than that they have been a school principal who run quazi courts out of little extensions to their kitchen. I know because I have been to one.

Does the ACJU and the Muslim community have the funds and capacity to run a modern and fully operational justice system? Fine, before I conjure up fears of creeping sharia and the demand for a caliphate in the East coast, let me clarify that it is not a justice system. It is more of an office. And can perhaps be considered an extension of the country’s main system, if I were to speak in general (I certainly cannot speak in legal).

The point is though that Muslims have been running this painfully inept system, even with all the flaws in the law, for decades now and haven’t even bothered to look at all the trouble it is causing. I have cousins who have suffered because of cowardly, corrupt and sexist quazis. I also have cousins who have had good experiences, and perhaps know of other cases in which a quazi could be convinced to be sympathetic. But this illustrates the problem. These issues are not exactly getting decided wholly on the enlightened spirit of the sharia.

Add to this the whole specter of Western intervention. A specter not wholly unreal. If the Rajapaksa’s could conjure up the BBS why can’t this regime conjure up the MMDA? Is this the new acronym that will now haunt the Muslims? The timing is too convenient, the strategic approach in contrast with the brutality of the BBS is too much like the West, the people shouting for it the most are too close to the West and so on and so on. The specter of the West hangs over the MMDA. Right now it stinks of the West, and it is easy for no one to touch it.

And the abuse, still, continues to happen. The NGOs care about the abused. Liberal hearts bleed for the abused, heck even conservative hearts manage to squeeze out a tear or two. Dark imaginations of the East Coast haunt the mind. All those little girls with ugly old men. What happens when they are forced out of their small black burquas we can’t bear to mention. Savages we say, and go back to our lunches. Does anyone in this fight really care about the abused enough to go out and do something about it?

Yup, many do. And many have. From both sides, if you want to consider a divide between conservative and liberal Muslims (I don’t like these labels by the way). Recently they have been joined by many ardent activists who are not Muslims, dedicating their support to the cause. Their support is welcome. The sentiment on the streets is that this is the time to push, the moment of opportunity.

Yet many of these non-Muslim, liberal activists do not fully understand the context. They are not invested in the fears and politics of the Muslim community. While many of them may have a passing understanding of the Islamic faith, there is little comprehension of what it means to hold it as a belief, as an all encompassing worldview hammered on for a long time by cultural conditioning. Their first response, sadly, is to dismiss, or to not even consider, this entire dimension of motivation affecting their target public. As activists, this undoubtedly makes their job harder. This is also the case with the media and the broader debate happening around the issue in the country, just like any situation today in which Muslims are being discussed in the mainstream.

What really needs to happen is simple. The reform needs to get passed. Most of the changes it demands are not catastrophic, and the parties involved should easily manage to negotiate a suitable deal. The Muslim community by and large welcomes it, or this is my feeling. The majority of them might even be so indifferent to it that they couldn’t care either way. But I am very sure that they would all appreciate a well-functioning quazi system, as they all at some points of their lives have been affected by it.

What is at stake is power. Who gets to hold sway over what? Who gets to control the ideological framework of the community in a way that best suits their long term designs to maintain power? Politicians have constituencies to think of, and their son’s constituencies. Constituencies need loyal subjects, people beholden to their dorais. No external intervention could be allowed to interfere without their explicit consent, approval and fully controlled administration. Business interests just want stability. And the best stability is the one you get when you keep things the way they are. Foreign brands of Islam have vested interests, and will want to hold sway over the entirety of the people’s minds. All these entities form a tight network that seek to control the interests of the entire community.

The MMDA becomes a pawn in this game. A bargaining chip for those with something to bargain, and a dangerous obstacle for those who want to keep things the way they are. It could create a domino effect, runs the whisper, what will happen next? Gay marriage? It remains to be seen if the campaign for reform can manage this chess match.

Anyway that’s my little picture of the MMDA. It might not be a very helpful picture, but i have painted it as clearly as i can in the time and space i was willing to use. I feel we can only discuss this issue rationally in terms of countering the abuse that is happening. We cannot discuss this islamophobically by demanding that Muslims conform to a different ideology than the one they are used to. We can try to make small gains to make the situation better, and I am hopeful that with all this support and awareness, that this might be possible.

What I am not confident about is that anything else will change. The politics will remain the same, the same people will control things, and the broader structure will still be maintained. But then again, as activists, are we supposed to care about that? Are we not simply supposed to buckle down into our tunnel visions in order to fully focus only on the task at hand? Get this bit of rubbish out of the way and we can wake up and deal with these mountains of garbage later.

By Abdul Halik Azeez –

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  • 5
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    Abdul Halik Azeez

    RE: On The Sauce That Is The MMDA

    1. “What is at stake is power. Who gets to hold sway over what? Who gets to control the ideological framework of the community in a way that best suits their long term designs to maintain power? Politicians have constituencies to think of, and their son’s constituencies. Constituencies need loyal subjects, people beholden to their dorais. No external intervention could be allowed to interfere without their explicit consent, approval and fully controlled administration. Business interests just want stability. And the best stability is the one you get when you keep things the way they are. Foreign brands of Islam have vested interests, and will want to hold sway over the entirety of the people’s minds. All these entities form a tight network that seek to control the interests of the entire community.”

    2. “What I am not confident about is that anything else will change. The politics will remain the same, the same people will control things, and the broader structure will still be maintained. “

    Thanks for the write up’

    Yes. It is about power. It is about hegemony of the Ulama and Quazi over the Muslims. Is it true that when the Ulama give Friday Sermons, nobody is allowed to question on the accuracy or counter points on the sermons? Why Ulama Hegemony, nobody is allowed to question the King?

    • 2
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      Abdul Halik Azeez

      RE: On The Sauce That Is The MMDA

      “What is at stake is power. Who gets to hold sway over what? Who gets to control the ideological framework of the community in a way that best suits their long term designs to maintain power? “

      This hegemony of the Ulama and Mullah’s is over 1,000 years old. Please read about the Theologians, Philosophers,Reason and Revelation in Islam. Two notable Islamic scholars in this area were Hamild Al Ghazali and Ibn Rushd, Averroes.

      The theologians have prevailed to interpret the Quran and Hadith the way they see it in theit best interests and understanding. They do not necessarily treat the Quran as a book of knowledge, like other books, but an important book. like the Philosophers.

      This is further complicated by the Low IQ, and Knowledge of the Muslims and Ulama.

      Does cotton burn because of God or because of oxygen, nature, here on Earth? Ghazali’s many errors were pointed out by Ibn Rushd.

      Read Faith and Reason in Islam bu Ibn Rushd, Averroes

      Faith and Reason in Islam: Averroes’ Exposition of Religious Arguments (Great Islamic Writings) Kindle Edition
      by Averroes (Author), Ibrahim Najjar (Author)

      The first translation available in English of a key work by the twelfth-century Muslim philosopher Averroes, which reveals his controversial views about reason, religion, and humankind’s relationship with God. Suitable both for scholars and interested readers, this unique text proves that today’s disputes between religion, reason, and science are far from a new phenomenon.

  • 9
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    I hope you are aware that the ACJU plays no part in running or funding the Quazi court system – neither is it exclusively funded by Muslims only. The Quazi court system as it presently stands is run by tax-payers money contributed by all tax-paying Sri Lankans.

    The Quazi court system does not operate in a silos ‘Muslim only’ environment – it falls under the mandate of the Ministry of Justice (albeit with serious lack of monitoring and oversight by the State). The Judicial Service Commission oversees the appointments of judges and the District and Magistrate courts handle child custody and enforcement orders for maintenance and recovery of assets respectively.

    You may not be a lawyer – but to be unaware that the Quazi court system is not merely an ‘office’ but an actual parallel legal system, where judgements of a Quazi judge are legally binding – is a major shortcoming in understanding the nature and depth of the system.

  • 8
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    The fault clearly lies in not having a legal system which is applicable to all Sri Lankans irrespective of caste creed or religion.

  • 4
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    The truth is that Muslims are like lemmings, still tribal in outlook, and will not make a stand, or likely to make a break. All religion is fundamentally about holding power/people. In all religions, it is the mainly old guard who keep the show going, and will only change reluctantly, if at all, and very very slowly. The family exerts an iron grip, and anybody who dares deviate will be severely ostracised or worse.

    Other old religions, though well organised, are losing followers. People are getting wise to the futility of religion. Education is bringing about enlightenment. Yes, much organised religion does a lot of social work, good to alleviate loneliness and suffering. Equally, religion has proved to be divisive, and incites followers to commit violence in its name.

    Will the world be a better place without religion as it is? God only knows!

    • 4
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      “Will the world be a better place without religion as it is? God only knows!

      I also know. It certainly will be a better place without Islam

      • 3
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        socrates

        “Religion is the opium of the masses”- Karl Marx

        ” Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. To get good people to do bad things, it takes religion” -Nobel Laureate in Physics, Steven Weinberg.

  • 5
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    It is a good piece of writing. I have mentioned before too. It is all about holding onto controlling power to make a living. Earning a living is excusable. But not at the suffering of innocents and poor. What we are talking here is about the rights and responsibilities and the happiness of individuals. No one can tolerate slavery and murder in the name of belief anymore. Those days are gone. Amending the MMDA as per the wishes of the ladies requirement is inevitable. They are not asking for lion share of the rights, but just to exercise more justice in treating them fairly as human beings.

    The other issue is the use of the term ‘West’ and ‘East’. These terms are used to poison ones mind. How many of different communities are living happily in the west? When somebody confronts reality, the term West is used. But it is all right to do business, imports and exports.

    The righteousness has no bearing in geometry or geography.It is just logic alone.

    There is an interesting site to do some reading. One can just see the logic used.

    http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/top_ten_sharia.htm

    In Sri Lanka, the MMDA should be amended and the rights of the female community should be seriously addressed. If this is not done, it will reflect as a black mark on the human right intolerance of the govt. as well.

  • 2
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    It has been years, and it seems the parties concerned cannot get their act together. This is a very important step to safeguard women and little girls. What is the hesitatio?. The old stone age codgers who are trying to wield power over this entire situation, and are showing resistance to moving forward, should be ignored. Now is the time for moderate Muslims, men and women, to step forward, and do what is right for Muslim women. These are their daughters, sisters, mothers, and relatives, who need to be empowered, and have their safety and security guaranteed, and have the same basic rights as their counterparts from other religions.
    That is not asking for much.

  • 4
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    In “On The Sauce That Is The MMDA”, Abdul Halik Azeez has intellectualized MMDA. What is sauce for the goofy geese is not sauce for “others”.

    MMDA allow unequal and unjust treatment of Muslim women and girls, such as allowing child marriage, treating adult women as minors to strip their autonomy, restricting women from state-salaried positions such as becoming Quazi judges, setting forth unequal divorce provisions for men and women, allowing unconditional polygamy, among other concerns. Lankan Muslim elders have taken extreme and rigid position and also radicalized Muslim youth, making them believe that the MMDA reflects Sharia law and therefore cannot be touched.

    Lankan Muslim youths are conversant in child-marriage, divorce etc when “other” youths ponder over cricket scores!

    MMDA is toxic, anti-social and preaches illegality.

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