3 March, 2021

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Pandemic Causes Double Whammy For Sri Lankan Muslims

By Ishrath Zanoosey –

Brigadier (Rtd) M. Z. Ishrath

Muslim parliamentarians of yesteryear

In the realm of Sri Lankan politics, Muslim leaders with their majority Sinhala counterparts of the political mainstream, have immensely contributed to the progress of the nation. Yesteryear Muslim leaders, along with the other national leaders, strived hard over the years to shape the political contour of Sri Lanka. They earned the respect in parliament to fight for what was right by being honest and devoid of vested interest. They have always raised their concerns democratically on relevant national issues and issues related to the Muslim community. In this respect, late Muslim leaders like Hon. Dr. T.B. Jayah, Sir Razick Fareed, M. Falil A Gafoor, Dr. Badiudin Mahmud, M.H. Mohamed, Abdul Bakeer Markar, A. C. S. Hameed, Haleem Ishak, M. H. M Ashraff just to mention but a few, played a prominent role in parliament. 

Patriotic and fine visionary leaders who stood the test of time

These patriotic and fine visionary leaders who stood the test of time, lived a simple life with minimum of fuss and fanfare. Most of all, they did not amass a big fortune for themselves. Majority of them were of impeccable stock, who owned their family businesses and were philanthropists who spent their legitimate earnings and inheritances lavishly on charitable ventures. 

Demise of late Hon. M. H. M. Ashraff and emergence of splinter political groups 

Founder of SLMC, Late Hon. M. H. M. Ashraff, championed the Muslim cause for unity in Sri Lanka and envisioned the importance of bringing all Muslim groups under one umbrella. Tragically after his demise in 2000, his party stalwarts did not have the impetus to continue with his good work. Eventually, due to lack of leadership, foresight and infighting among his party stalwarts, few members deserted the party giving way for the emergence of splinter groups with new leaders of different outlook. 

Present generation of Muslim leaders 

Today’s Muslim leaders represent various political parties and constituencies. Each party has its own rules and agendas and plays by the political rules of the game, whilst some are more focused on the voter base of their constituency rather than the interest of Sri Lankan Muslims at large. Some others have joined hands with the mainstream political parties. That said, many new entrants appear to be naive turn coats, who try to cling on to any government that comes into power and kowtow to them, by political horse trading.

Unsavoury Political gimmicks 

Many of the present leaders are good at pulling wool over voters’ eyes, whilst some pay lip service with more rhetoric than action. Some play to the gallery and speak eloquently with their tongues in cheek and a handful seem to be lacking in their spoken Sinhala skills.  Few other MPs are in name only and found to be passive in parliament. Some are in politics for their financial gains, perks and comforts. They put their self-interests before the issues of the common man, let alone the rumours swirling around a few other MPs on various issues, who are said to be having skeletons in their cupboards. 

This attitude, obviously leaves the Sinhala community a bad taste in the mouth, not to mention, earning their wrath and may be the underlying reasons for others to stigmatize the Muslims as shrewd and untrustworthy tricksters. 

Covid-19 and furore over cremation of Muslim dead bodies (Janazas) 

Among other things, Covid-19 pandemic as a global scourge, is wreaking havoc and has taken a heavy toll on human lives. According to many medical experts, this pandemic is not going to end any time soon. The incumbent government, in its effort to curb the spread of virus, has categorically ordered to cremate all dead bodies of those succumbing to Covid-19, although, WHO has recommended burial or cremation in keeping with the cultural and religious rites of a community. Even so, the Sri Lankan health authorities are hell bent on sticking to the cremation only policy. Appeals to rescind the cremation order, have not realized and seen as a slap in the face of the community. The behest of the authorities to cremate Covid-19 related dead bodies has stoked a furore in the Muslim community. This Hobson’s choice has stirred controversy to ruffle feathers of the community, leaving them gripped in macabre fear and trepidation. Ensuing events have deeply shaken the susceptibility of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and shocked the Islamic world. In the light of this, for good reasons the Muslim community see the current pandemic as a “double whammy”. 

Stand-off between the government and Muslim leaders 

In the face of insurmountable odds, the standoff between Muslim leaders and the Government remains a deadlock and the present leaders are seemingly embroiled in this newfound impasse. In any event, ironing out the problem at hand appears to be a Herculean Task in view of the Government’s firm stand on the cremation issue. Nevertheless, the onus is on the Muslim leaders to seriously focus on the issue and raise their concerns to find a common ground by both sides of the divide, without losing sight of the problem. 

Trials and tribulations of the commoners

Today the community is at the receiving end, left in the lurch to bear the brunt of many issues in the society. What’s worse, the majority of the commoners are on a knife’s edge and could hardly make ends meet, as against the few affluent folks. The voiceless commoners in the community appears to have fallen from the frying pan to the fire, sending a chill down their spines. In this backdrop, perhaps the dithering Muslim leaders are seen by the miffed commoners as lame ducks as opposed to the leaders of the yesteryear.  Apart from that, the trials and tribulations of the commoners have led them to gather steam and lampoon their leaders as having distanced from them or having turned a blind eye on burning issues. 

Leaders losing credibility in the face of all odds 

It is a pity to note the leaders, dragging their feet to pull out the community right away, from the current abyss, as right now, they themselves are in a quagmire sans any political clout. It is apparent that, most of the leaders are losing their credibility among their retinue of supporters and community at large. In the meantime, parliamentarian Hon. Shanaakiyan Rasamanickam, ITAK., who is eloquent in Tamil, Sinhala and English languages, recently stole the show, outsmarting other MPs, when he vociferously spoke in parliament and raised current issues related to Muslims and other communities. His speech really hit the nail on the head, raising eyebrows of many Muslim parliamentarians and obviously would have been a shot in the arm to all lame duck politicians. 

Muslim community at the crossroads

Today, the Sri Lankan Muslim community is at the crossroads of a crucial juncture. Indeed, it’s high time for the Muslim leaders to get out of their slumber and pull up their socks as the clock is ticking. In short, the task ahead, won’t be a cakewalk for the leaders but a tight rope walk. This means, the leaders may have to brace for a political overture and reorganise themselves to outthink and find a consensus on the issue. Importantly, drafting a roadmap to go the extra mile at Warp Speed for the burning issue of cremation and other important problems facing the community. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    2

    Dear Israth Z
    I am a strong supporter of Muslim burial rights.
    But this unwillingness of the Muslim writers (Without exception including you) on CT to express a word of gratitude towards the Sinhala health care workers for the number of Muslim Covid patients cared for, treated and sent home is a problem to me in discussing the subject with my Sinhala friends.
    I presume anyone who embarks on a serious discussion on the subject should be capable of enlightening the readers over:
    How many Muslim Covid dead bodies have been cremated so far?
    How many Muslim Covid patients have been cared for, cured and sent home so far?
    Shouldn’t every Muslim protesting on the street know the answers to above questions?

    Soma

    • 4
      2

      What a filthy comment. There are many health care workers from different faiths, not just sinhala workers. So then what about the health care workers from other faiths ?? Don’t they deserve any gratitude for their service ?? Also why you the sinhalayo be thanked, aren’t they just doing their job for which they are being compensated monetarily.
      .
      A racist backward insecure individual like you who supports and whitewashs (if you yourself aren’t one already) the crimes of the extremist sinhala buddhists, should not be paid any attention to. Like a mongrel that barks on the road and no one pays any attention to.

  • 3
    1

    Rocking the boat in the middle of the pandemic is not good. Government has decided as per WHO’s 2 options to cremate. Everyone should support it for now.

    Otherwise things will get much worse. The healthcare system and the military (stupid but true) that manages the pandemic will turn against Muslims if cremation is allowed. That will lead to more Muslim deaths.

    Think of the living.

  • 0
    0

    It is time the Muslim leaders got their act together, and genuinely spoke up and do something to help their people, who have been racially targeted and discriminated.
    Even during the height of the BBS attacks, when the saffron robes thugs terrorized Muslims in their homes and businesses, these spineless leaders did not speak out, protest, or protect their people.

    Arab nations should also strongly condemn this racist regime, and should stop recruiting non Muslim workers from Sri Lanka. They should send a strong message that if Muslims are discriminated in Sri Lanka, then there is no need for Sinhala Buddhists to be recruited by these Arab nations, perhaps because the Rajapaksa’s do not need those remittances from Muslim nations to save our economy. Maybe they can send their workers to China (Good luck with that), or will that other Buddhist nation Myanmar employ our labor force? No chance.

    Saudi Arabia, Dubai/ UAE, and Qatar, please note.

    • 1
      1

      Ashan
      Your Muslim leaders know their geography as well as demography – they are no big mouthed fools like you. They know that Sri Lanka is an island. They are concious of your parasite existence.
      .
      Minority leaders should understand one simple fact:
      There is no way, ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, of punishing the Sinhalese without facing a thousand times severe backlash.
      Let me remind you again: Sri Lanka is an island.
      “”Saudi Arabia, Dubai/ UAE, and Qatar, please note.””
      .
      Try to understand why they finally decided to help Nandasena to pass the 20A.

      Soma

  • 2
    2

    By insisting on burying Corona infected dead bodies while zero risk option is cremation these descendants of Muslim refugees from Hindusthan who were saved by Sinhala Buddhists when faced persecution by Portuguese show that they do not care at all for the lives of Sinhalayo who saved their ancestors.
    In Sinhala there is a saying:
    ‘Dudanan hata pihita nowaw yana basa sebe kale mata’ (Never help wicked people).

  • 1
    0

    There is a bigger questions to be asked about the US citizen brother’s Covid-10 response here:
    WHO advised the foolish and uneducated Minister of Health (whose only qualification for the job is genuflecting before the Rajapaksa brothers), to appoint 2 committees to contradict each other on the subject of burying or cremating those who died of Covid-19?
    New Delhi has achived heard immunity and Sri Lanka too has achived heard immunity but this is being covered up and there is a spike in numbers of deaths after the MOH required all bodies to be brought to the National Hospital to certify the cause of death – seemingly to pump up the numbers. Who is tracking the increase in Covid-19 due to the Vaccination project?
    WHO is manipulating the Covid-19 MEDIA FEAR PSYCHOSIS SHOW and MEDIA narrative and policy making process at the Ministry of Health and the GMOA and epidemiology unit. – to sell vaccines? Who is running the COvid-19 test, test and trace surveillance project?
    It is the vaccines that are spreading Covid-19 which has mysteriously and rapidly increased after it was pointed out that the 2020 COvid-19 data and infection fatality rate in Sri Lanka shows that it is milder than seasonal flu.

  • 2
    0

    Part A

    Whammy 1 : The Covid-19 Pandemic which affects all Sri Lankans not just the Muslims
    Whammy 2 : The Cremation Order, which affects all Covid deaths not just the Muslims
    So, is it correct to claim that only the Muslims were at the receiving end of a ‘double whammy’ ?

    Why are the Muslims not speaking about Whammy No 3 which affected only their community through the faults of their own religious leaders ?

    Despite the Almighty (SWT) through the Holy Quran and the Prophet (SAL) as reported in Hadith enabling and empowering the Muslims to face any situation which compells them to commit a forbidden act, the scholarly Lebbes failed miserably to advise and guide the faithful at this crucial juncture. They chose to focus their skills instead on what they do best – preparing Watalapan.

    Al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat is a legal maxim that translates as ‘necessities overrule prohibitions’ and that allows a Muslim in extreme circumstances to do something that would normally be haram (forbidden) to save his own or another’s life – any life, even that of a non-Muslim.

    • 2
      0

      Part B

      By abdicating their responsibility to advise and guide the Muslims in this regard, the Lebbes created the space for the emergence of the vociferous ‘anti-Cremation’ groups (both Muslim & non-Muslim individuals and organizations).These ‘bleeding heart’ individuals and groups were able to whip up the Muslims into a frenzy by the clever use of emotivism to express their views and opinions regarding ‘forced’ cremation, thereby showcasing the selfishness and self-centeredness of the Community.

      This is the advice given by a reputed foreign Mufthi on this issue :”We would like to warn our Muslim brothers in the countries that may issue orders for the cremation of the victims to adhere to wisdom when dealing with the official authorities and to avoid collision as much as possible in order to avoid potential Fitnah (tribulation) which may incur graver evil and harm on Muslims.”

      The Muslims created their own Whammy No 3.

    • 0
      0

      This is adding insult to injury. This sounds like a judge reprimanding the victim of rape, telling her that it was her behavior/or mode of dress that caused the crime. The Muslims have a lot of reforming to do, but every time a racist policy is implemented in Sri Lanka, no one should expect them to keep changing their basic tenets of religion, just to placate those implementing it.

      How about laying blame where it is deserved? I do not see any criticism of those in power, who decided to ignore the WHO, world experts, Human Rights Organization, Scientists, and so many others, to discriminate the minority, by insisting they cremate their dead.
      There is no point blaming Lebbes or others, all it will take is the president and his brother to take the advice of world and Sri Lankan experts, and stop the discrimination of the minorities. There is no scientific reason why they should not bury the dead according to WHO regulations. The entire world but China and Sri Lanka seems to prefer to stick to their cremation rules which hurt the minority.
      Both countries have records of discrimination against minority Muslims.
      There seem to be no effort to compromise, negotiate, or work with the Muslims, to show good faith. None at all.

      “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy

  • 0
    1

    Dear Brigadier Sir

    You stated 2 points concerns me

    (1) Some are interested only serving their voter base (assuming you are referring to some one happened to be a Muslim elected MP)

    (2) Others with different parties as Turncoats not serving the interest of the Muslims at large in the Country.

    Your article stated with Muslims who contributed to the Country.

    Then again you also served our Nation I assume as one people but not as a Muslim serving the other?

    This scenario (sorry I can not relate to this as a Jaffna Tamil man) be it from a Sinhalese/Tamil/Muslim+++++ exists within a Citizen of Sri Lanka does not make any one of this grouping the Minority or the Majority correct?? does not stop them from suctioning as civic citizens serving the Nation you are a great example??

    So where is the Muslim identity/tag comes into your article please?? with all due respect to a Soldier may I ask why you feel that way have contributed to the current scenario rather than you being a Muslim therefore a Victim ??

    May be you will see how non identity people of Sri Lanka like myself see ourselves as a Victim to this identity crisis etc?

    • 0
      0

      correction…”functioning” not suctioning sorry.

      • 0
        1

        However we fully agree there may be racism within the army for all that happens outside or vis a vis that world over the same…the recent good example is what is happening in the US where many Soldiers are the biggest recruits for the fascists.

        These are the price to pay when we miss opportunities to resolve issue overtime and instead aggravate/create scenarios one can not manage?

        SL National parties do not have Sinhala or Budddist only membership/manifesto is a great starting place for such a journey of harmony??

        If I serve my Nation and see people are pleased with my services why should one identify me as a Tamil instead should say he is great Sri Lankan would be sufficient?? otherwise someone else is stealing my agenda of my Nationhood for their own prejudices/politics correct??

  • 0
    1

    How misplaced statements can create animosity

    A Singapore Story in recent months and the Internal Security Act

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ-9aDDaKvI

  • 1
    0

    Ashan
    Your Muslim leaders know their geography as well as demography – they are no big mouthed fools like you. They know that Sri Lanka is an island. They are concious of your parasite existence.
    .
    Minority leaders should understand one simple fact:
    There is no way, ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, of punishing the Sinhalese without facing a thousand times severe backlash.
    Let me remind you again: Sri Lanka is an island.
    “”Saudi Arabia, Dubai/ UAE, and Qatar, please note.””
    .
    Try to understand why they finally decided to help Nandasena to pass the 20A.

    Soma

  • 3
    0

    Time for SL Muslims to clean the their house and decide to be part of integral Sri Lanka

    https://www.nation.lk/online/legal-system-under-complete-overhaul-ali-sabry-50048.html

    1. Enact MMDA reforms.
    2. Reject Arabic clothes
    3. Try to go back to traditional SL Muslim values
    4. Stop radicalization – like trying to bring LKR4Bn from Saudi donations to spread religion.
    5. Trying to put Saudi names to streets in Batti
    6. Stop setting up Muslim only international school – which create mono-ethnic experiences.

    • 0
      1

      All the above has NOTHING to do with the fact that the Rajapaksa’s have arrogantly ignored WHO, International and Local Medical Institutions, other nations, and refused to do the humane thing, to allow minorities bury their dead, according to their religions. Anyone with half a brain knows they have nothing to do with burying their deceased.

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