By Latheef Farook –
The island’s peaceful Muslim community, subjected to organized persecution since the end of the ethnic war in 2009 by the Rajapaksa and Maithri-Ranil governments, are discussing the possibility of supporting the Janatha Vimukthi Pearmuna, JVP, in the November 16 presidential elections.
Dismissed as racists and atheist, Muslims in general never supported the JVP. However the situation is changing fast. Already east based Muslim party – National Front for Good Governance-NFGG, has aligned itself with the JVP.
There was a time, before and after the independence in 1948, Muslims were considered integral part of the United National Party. Many often said” Muslims ate biryani and voted for UNP”.
However UNP failed to attended to Muslims’ grievances. This was the reason why Muslims turned in large number to support Al Haj Dr Badiudin Mahmud’s Islamic Social Front, aligned to Sri Lanka Freedom Party, during the second half of 1960s.
Since then the community was divided between the UNP and SLFP. This situation continued until the appearance of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, SLMC, which ended up as Greek tragedy for the community and the country.
Several enlightened Muslim politicians who were keen on maintaining healthy relations with the Sinhalese and Tamils warned of the danger of Muslims forming a separate party as it could harm communal harmony.
However late President Jayewardene’s arrogant dismissal of Muslims that they could stay or leave the government when they opposed move to bring in Israel here created the required political climate to form the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress with the slogan of Islam and unity provoking racist elements in the Sinhalese community.
Islam disappeared at SLMC’s birth in the late 1980s when the leader was forced to flee to Colombo to find refuge at a leading lawyer’s house. The slogan of unity is displayed today in the breakup of the party into more than half a dozen groups – lured by positions and perks. Time and again the SLMC has betrayed the community on many issues. Today SLMC is a shameful liability on the community.
Meanwhile during the almost three decades old ethnic war Muslims were subjected to immense hardships including ethnic cleansing, looting and plundering of their wealth and livelihoods, massacres, losing of their traditional lands and many more. They suffered only due to their refusal to support the LTTE’ call for a separate state.
They endured all these sufferings only to ensure the island remain undivided. However despicable racists now unleashing violence against Muslims perhaps have forgotten this great contribution.
Endorsing this Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne said on March 11, 2018 that “we are alive today because of brave Muslim military officers. Admiral Wijegunaratne told the cabinet of Ministers meeting to discuss violence against Muslims community in Teldeniya, Kandy and Ampara by organized Sinhala racist thugs that ‘Muslims did not deserve to be treated in such a manner’”.
This must be reminded to racist mercenaries who claim that Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese and the Tamils and Muslims should pack their bags and leave the island.
Thus when the war ended in May 2009, Muslims were also happy that they could return to a peaceful life. The military defeat of LTTE offered this war battered country the chance to learn from past mistakes, take immediate reconciliation measures to heal deep seated wound and bitterness, bring communities together and help move the country ahead like all other nations for the benefit of all.
Almost three decades of bloodshed and destruction have brought us full circle to the gross realization that the destinies of all communities share common goal and inextricable interwoven,
However all were shocked when Rajapaksa government began unleashing violence against Muslims while establishing closer ties with Israel, sworn enemy of Islam and Muslims.
Persecution of Muslims began with the attack on Dambulla Mosque, triggering controversy over Dafar Jailani in Kuragala, throwing a slaughtered pig inside mosque in Mahiyangana, demonstration of racists covered pig’s face with Allah’s name written on, grease yaka attacks on women during the Holy month of Ramadan when men go to mosques.
These continued until the massive attacks, destruction and killings at Aluthgama, Dharga Town and Beruwala burning and destroying Muslim properties, looting and burning mosques and urinating on the Holy Quran.
Sick and tired of violence of government killing its own people, Muslims, some estimated at 95 percent, voted for Maithri-Ranil team to power. However within months Mathri-Ranil government turned their back on the very same people who voted them to power when it openly started protecting the very criminals and corrupt whom they promised to bring to book.
When the sign of first violence against Muslims emerged a team led by Prof Sarath Wijesuriya, including some prominent Muslims, met President Sirisena and appealed him not to allow any violence on Muslims. President Sirisena dismissed them saying” This was Mahindra’s conspiracy to topple the government”.
Few weeks later the anticipated attacks took place in Gintota where Muslims accused the forces of conniving with the attackers.
Then came organized attacks in Ampara, Digana, Akurana and the surrounding areas causing death and destruction with the mob indiscriminately burning mosques, shops, houses and looting belongings. Here too the culprits went scot free.
The climax of violence against Muslims came in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings and killings which had nothing to do with the Muslim community as time and again Muslims themselves have informed authorities about these extremists.
This was reiterated by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith. However falsely accusing the well-organized government backed violent campaign was unleashed against Muslims.
President Sirisena imposed emergency laws and declared a campaign which ended up persecuting Muslims as every Muslim was projected a terror suspect. Organized racist thugs were given free hand. Muslim houses, business establishments, hotels and other such places were burnt during curfew while an innocent fasting Muslim was chopped to death and another battered Muslim man was dragged in the street to hospital where he died.
Mobs laid siege to the Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola, Aukana, Kottampitiya, Nikaweratiya and Minuwangoda town area driving Muslim families, in the midst of their Ramadan fast, into paddy fields for hiding.
The police curfew meant nothing to the mobs who roamed free as Muslim families fled their homes fearing for their lives. Muslims have lost all faith in the police, security forces and the government to provide them protection.
Mob of around 500 with iron rods, swords and other such items began their killing and burning spree under the watchful eyes of the police and the army which became irrelevant. Mob were free when they started to burn houses, shops, and business establishments, mosques .They burnt and destroyed around 500 units in around 30 Muslim villages.
Every Muslim man, woman and even children, were treated with suspicion, hatred and bitterness almost everywhere. So called search operations using emergency regulations have become nightmare for innocent Muslim families who remain frightened. Not only hospital security but even shops and super markets force Muslim women to remove traditional shawls
One columnist pointed out that “Life has become a nightmare in their ordinary day to day living and virtually changed every aspect of life in the island’s Muslim population. Harassment, discrimination and a well-orchestrated hate campaign has been taking shape in the public domain, demonizing, alienating and fostering a besieged mentality towards Muslims. He added that racism has found a new meaning in Sri Lanka. And everything Muslims are being targeted. There is total harassment of Muslims in public places, buses and trains, taxis and even in work places.
In this tense atmosphere came the shocking call by Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera, the incumbent Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, for stoning to death of Muslims and urging Sinhala Buddhists to refrain from frequenting Muslim-owned shops and consuming food offered by Muslims.
More than a thousand year old Muslim community was destroyed within 20 minutes. These attacks, began at 8.45 in the morning on 21 April and ended at 9.05, dealt a death blow to Muslims who have nothing to do with this massacre.
Shameless Muslim politicians and equally shameless mullahs may like to hob knob with President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
However with all recent atrocities fresh in their minds, who is the Muslim with an iota of self- respect would vote for SLFP or UNP. In a shocking development large number of Muslims are now turning to JVP which ,though dismissed at its early stages as atheists, is now known for their honesty and integrity, commitment to uphold justice, contributions in the parliament and outside exposing corruption and nepotism and on top all their policy towards communal harmony.