By Mohamed Harees –
‘You who believe! show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to taqwa. Fear [and respect] Allah. Allah is aware of what you do’. ~ (Quran : Surat al-Maida, 8)
On Thursday, Sri Lanka Thawheed Jama’ath (SLTJ) exercised their constitutional right to protest against the attempts made by the Government to bring about amendments to a historic law relating to the Muslim Marriages and Divorces (MMDA), apparently due to pressure exerted by the EU as a precondition to granting GSP+ to Sri Lanka. Thousands flocked and showed their disapproval and discontent by walking in a procession , carrying placards which culminated in a mass meeting addressed by SLTJ Leaders. There was also another counter- protest staged by a Sinhala group against this SLTJ procession ,which also exercised their constitutional right to express their freedom of expression, which is a healthy sign in a vibrant democracy. ‘Jaw-Jaw’ is better than ‘War-War’ as Churchill once said.
Be that it may, what was however totally deplorable was the abusive manner in which a SLTJ Leader handled criticism and how he referred to Ven Gnanasara Thero in abusive disparaging terms at the meeting. This type of language is not at all acceptable in any civilized society; moreover it is against the basic rules and decorum Islam teaches us- Muslims to adopt in handling criticism , however despicable such criticism may be. True! It is beyond doubt that Ven Gnanasara Thero and his likes went way beyond the basic rules of decorum their own religion – Buddhism teaches them and even breached the tenets of the Vinaya Pitaka too, by being abusive towards not just Muslims, but insulting even their beloved religion of Islam which they along with billions of others in the world hold dear in their hearts. The manner of speech and behaviour particularly Ven Gnanassara Thero was so rough and unrefined , they ultimately earned the wrath of most of the venerable members of the Maha Sangha and the majority of Buddhist brethren.
It was also true that the Post War period under MR was really a testing period for the Muslim community which felt insecure and was reeling under fear due to the well-orchestrated hate campaign launched by the hate mongers of this nature. However the Muslim community by and large did not lost their cool and they were kept in control by the Muslim theologians and did not engage in unpatriotic and/or irresponsible speech or action. This exemplary behaviour do doubt earned the admiration of not only the other communities in Sri Lanka, but also the international community as well. This admirable behaviour, in the face of such verbal abuses and assaults, of not only the Muslim community but also the majority Sinhala people showed their maturity who finally booted out these hate mongering elements at the last elections. It will therefore be harmful, to this exemplary track record of the community, if SLTJ or any other Muslim or Muslim organization arrogates to itself the right or licence to engage in these types of unrefined speech or abuses, in the way this SLTJ leader referred to Ven. Gnanasara Thero, as per the video being circulated in the social media. SLTJ has also suffered in terms of their credibility in the process, unless they apologize. It was a matter of shame that SLTJ leader did not have the ability to express his feelings and views about Ven Gnanasara Thero in a more refined manner. Perhaps, he may have not heard the saying ‘ Do not let others define you; or they might pick the worst word in the dictionary’
In this context, it has fallen on the Muslim community to disown and condemn these despicable manner of speech as not reflecting the community at large as it goes against all norms of civilized criticism and decorum their beloved faith has taught them. It is a matter of extreme regret that SLTJ which says it professes to follow the Sunnah, the traditions of Prophet (OWBP), has abandoned the very exemplary way this Role Model taught us in handling the much worse forms of criticism and abuse directed at him by his worst critics and enemies during his mission. The Muslim community will recount that it has equally condemned another instance of this SLTJ leader’s abusive speech too in he past too.
Islam establishes certain indisputable tenets of creed and practice for Muslims to uphold. It equally establishes for us inalienable tenets of human kindness and human rights. It is a message to humanity, and in fact, the Qur’an engages in encouraging good behaviour and discouraging bad. It takes a very human approach. People, by their nature resist those who act harshly towards them. However, by being harsh, they do not engage in a discourse of ideas, but rather a struggle between the idea that they are defending, and the human nature of their opponent – who resists them simply because of their unmannerly way of criticizing. In the absence of good behaviour, criticism can lead those who are criticized to become even more persistent in what they are on, no matter how wrong or misguided it might be.
Muslims are taught to take heed of the advice of Prophet (OWBP) when we engage in criticism, to focus on the merits and demerits of the various points of view without being abusive. Allah exhorts people in the Qur’an: “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good preaching, and argue with them in an even better way.” [Sūrah al-Nahl: 125]. Criticism should not therefore be couched in harsh words and foul language. The most substantive criticism loses its impact if it is not conveyed in a polite manner. People shy away from callous words as our people would have definitely experienced in this instance. SLTJ has thus lost the attention of the community and the country to the fair message they were trying to project through their MMDA protest, as a result of these ‘Trump style’ abusive verbal attacks, as the adage goes: Operation successful- Patient Died’. The earlier this truism is digested, the better for all.