22 September, 2019

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Sri Lanka Muslims At The Cross Roads – IX

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

The focus of this article will be on the external dimension of the Sri Lankan Muslim ethnic problem. Way back in the seventeenth century the great English poet John Donne declared in one of his sermons, “No man is an island”. It has had much vogue as a quotation over several decades for more than one reason. It figures in the epigraph to Hemingway’s best-selling novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was followed by an enduringly popular film starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. More importantly, the quotation could have been expected to have much resonance during a period when the perception was growing that the West was suffering from an excess of individualism. Even more importantly, the vogue of the quotation corresponded to a time when the greater part of the world was going through a process of modernization, which among other things entails a loosening of traditional social bonds. In that situation there was a deep need to affirm collective solidarity.

Countries that have serious ethnic problems will do well to bear in mind that people have a deep need for identity, which holds people apart from each other, while at the same time they have a deep need for unity, which brings them together. Our leaders in their obsession with the unitary have lost sight of the people’s need for unity. I am writing here of processes that take place within a country. We need to understand also a process that is going on in the world outside. The world is becoming a unit. A process of growing interdependence that has been going on for decades has been accelerating because of the advance of technology, so that the globe is becoming a village. This can be seen in the contrast between 1983 and 2014. The savage horror unleashed on the Tamils by the racist State in 1983 resonated far less powerfully internationally than the much smaller horror visited on the Muslims by the racist State in 2014. What happens internally in a country today carries with it an external dimension in a way that it did not in 1983.

Muslim attackedThere are two things to be borne in mind in approaching ethnic problems. One is this: “No man is an island”. The other, taking into account the realities of the 21st century, is this: “No island is an island”. In the context of ethnic relations, “No man is an island” should be taken to mean that no ethnic group can remain in isolation, it has to interact with the other ethnic groups within the country, and it has to interact in a way that brings about some sense of unity among all the ethnic groups. The major responsibility for bringing about this sense of unity rests with the majority community. But up to now the Sinhalese power elite has shown no understanding of the need for some sense of unity in this island. Instead, it has shown a compulsive drive towards hierarchy and division.

I don’t think the power elite understands the external dimension either – that No island is an island. From the late ‘forties onwards, our Tamils constructed a special relationship with Tamil Nadu and made a brilliant success of it, so much so that Tamil Nadu became an external but integral part of Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic problem. However, the response to the 1983 holocaust came immediately from Tamil Nadu and the Delhi Government while the response from the rest of the world was tardy. By contrast, over the Aluthgama horrors of 2014, there were immediate responses from the Organization of Islamic Countries, the UN, the EU, and even the Dalai Lama made a statement. The SL Muslims did not create an external dimension to their ethnic problem. It was already there – irrespective of whether our Muslims wanted it or not – and it came into operation immediately after the Aluthgama horrors. It is even truer today than it was in 1983 that “No island is an island”.

However, our Muslims should be extremely wary about turning to that external dimension. It seems to me commonsensical to assume that those behind the anti-Muslim project will want to find fault with the Muslims in every way imaginable so as to find seemingly rational justifications for their project. I have just seen a report that the Thawheed Jamaath has called for intervention by Muslim countries to safeguard the SL Muslims, a call that has greatly upset our security establishment. That upset is quite understandable because the present situation most certainly does not warrant any drastic action by Muslim or other countries. I have not seen the TJ statement, but if indeed it is provocative, I will have to raise a question. Some time ago the TJ leader made some preposterous denigratory remarks about Buddhism – entirely atypical of Muslim views – which led to a furor.  My question is this: Is the TJ, an insignificant group, being used, without its members being aware of it, as an agent provocateur by those behind the anti-Muslim project? This should be looked into by Muslim politicians, the Muslim Council, and the Shoora Council.

I have earlier argued the case for turning to the external dimension. Sri Lanka has no national parties except in name, all of them being ethnic parties, and the major opposition party is also a racist Party dedicated to asserting Sinhala supremacy. The civil society is certainly dynamic compared to what it was in 1983, but it is not yet effective enough to make the State give fair and equal treatment to the minorities. In this situation, with possible genocide looming over them, can the Muslims be blamed if they look abroad for their salvation? Since I argued that case, there has been a development that provides the answer to my question. Practically every Sri Lankan across the length and breadth of this island believes – with a rare virtual near-unanimity – that had Khuram Shaik been a Sri Lankan his murderer and those who gang-raped his girl friend would never have been brought to book, since some of the politically powerful are above the law in Sri Lanka.  Had his Sri Lankan brother turned abroad for help would anyone have blamed him? The Muslims have been facing a Government-backed hate campaign for two years, a campaign in which behind the bull-like bellowing there has been clearly audible a baying for blood. The Muslims cannot be blamed if they avail of every resource to save themselves, including a turning to the international community.

What is important is that the Muslims should not resort to precipitate and intemperate action, such as calling for foreign intervention. They should only resort to action that can be seen as justifiable by unprejudiced non-Muslims.  What is required just now is a Muslim counter-thrust to the ongoing Government campaign to incriminate the Muslims over what happened in Aluthgama. It is being made out that it was a Muslim assault on a Buddhist monk that started it all – an allegation that until recently was made only by Buddhist extremists. Recently the National Shoora Council put out its version of what really happened, bringing out horrifying details that have never appeared in print before. There is not the slightest hope that the Government will allow an impartial enquiry to establish the truth about the alleged assault on that monk. In this situation the Muslims have no alternative to turning to the international community, among whom the National Shoora Council’s findings should be widely disseminated.

The Muslims should make their struggle to be allowed to live in peace and dignity part of a national struggle to restore the rule of law and a fully functioning democracy. This is possible because the civil society is now active, which means that the Muslims can make common cause with the other ethnic groups. I have in mind particularly a recent communication of the BASL to the Attorney General. It points out that there is sufficient prima facie evidence to prosecute the BBS General Secretary under the PTA, the ICCPR Act, and the Penal Code, and adds that no meaningful steps had been taken in that connection. It refers to the Police claim that violence in the Kalutara district had arisen from a clash between the Sinhalese and the Muslims, and states “We, in the BASL have visited most of the affected areas and met a large number of people. The Police reports of a clash are absolutely misleading. In almost all cases it was a case of mobs attacking, looting and setting fire to Muslim businesses and houses. Over 95% of the damage had been caused to Muslims and Muslim owned properties, while a few Sinhala houses and shops had also come under attack. The attacks on the Muslim community had come mostly from unidentified persons who seemed to have brought from outside and not the surrounding villages. We have also gathered first-hand eye witness accounts that the attacks took place in a number of instances in the presence of the Police and the STF, who took no action in certain instances to either tear gas, disperse or arrest any one of the attackers on the night of June 15. In a few instances they had facilitated the attacks that had taken place after the curfew had been imposed”. I have provided this substantial quotation to show that the Muslims should now see themselves as engaged in a national struggle to promote the rule of law and a fully functioning democracy.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    as a senior and well experienced diplomat you are better placed to advice the muslim people and their leadership whether the current situation really demands approaching countries (muslim) which sympathize with the plight of muslims in sri lanka. i find there is some reluctance or wavering in your writing. think deeply and come out concretely with your firm conclusion. you say about the sympathy of tamilnadu in respect of tamils but please note that the results of such support are not substantial-even devolution is not forthcoming to satisfy minimum the demands and the chief minister of northern province is struggling. in other words take the tamil case as an example. i am not telling anything substantially because we need deep study of the subject and you are capable of that. i have seenall your articles.superb analysis. deserves commendation.
    sundaram

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      the nutter is senile and seems to be speaking from beside the grave.
      He could never get a single girl from his adopted nation from loosing her head to satanic verses.

      these kallathonies just buy and sell anybody .

      They are just paying for their double speak- its time for karawadu maulanas to quit asia.

      • 1
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        Dear Javi,

        However, Sinhala has become a Beggers now sadly, they are trying to take 1915 Revenage, but Muslim Council of the world has warned pointing th /e finger to mahinda, so mahinda was turned red and then warned his brother as last warning, and if not OIL and Labor airliens and all embargo will be placed by Middle East. So you are beggers of muslims

        • 1
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          90% of oil is from Iran and the embargo placed by US copmes into effect by mid Auj and Sapu cannot refine any other oil. So who cares about camels.

          Yesterday they killed your robots: Israeli strike on Gaza school kills 15 and leaves 200 wounded WHAT do muslims do in the heart of ME but Belch and Fart like the camels!! Ha ha.
          Your DNA is all karawadu Go tell that to the muslims refugees who flock in the EU – Jihadi kuttha.

        • 0
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          Mus animal killer, so called Muslim Council of the world is getting thrased by Israelis….have your jihadists been tamed like dogs?

    • 3
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      Izeth Hussain –

      “No man is an island” should be taken to mean that no ethnic group can remain in isolation, it has to interact with the other ethnic groups within the country, and it has to interact in a way that brings about some sense of unity among all the ethnic groups. The major responsibility for bringing about this sense of unity rests with the majority community. But up to now the Sinhalese power elite has shown no understanding of the need for some sense of unity in this island. Instead, it has shown a compulsive drive towards hierarchy and division.”

      Thank you. You are Spot on. This is the core Problem.

      Ever since, the Paras from South India, coalesced to form what is known as Sinhala, they tried to show their hegemony. It was worsened by Buddhism and the Hindu-Buddhist rivalry and the hegemony of the Monks. The para-Sinhala claim, based on the lies and imaginations of Para-Monk Mahanma of Mahawnsa, that they are the rightful owners of the land they stole from the Native Veddah.

      This, problem the Para-Sinhala has would have been there even without the Muslims. They had it wuth Tamils and with Hindus. The Monks want the an exclusive para-Sinhala Para-Buddhist Lanka, in the Land of Native Veddah?

      Sinhala Buddhist Racism and chauvinism?

      Did Buddha teach that? Is in in the $ Noble truths and *-Fold Paths?

      Did you ever wonder why there are hardly any Tamil Buddhist sin Lanka, despite Buddha Ghosa Monk came through Tamil Nadu?

  • 1
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    Dear Izzatha. Thank you very much for your long article. Your English is very much complicated to read: with lots of difficult words and long sentences. It is boring to read . Please write in plan English so that people could enjoy: it is like a Sinhalese man speak in Tamil or Jaffna Tamil speaks in Sinhalese . Make your sentence very shorter so people will enjoy reading it. It look that your thought come in Tamil and yet you render it into English. I do not have any doubt about your analytical skills and your experience in journalism. Yet, for me your English language style is very much boring to read. It look like Sri Lankan English. English man writes in plan English so that every one can grasp meanings of his writing so quickly.
    With regards to your argument, we would like tell all Sri Lankans, we Muslims have been loyal citizens of this country and still we remain loyal to this nation and yet, this racist BBS and it’s cohorts should be blamed for all these anti-Muslim activities . It is them who created this not us. It is them who should take responsibility for all these violence. For the last two years with support of Goata, Gnanasara has been acting like a big boss. . We do not want to have any external pressure to solve this issue. We know that most of Sinhalese people are good and what we need is a change of government in Sri Lanka . SriLanka needs a good government. Please all writers, journalists,academics and religious leaders tell people that we need a change. It is timely needed now than ever before. Let MR family has been playing with dirty politics and this dirty politics should be corrected in the interest of this great nation. That is the message you should write. Do not beat about the bush but come to this point directly.

    • 0
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      Dear Nass,

      you are complicating me… we need external pressure and ISIS here if this continues… Already Saudi Embassy warned with showing index finer ” if this continue we will have to stop OIL and send back all your Work force and we know your brother involved in this, and please take it serious the result may be worst” and they got off….

      Siyalu Sathwayo,… all are animals in Sasana….

  • 2
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    Mr Hussein, you are older and wiser than me. I respect you greatly. But, I fear that the soft sell is not going to work with a pack of ruffians who lead the country now. You talk of the BASL. You can see how they have divided it. They are past masters at such games. It is best for Tamils, Muslims, Christians and others to look outside as the Sinhalese choose a policy of collective amnesia in respect of all the killings committed in their name.

  • 4
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    Mr Hussain has espoused well; let us just recap one crucial sentence ‘ the Sinhalese power elite has shown no understanding of the need for some sense of unity in this island. Instead, it has shown a compulsive drive towards hierarchy and division.’ Bulls-eye! The post-independence scramble for heart and soul of the Sinhalese-Buddhist voter has brought out the worst in our leaders, and to hell with the minorities. The current regime thinks that it can replicate the successes of 2009 and that the current numerical superiority of our security forces will prevail; Yes, they will, but only after much innocent blood has been spilled and irreparable damage done to Sri Lanka. Sadly, that old adage, prevention is better than cure still remains alien in the thinking of our Sinhalese leaders. Now, too late, the die has been cast – again!

  • 0
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    A very good view point. It is a positive suggestion that the Muslims should look at their struggle as a part of the national struggle to enhance democracy. This will apply to Tamils too even though a very large number of Sinhalese have been apathetic to their Cause over the past four decades!

    Sengodan. M

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      Islam and democracy are just opposites.
      from the time of birth of islam they have never kept a signed truce with the roman empire once they returned home- the satanic verse took precedence and they turn their backside to us all saying they are praying isnt it indian moron?

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    “From the late ‘forties onwards, our Tamils constructed a special relationship with Tamil Nadu and made a brilliant success of it, so much so that Tamil Nadu became an external but integral part of Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic problem..”

    Izeth Hussain errs again. The relationship and interaction between
    Tamils in our NEP and Tamil South India has been constant from ancient times. Prior to our Independence a large and regular group of pilgrims came to Kadirgamam – a feature that progressively stopped after 1956 when Sinhala ruffians and thugs erased the Tamil image of the Hindu shrine, which is now an almost entirely Sinhala place of worship.
    Mrs. B even went to the extent of expelling that valuable and much appreciated free Board and Lodging
    services rendered by the Ramakrishna Mission to Ceylonese of all religious faiths for many decades.

    What is now Tamilnadu came into the configuration only post-1956 with the rising of Sinhala fundamentalism in Sri Lanka – a direct sequel to the attacks on Tamils in the Gal Oya area in the 1955 period and thereafter the 1st major State-inspired pogrom against Tamils in 1958 that engulfed the entire island.

    “However, the response to the 1983 holocaust came immediately from Tamil Nadu and the Delhi Government while the response from the rest of the world was tardy…” Hussain’s poorly concealed anti-Tamil mischief again. The UK, recognising the Sinhala Governments are caught in their own ethnic trap, began taking more Lankan asylum seekers from the early days of Margaret Thatcher. To a lesser extent Canada, the USA, EU and Australia opened their doors to Tamils under real discrimination and regular harassment. The governments of these countries, in different ways, expressed their
    sympathies with the Tamils while reminding GoSL of their obligations by their own Tamil citizens. How does Hussain call this “tardy”

    “By contrast, over the Aluthgama horrors of 2014, there were immediate responses from the Organization of Islamic Countries, the UN, the EU, and even the Dalai Lama made a statement…” Hussain tries to win the favour of the Muslim reading public by this exaggerated claim. He must admit there was no more than a Statement or two from these sources and that remains there. Most of these countries, on the other hand, are silently working with the Rajapakse government.

    “The SL Muslims did not create an external dimension to their ethnic problem. It was already there – irrespective of whether our Muslims wanted it or not – and it came into operation immediately after the Aluthgama horrors….” Hussain over-estimates the non-existent clout of the local Muslims – even where Arab States are concerned. With regard to India and our local Muslims, the problem is the identify of the Muslims here themselves. While most of them are of South Indian origin, many recent Muslim political leaders tried to falsely claim they came from Arabia. Now that they are surrounded by danger they desperately seek Tamilnadu aid claiming “we are of Indian stock”????
    One wonders where Hussain’s “external dimension” was when the poor neck of that girl Rizana Nafeek was brutally chopped off by the Saudi authorities in what is no more than medieval justice of blood for blood. Our Muslims are caught between a religious and racial identity and are unable to choose one – firmly and convincingly. The time of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds is over. So the fancy stories of men like Izzeth Hussain calculated to impress a somewhat restless Muslim community in the island.

    Kettikaran

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      You said it right all the way.
      Bada_udin mamu via Sirima the school drop out created the standardisation that drove the Tamils from Colombo, Jaffna etc to TN and UK etc to educate themselves and this really created the “boys” most of whom are diaspora.
      While Bada_udin got his islamist with low scores into university.
      The other islamist ministers followed suit by reorganising their ministries into cans of islamic sardine.
      Even the islamic minister of commerce got a shelling from the chinese junior when he wanted branding of true cinnamon (chinese eat the bark) sonvanki varda poo padipu.
      Hindu/Hindians are respected more in the arab world than Pakistan itself.
      Both of Saddams SAAD 3 (bombed in 68) and SAAD 16 (bombed gulf war 1)nuclear cities were designed by engg projects of india with russian nuclear tech. Same goes to Gaddafi nuclear cities, even iran.

    • 0
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      We notice for sometime now, Izeth Hussain, who used to send his prompt angry retorts apparently has been advised by derelicts of his age grouping not to comment on readers’ criticism. This does not in any way mitigate the just response from readers’ on Hussain’s shortcomings.
      Hussain must learn from men like Dayan J who participates in a lively discussion with the readership. Hussain – quick to teach everyone a lesson on this and that seems to need some lessons on decorum himself.
      I am reminded of the old saying “physician, heal thyself”

      Hooker

  • 4
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    I have said it before, and I repeat:

    The real and perceived threat to Muslims in Sri Lanka has already been internationalised both overtly and covertly.

    It is not a new initiative IH is proposing, so what needs to be done is merely to sustain and continue that process without being confrontational.

    What in my view is more important is to initiate serious tripartite internal dialogue among the Muslim leaders, Buddhist leaders (including BBS) and the State (who IH charges is a party to the pogrom :”The savage horror unleashed on the Tamils by the racist State in 1983 resonated far less powerfully internationally than the much smaller horror visited on the Muslims by the racist State in 2014″.

    A few fringe Muslim organisations like Thawheed Jamaath are adding fuel to fire and need to be neutralised by the Muslims themselves.

    If all moderate elements from all sides can get together and initiate honest dialogue (without foreign interference) there is a greater chance of finding a mutually acceptable resolution to this problem.

    That may be a long shot, but may be worth trying.

  • 3
    3

    SL Muslims can go to Gaza road or Sinhala Buddhist road.

    Which road they will take?

  • 3
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    Dear Hussain
    Have you finished or Part X to come.?
    Does Sri Lankan Muslims apparent problems warrant a 9 part series of articles.
    However going by your part 9 you can write all your 9 parts in just one paragraph. So much peripheral materials.
    And I am not sure of the title of the series. Surely it’s Sri Lanka the country as a whole thatbis at the cross roads and Sinhalease , Tamils and Muslims are all caught at the cross road?

  • 0
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    “Muslims should now see themselves as engaged in a national struggle to promote the rule of law and a fully functioning democracy.”

    It has been widely acknowledged that SL is a lawless country. The BBS Gnanasara is roaming free with his antics unabated. This writer had even admitted as much that the police and the STF stood by and watched the Muslims being attacked and their properties being destroyed. When law enforcement officers are openly siding with the Sinhalese and there has been no inquiry or action taken against such law enforcement people, perhaps, even an oxford degree wouldn’t satisfy Izzeth what the odds are.

    The bare truth is that Muslim countries, including Pakistan would not lift a finger to raise with the SL regime the ruckus it had caused against Muslims. They are compatriots in crime and the Muslims are just a side-show and may throw a few pennies to build a mosque/madrasah. In the aftermath of the Aluthgama terror, such was the muted response from Muslim nations and bodies that hardly anyone recognised them. If at all, it was the UNHRC and other NGOs that issued statements condemning the atrocities.

    Sadly, Izzeth may choose to sit in front of a mirror, take a hard look at himself and wonder where and what has gone wrong in a country where he had lumbered his services to provide that multi-faceted choir/rhetoric of SL.

  • 1
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    Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, alias Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, was believed to be the first American national to carry out such an attack in Syria’s more than three-year-old war.
    “I want to rest in the afterlife, not in this world… My heart is not at peace here. Hopefully it will be in heaven,” Abu Hurayra says in broken Arabic in the 17-minute video posted on YouTube on Friday by Al-Nusra Front.

    Let me see. He blew up himself and other Muslims all in the name of peace and love, if I understand this all correctly, right? Now, is this part of the regular Jihad stuff or is a special branch of Jihad for blowing up those of one’s own generic religion? It’s hard to keep up with which wacko is which and why this and why that. Will he meet the other Muslims in heaven that he just killed and then they’ll all do their virgins together…him for killing someone for Allah and them for getting killed for Allah? And what’s the story on the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq and other places who kill each other? And then there are the Ahmadi in Egypt and the Alawite in Syria who kill Sunni and Shia and your regular everyday infidels and each other to consider. Well..it’s good to know that deep down they are a peace loving religion as a whole devoted to sending each other to heaven…and tagging along with them. Or something. All you #$%$ keep up the good work on each other.

    JP/USA

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