18 August, 2019

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Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross Roads –XII

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

An article by Ameena Hussein seems to be getting wide currency among Muslims, more than one of whom has sent me copies through the internet. It is a superb example of the New Journalism started by Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe, in which the techniques of creative fiction are used in journalism. The article brings home to the reader what it means to be a Sri Lankan Muslim today with an immediacy and poignancy that would not be possible through straightforward reportage. It is the poignancy of a people cowering in fear, even terror.

Ameena H’s article makes several points that are of particular interest to me in connection with the series of articles that I am writing on the Sri Lankan Muslims. At a meeting between Sri Lankan and Chinese business people she found that the Sinhalese interpreter was telling the Chinese that the Sri Lankan Muslims had been in Sri Lanka only since 1500. Though evidently an educated man, he was under the impression that the Muslims came to Sri Lanka around the same time as the Portuguese, whereas the historical records suggest that the Arabs were here even from pre-Islamic times. This detail points to the need for other ethnic groups to be better informed about the SL Muslims, as part of a program of national integration. There is therefore a need for more, not less, of the kind of serial articles that I am now writing on the SL Muslims.

Part of the reason, perhaps the major reason, why there is misinformation and misperception about our Muslims among the other ethnic groups arises out of the tendency of Muslims to withdraw into themselves. The Christians confined the Jews to ghettos for centuries, whereas the Muslims confine themselves to their own ghettos. The tendency to withdrawal has been a notable characteristic of Muslim societies in their phases of decadence. After the Second World War, our Muslims were getting out of their ghetto but the process seemed to be reversed from the second half of the ‘seventies, and in recent times they have been affirming their identity and apartness more and more. Consequently they are not seen as properly belonging to the nation, and that seems to be the source of much of the prejudice against them. Ameena H recognizes this problem, and proceeds to make a point that seems to me of the greatest importance. The Muslims may assert their identity and hold themselves apart as never before, but that does not mean that their sense of belonging to Sri Lanka has disappeared. After all, where else can the Sri Lankan Muslims belong except in Sri Lanka? The Sinhalese should bear this in mind in approaching the problem of national integration.

Mooe Man

At a meeting between Sri Lankan and Chinese business people she found that the Sinhalese interpreter was telling the Chinese that the Sri Lankan Muslims had been in Sri Lanka only since 1500. Though evidently an educated man, he was under the impression that the Muslims came to Sri Lanka around the same time as the Portuguese, whereas the historical records suggest that the Arabs were here even from pre-Islamic times.

I will now divagate from the main narrative to point to another handicap suffered by the Muslims, apart from their tendency to hold themselves apart. It is that they are the most divided of all our ethnic groups. Jane Russell made that point in her book on our communal politics. When I asked her about it, she replied that she could not think of an explanation but that that extreme divisiveness was indubitably a fact. More recently a member of the LLRC told me that its members were very surprised to discover, after investigations at the grass roots level, that the Muslims were the most divided of all our ethnic groups. He added that it was no secret that Muslim refugees from the North got on much better with the Sinhalese than with their co-religionists around Puttalam. At that time a Sinhalese told me that the lands of the Muslims in the North East were being stolen both by the State and by the Tamils, while the Muslim victims had no one to speak for them. The reasons for Muslim divisiveness, as well as possible correctives, badly need investigation. Here I will merely point out that the divisiveness has certainly handicapped Muslims in securing their legitimate interests.

To return to Ameena H’s article – she expresses exasperation with all the drum-beating on multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism which has left our Governments unfazed and led nowhere at all. I think her exasperation is very important because it points to the way in which our NGOs and think-tanks – our intellectual community as a whole – have refused, consciously or subconsciously, to face up to the hard realities behind our ethnic problems. The Western nation states, as I have remarked earlier, had an exceptionally high degree of unity. After the Second World War their economies required an influx of cheap labour from the ex- colonies, which led to a disruption of that unity. They were faced therefore with forging a unity on a new basis, and they have been doing that quite successfully on the principle of giving fair and equal treatment to all citizens. I bet that that simple and practical conclusion was never reached in all our meetings and seminars on multiculturalism. The idea of giving fair and equal treatment to the minorities would have remained at the level of cliché, without proceeding to any practical measures unlike in the West. The truth is that we have never been in earnest about solving our ethnic problems. The drive has always been for division and hierarchy.

The above deals with matters of particular interest to me in connection with the series of articles that I am writing on the SL Muslims. The reason why AH’s article is circulating among Muslims is quite a different one. She received from the Police what purported to be an election registration form, but it turned out to be inauthentic. The purpose really was to establish whether or not the residents in her house were Muslims. It was found that several others had also received such forms. All this has an eerie resemblance to what happened in preparation for the 1983 holocaust. It is not alarmist to be deeply troubled about this because practically everyone believes that the anti-Muslim campaign has Government backing.

When I began this series of articles I had in mind coverage of the Sri Lankan Muslims as a whole, without focusing only on their dilemmas over the anti-Muslim campaign of the last two years. That was meant to be a substitute for a book on the SL Muslims which I promised to write, but I couldn’t get round to writing it. Such coverage will require in-depth and lengthy treatment of certain matters, for which the newspaper is not the appropriate format. Furthermore the kind of alarming material given in the preceding paragraph above suggests that practical action to safeguard the lives and legitimate interests of the Muslims should not be delayed. I have long held that the Muslim ethnic problem can be solved by addressing the issues that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations, sometimes for decades. None of those issues are intractable. I will therefore conclude this series of articles by addressing those issues.

But before doing that I must clarify what seem to me to be some of the fundamentals of the Muslim ethnic problem. It should be seen not in isolation but as part of the problem of national integration, and that should be seen in turn as part of a wider problem facing most third world countries: the problem of transition to modernity. What I mean by modernity in the present context, not the whole range of what it might mean, is the high material standard of life available to the mass of the people in the advanced economies, together with a meeting of their non-material needs in the form of the secular trinity of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. A requisite for modernity in Sri Lanka today is therefore economic development with equity together with democracy. As I have been remarking, a major reason for the extraordinary achievements of the West is the high degree of unity in the western societies. We obviously have a need for some degree of unity in Sri Lanka, while we retain our ethnic pluralism. Our Muslims can fully participate in the struggle for modernity for two reasons. One is that the only properly Islamic form of Government has to be democratic – for reasons that I cannot explore here. The other is that no other world religion places so great an emphasis on the human need for unity. The Muslim struggle to be allowed to live in peace and dignity should therefore become part of a struggle for national integration and modernity.

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    Muslims still at the crossroads!

    I am tired of still being on the cross roads. I have passed the Bambalapitiya junction.

    Are we there yet!

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      Goraka

      I have heard that Yakkas live in Goraka Trees.

      Are you a Goraka Yakka?

      According to Dipawansa, the Yakkas are non-human. Are you non-human? Or is it part of the lies and Imaginations of Dipawansa and Mahawansa, as written by “Sinhala” “Buddhist” Monks?

      I also understand that if the Yakkas are human, and if you are human, a Goraka Yakka, we should be able to test your DNA, using modern technology and find out if you are a Para from South India, just like the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils. Only the Native Veddah are NOT Paras in the Land of Native Veddah.

      The Dīpavamsa edited and translated by H. Oldenberg, 1879- (Full text)Dipawansa

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/236003288/D%C4%ABpava%E1%B9%83sa-The-Oldenberg-Tr

      The Mahavamsa translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger, 1912- (Full text)

      https://archive.org/details/mahavamsagreatch00geigrich

      The Vedda Tribe

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f89NuukY32U

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      Time for Muslims to stop at the Stop-sign, realize, acknowledge, and honor their Lion-Race genes, and turn right. This will involve appearing and behaving Sinhalese, while retaining worship of Allah(SAWS)

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        ramona therese fernando

        “Time for Muslims to stop at the Stop-sign, realize, acknowledge, and honor their Lion-Race genes, and turn right.”

        You mean Para Genes from South and Eastern India?

        DNA proves that.

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    “Sri Lankan Muslims had been in Sri Lanka only since 1500”. It is the same story with the Tamils with the only difference being 1200 instead of 1500. This is nothing but typical ‘Mahawansa mentality’!

    Tamils have been in the island from pre-historic times!

    Sengodan. M

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    Dear Izeth Hussain,

    RE: Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross Roads –XII

    Thank you for your viewpoint and what different people think about Muslims.

    When, it comes to ignorance of facts or truth, Sinhala Buddhists, and other Sri Lankans including Muslims are not alone. 1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says

    So, the “Educated” and “Uneducated ‘ need to be informed and “Educated”.

    As for Muslims in Sri Lanka, the original group consisted of Arabs and Persians who were in Sri Lanka during Pre-Islamic Times, when their became Islamic when their countrymen became Islamic. DNA analysis of the west coast Muslims will indicate that. However, most East Coast Muslims are from South India, just like the Sinhala and Tamil people, and are called Paras.

    Only the Native Veddah are the true natives of Lanka, the land of native Veddah as shown by the DNA and archaeological evidence.

    The Mahawansa and Diupawansa has a lot of Lies and imaginations. and describes non-Buddhists as non-human, courtesy of the Monks who wrote it. Sound familiar? It is the same the Wahhabis and Salafis are saying.

    Read: Ceylon, an account of the island by Sir James Emerson Temnnet. Printed 1860. Medeval History Part V ans Chap II Indian, arabian ans Persian authorities.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13552

    https://archive.org/details/ceylonaccountofi02tenn

    The Dīpavamsa edited and translated by H. Oldenberg, 1879- (Full text)Dipawansa

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/236003288/D%C4%ABpava%E1%B9%83sa-The-Oldenberg-Tr

    The Mahavamsa translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger, 1912- (Full text)

    https://archive.org/details/mahavamsagreatch00geigrich

    The Vedda Tribe

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f89NuukY32U

    Tamil-speaking Veddas of Vaharai await war recovery support

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeFCuZwexRw

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    Izeth Hussain –

    RE: Sri Lankan Muslims At The Cross Roads –XII

    Where did the Muslims, Sinhala and Tamils come from?

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13552/13552-h/13552-h.htm

    The Project Gutenberg eBook, Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notices of Its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions, Volume 1 (of 2), by James Emerson Tennent

    This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
    almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
    re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
    with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.net
    Title: Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notices of Its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions, Volume 1 (of 2)

    Author: James Emerson Tennent

    Release Date: September 28, 2004 [eBook #13552]

    Language: English

    CEYLON

    AN ACCOUNT OF THE ISLAND

    PHYSICAL, HISTORICAL, AND TOPOGRAPHICAL

    WITH

    NOTICES OF ITS NATURAL HISTORY, ANTIQUITIES AND PRODUCTIONS

    BY

    SIR JAMES EMERSON TENNENT, K.C.S. LL.D. &c.

    ILLUSTRATED BY MAPS, PLANS AND DRAWINGS

    FOURTH EDITION, THOROUGHLY REVISED

    PART V.

    MEDIÆVAL HISTORY.

    CHAPTER I.

    CEYLON AS KNOWN TO THE GREEKS AND ROMANS.

    Although mysterious rumours of the wealth and wonders of India had reached the Western nations in the heroic ages, and although travellers at a later period returning from Persia and the East had spread romantic reports of its vastness and magnificence, it is doubtful whether Ceylon had been heard of in Europe[1] even by name till the companions of Alexander the Great, returning from his Indian expedition, brought back accounts of what they had been told of its elephants and ivory, its tortoises and marine monsters.[2]

    CHAP. II

    INDIAN, ARABIAN, AND PERSIAN AUTHORITIES.

    Early in the sixth century, the Persians under Chosroes Nouschirvan held a distinguished position in the East, their ships frequented the harbours of India, and their fleet was successful in an expedition against Ceylon to redress the wrongs done to some of their fellow-countrymen who had settled there for purposes of trade.[1]

    1: HAMZA ISPAHANENSIS, Annal. vol. ii. c. 2. p. 43. Petropol, 1848, 8vo. REINAUD, Mémoire sur l’ Inde, p. 124.

    The Arabs, who had been familiar with India before it was known to the Greeks,[1] and who had probably availed themselves of the monsoons long before Hippalus ventured to trust to them, began in the fourth and fifth centuries to establish themselves as merchants at Cambay and Surat, at Mangalore, Calicut, Coulam, and other Malabar ports[2], whence they migrated to Ceylon, the government of which was remarkable for its toleration of all religious sects[3], and its hospitable reception of fugitives.

    1: There is an obscure sentence in PLINY which would seem to imply that the Arabs had settled in Ceylon before the first century of our Christian era:—”Regi cultum Liberi patris, coeteris Arabum.”—Lib. vi. c. 22.

    2: GILDEMEISTER; Scriptores Arabi de Rebus Indicis, p. 40.

    3: EDRISI, tom. i p. 72.

    It is a curious circumstance, related by BELADORY, who lived at the court of the Khalif of Bagdad in the ninth century, that an outrage committed by Indian pirates upon some Mahometan ladies, the daughters of traders who had died in Ceylon, and whose families the King Daloopiatissa II., A.D. 700, was sending to their homes in the valley of the Tigris, served as the plea under which Hadjadj, the fanatical governor of Irak, directed the first Mahometan expedition for subjugating the valley of the Indus.[1]

    From the eighth till the eleventh century the Persians and Arabs continued to exercise the same influence over the opulent commerce of Ceylon which was afterwards enjoyed by the Portuguese and Dutch in succession between A.D. 1505, and the expulsion of the latter by the British in A.D. 1796. During this early period, therefore, we must look for the continuation of accounts regarding Ceylon to the literature of the Arabs and the Persians, and more especially to the former, by whom geography was first cultivated as a science in the eighth and ninth centuries under the auspices of the Khalifs Almansour and Almamoun. On turning to the Arabian treatises on geography, it will be found that the Mahometan writers on these subjects were for the most part grave and earnest men who, though liable equally with the imaginative Greeks to be imposed on by their informants, exercised somewhat more caution, and were more disposed to confine their writings to statements of facts derived from safe authorities, or to matters which they had themselves seen.

    In their hands scientific geography combined theoretic precision, which had been introduced by their predecessors, with the extended observation incident to the victories and enlarged dominion of the Khalifs. Accurate knowledge was essential for the civil government of their conquests[1]; and the pilgrimage to Mekka, indispensable once at least in the life of every Mahometan[2], rendered the followers of the new faith acquainted with many countries in addition to their own.[3]

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    If you stay too long at cross roads, you will be mowed down by vehicles from all directions!!

    Ever wondered why Jaffna people are not worried about Muslims anymore?

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    Beautifully written Izeth.

    Goraka seems to have missed the under-noted critical para:

    “I have long held that the Muslim ethnic problem can be solved by addressing the issues that have been bedeviling Sinhalese-Muslim relations, sometimes for decades. None of those issues are intractable. I will therefore conclude this series of articles by addressing those issues.”

    We really look forward to your future commentaries, and are confident that you will be able to inspire the forces of reason, fair-play and justice in the minds of those who are running this unfortunate agenda against the hapless Muslims.

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    If all the ‘Muslims at Crossword’ episodes were taken collectively, it could be compiled into a valuable volume worthy of library status. The content has truly exposed the weakness and defenselessness that Muslims in Sri Lanka face as minorities, due to either their own follies or influences by outside forces, which situations turn out to be beyond their own control.

    The writer’s thoughts and suggestions to remedy some or most of these proneness has been a measured and well planned out thought process, both in short term and in long term social context. Although lacking in religious context, some issues however are debatable based on which faction or Organization one represents. The core message however has been one of appeasement and conciliation, while the call to build upon astute leadership, bondship, unity and better understanding of the cause and effects of underflowing currents.

    Well done and thank you Mr Izeth Hussain for your valuable insights. We look forward to reading more of your ‘awakening’ episodes in the future as we progress through time. May you be graciously rewarded by Almighty Allah for your untiring efforts towards the Muslim cause. Barakallah lana walakum.

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      Thank you Marwan.If you are the same Marwan I used to know, contact me on email – Izeth

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    Well said Izeth. In view of the following: “After all, where else can the Sri Lankan Muslims belong except in Sri Lanka?” it would be useful to define the identity of the Sri Lankan Muslims in relation to their ethnic background . Bensen

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    Mr Hussein is dribbling along unable to face the reality that the old times he knew of cannot return. He is a nice man but his prescriptions for a liberal solutions based on modernity simply cannot be accepted in the context of what has happened in Sri Lanka. Modernity is the problem. It is not the solution. Muslims do not accept modernity. They are driven back into to their ancient shells when confronted with modernity. The Sinhalese are no different. Modernity drives them into the Mahavamsa mould simply because their elite embrace modernity while keeping power which is only possible if the majority are kept in the modaya mode, tied up to ethnicity. Modernity provokes in many races an ethnic and religious backlash so that the very notions that Mr Hussein talks of are what are despised. All three races talk of their uniqueness so as not to embrace any notion of Western liberalism that Mr Hussein advocates. Mr Hussein must exercise his brain in his retirement. Long may it be. But, he should move out of political commentary into perhaps Muslim history. He is becoming tiresome in his repetition of the same old recipes.

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    Mr Hussain””””The other is that no other world religion places so great an emphasis on the human need for unity.”””” Yes, but the emphasis is on the unity of Muslim brothers worldwide. What is becoming increasingly obvious is that Islam does not enjoy being in a minority and groups/jihadis are mushrooming with plans to change that – by violent means. That is why Muslims are becoming pariahs in the West and now in countries of Asia too. Muslims are reverting to their tribal roots where the yardstick is ‘if you are not with or of us, then you are nothing’. For historical reasons, the Muslims of Sri Lanka may be able to change that mindset. Will they?

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      Spring Koha – There are different versions of Islams, as in the case of the other world religions. There are two places in the Koran where it is categorically stated that Christians, Jews, and Sabataens who believe in the one true God and live the good life will go to heaven.There are Muslims who hold that that applies also to Buddhists and Hindus who practice the higher forms of Hinduism. Islam objects to polytheism which orthodox theologians hold to be the one unforgivable sin. There is no religion other than Islam which holds that those who practise other religions could attain the highest good in the next life. It becomes arguable that Islam is more in accord with the wider ecumenism than any other religion.
      The jihadists are in a minority. They don’t represent mainstream Islam. They are a product broadly of the transition to modernity. I will be citing Emmanuel Todd on that subject in the present series of articles on the SL Muslims.
      What really prevails in the greater part of the Islamic world of today is the liberal Islam that grew out of the reform movement of the late nineteenth century. Consider the following facts. In France there are five million Muslims. Only about two thousand wore the niqab or the burqa in which only the eyes are exposed.

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    Izeth Hussain is again on his trail of deception. Here he tries to distort history by the untruth Muslims were here before the year 1500 AD. And IH further tries to confuse the issue by saying Arabs were here before that. The historical truth is the forefathers of today’s local Muslims, in the larger numbers, came here mainly after the British from the littoral areas of Coastal South India. There were smaller numbers (a few dozens at most) during the Portugese and Dutch trade expeditions but they were not immigrants with plans to make the Island their home. This falsehood by Hussain and others is to lay the foundation, now in currency, for a separate Province for them in the Eastern Province. This claim has some support from Sinhala extremists more calculated to weaken the Tamil claim for Statehood.

    Besides, Hussain’s attempt to claim Muslims here have Arab ancestry will be laughed out by the Arabs themselves. The reality is they are out and out Muslim Tamils from the deep Tamilnadu coastal towns.
    It is conceded there were a handful of Arabs, ship-wrecked mostly, in the island before the arrival of the first Colonialists – the Portugese.

    Hussain, predictably, continues to get into the nerves of the Tamil people as he irresponsibly states “Muslim Lands in the North East were being stolen by the Tamils..” This provocative claim is so preposterous it does not require the courtesy of a response. History, in fact, stands in the reverse.

    Kettikaran

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    As always, Izeth Hussain (IH) writes very readably and makes some pertinent observations. That said, I could not help note a spot of muddled thinking on his part, early in the piece.

    IH refers to an interpreter at a recent business meeting saying, incorrectly it seems, that the Muslims have been in Sri Lanka only since 1500, whereas, “the historical records suggest that the Arabs were here even from pre-Islamic times”. The presence of Arabs in the island from pre-Islamic times is not relevant here because Arabs from pre-Islamic times were obviously not Muslims; so, when they came to SL does not tell us when the Muslims first arrived.

    Anyway, to me, that date is unimportant in the context of national integration. I don’t think that most SLs bother about when the Muslims first came; we feel they have ‘always been here’

    I am glad to see IH acknowledge that “the Muslims confine themselves to their own ghetto” and that “in recent times they have been asserting their identity and apartness more and more”. But then he states, in the same breath, that “The Muslims may assert their identity and hold themselves apart as never before, but that does not mean that their sense of belonging to Sri Lanka has disappeared”. But may I say their conduct in “holding themselves apart as never before” sends an altogether different message.

    IH asks “After all, where else can the Sri Lankan Muslims belong except in Sri Lanka?” An excellent point; except that IH then adds “The Sinhalese should bear this in mind in approaching the problem of national integration”. I’d make two observations about this. Firstly, I would have thought that it was just as important, indeed more important, for the Muslims themselves to be conscious of that! Secondly, the pragmatism that this reflects seems to have been lost on other SL Muslims, like Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem who has demonstrated no hesitation to ‘go abroad’ to seek help. If the SL Muslims feel “where else can the Sri Lankan Muslims belong except in Sri Lanka” their conduct should surely reflect that sentiment.

    As for the alleged disunity among the SL Muslims, this is not an affliction unique to his community. He has only to speak to the average Sinhalese or Tamil to find that disunity bedevils them as well. Personally, I don’t care too much for this so called unity. I believe people put up a united front only when faced with a common adversary. Unity secured under those circumstances is not soundly based and does not endure.

    I am not sure what the unity of the Western nations was that IH says was disrupted after the import of cheap labour from the ex colonies. Perhaps, he is referring to the cultural identity of those countries that was diluted with the arrival of many non Europeans. And whether in fact those countries have forged a new unity “quite successfully” is open to debate. The evidence before us is of very real tensions between the host and migrant communities in Europe.

    As for equal treatment of minorities in SL, it does not also help when some minorities choose to stay separate, as IH has said for example of the Muslims themselves and their recent tendency to “assert their identity and hold themselves apart”. Nor do political parties that are race and religion based, like the TNA and the SLMC, help.

    IH comments on “the high material standard of life available to the mass of the people in the advanced economies, together with a meeting of their non-material needs in the form of the secular trinity of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” It is interesting to note that he sees the non-material needs being met by a “secular trinity”. Unfortunately, that is not the approach in SL. And I cannot see that we can expect to achieve a “transition to modernity” unless we achieve a shift in thinking. For a start we should adopt a secular constitution, with the state leaving it to members of different religions to pursue their spiritual journeys by themselves.

    One cannot quarrel with IH’s assertion that “the only properly Islamic form of Government has to be democratic” but whether “no other world religion places so great an emphasis on the human need for unity” is highly debatable.

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