22 February, 2024


Sri Lanka’s Unfolding Political Crisis & Muslim Community’s Indifference

By Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

As we all know Sri Lanka is passing through the worst ever political and economic crisis since  

President Maithripala Sirisena shocked the nation by sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday 26 October 2018. The irony is that it was Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party which played a crucial role in elevating Sirisena to a position as President which he never dreamt of. 

In yet another bombshell President Sirisena appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was accused of crime and corruption and pledged to bring him to justice. Instead he handed over power to this very same Mahinda Rajapaksa who appointed number of ministers who too were accused of corruption and fraud.

In short President Sirisena has betrayed the people who brought him to power and handed over power to the very same people whom he promised to punish.

Responding swiftly people vehemently condemned the move in public statements, public meetings, demonstrations and in every other possible ways demanding restoration of democracy.

Tamil political leaders who condemned the move were swift to act to secure community’s interests. Tamil National Alliance leader R Sambanthan met President Sirisena, Prime Minister appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa and Janata Vimukthi Peramuna leaders.

Unlike Muslim politicians who rushed to perform Umrah, they did not go to Madurai Meenakshi Amman Templel, Tirupathi or Sabarimala seeking the intervention of gods and goddesses to deal with the political crisis. Instead they remained here and dealt with the fast changing political crisis.

The island’s Muslim community, living scattered all over the country, does not have a national political party or a national political leader. They only have regional politicians who, by and large, do not believe in community issues, but earned reputation for striking deals, securing ministerial portfolios while burning issues of the community remain unattended. 

Over a period Sinhala leaderships have realized this weakness of Muslim politicians and exploit it to suit their agendas as it has been happening during the past few decades.

In the aftermath of the removal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the Muslim community was silent in general. Muslim politicians, didn’t know what to do and whom to join as money offered for crossover to Mahinda camp was too tempting. 

They were busy calculating whether to cross over or not.

In the midst there were widespread speculations in the electronic media of some Muslim parliamentarians trying to cross over to Mahinda side. It was speculated that to avoid such a development they rushed to Makka to perform Umrah –perhaps political Umrah seeking divine blessings to take the right decision.  

With the political scene changing fast, Muslim politicians’ absence were talked about in the ongoing move to ensure the restoration of democracy. They returned from Umrah in time to join the others in seeking court order on the dissolution of the parliament.

From the very inception Christian religious leaders, both Catholics and Anglicans as well, were quick to condemn the sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in violation of the constitution.

However there was no such statements from the island’s politicized and commercialized Muslim religious body, All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, ACJU-demanding the restoration of the constitution and condemning the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksda as Prime Minister.  

The ACJU was heard only when they received the controversial Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was received at a meeting chaired by ACJU treasurer Mubarak Moulavi at ACJU premises. In their excitement the moulavis have forgotten to remind him about the atrocities his government committed to Muslims. Even in his welcome speech the Hambantota Moulavi has miserably failed to remind him about the plight of Muslims under his regime and failed to   ask whether that Muslims would be safe in a future government under him.

Such a request was essential because after Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister, even before ministers were sworn in, Mahson Balakaya leader Amith Weerasinghe and nine others who were in custody accused of involvement in the violence against Muslims in Digana, were released on bail on Monday 29 October 2018.

Amith was given a rousing welcome by his supporters who carried him on their shoulders. Added to this after the new government was sworn in, a mob went to Digana Town putting firecrackers and shouting “slogans  “Thambilawa Maranawa” and later damaged the Kandy Line Masjid name board. 

This sent a wrong message to beleaguered Muslims. This was the reason why ACJU came under criticism for not raising this issue with Mahinda Rajapaksa.

On Friday 16 October 2018 religious leaders including Ven Ittipane Dhammalankara Thera and Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith met President Sirisena in a bid to resolve the present political crisis through a dialogue of all political parties and offered to play a role in it. 

However there was no mention of ACJU participation. The question is why this indifference? Isn’t it the responsibility of ACJU to get involved in such activities?

I went to a mosque in Colombo for Friday Juma prayer after the sacking of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. Sermon was conducted in English language and more than 90 percent of the congregation were not English speaking. The topic for the sermon was life in the hell and heaven. 

Many were shocked and disgusted at the ignorance and complete insensitive of the preacher to the unfolding political changes in the country. Some said it is due to their ignorance they confine their sermons to spiritual side and fail to deal with issues concerning the community.

As the third most important community what happens in the country also has its impact on the Muslim community. Under such circumstance isn’t it proper to explain and guide the people of what is happening and what they should do to save democracy, country and ensure their own rights and privileges.

Even in the subsequent weeks unfolding political developments and its overall impact on the Muslim community was not taken up in Juma sermons. This showed that Friday sermons have become out dated, unproductive and far away from the present realities. This is the reason why many suggested for long that ACJU and other groups who control mosques to   use Friday sermons to educate and enlighten people to deal with current issues. This is extremely essential as the community doesn’t have a proper media.

Muslims of walks of life gather weekly with a frame of mind to listen to sermon during Friday Juma prayer. These sermons could be best means to reach out to common people.  

Unfortunately all these requests fell in their deaf ears. Isn’t it time that initiatives are taken to update Juma sermons to inform Muslims of the type of political environment in which we live and the need to join hands with other communities to ensure the community’s safety.

Under the circumstance it is highly unlikely that such a move will be initiated as the ACJU refuses to come out of its mediaeval mindset, vested interests, update itself and prepare   the community to face growing challenges.

While this was the political and religious side of the Muslims, the civil society response to the crisis is one of shameful indifference. They failed to join hands with Sinhala organizations to make their contributions and assert the community’s involvement in this national crisis.

Some even suggested to nonpolitical social organizations to organize meetings for open discussions on the fast changing political scene. However all fell in deaf ears.

This is the unfortunate plight of the community against whom local and foreign hostile forces which managed to enter the country under Mairthri- Ranil government were plotting as demonstrated in violence unleashed on the community in Gentota, Ampara, Digana and Akurana.

Unless the community come out of its self-imposed isolation and join hands with majority Sinhalese community to deal with national issues what is in store for the community is disaster with unpredictable consequences.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    ACJU is a grade five learned bunch of crowd comes from Madrasas in Sri Lanka. these bunch of people take 6 to ten years time to finish their informal and incompetent reading of some books in the Madrasas. Further, after finishing ten years here in Sri lanka if they want to earn a 4 year degree in Saudi Arabia, then they should spent ten years in saudi Arabia as they want to cover school education including advance level and ordinary level studies from grade eight for six years.

    Out of 2500 readers who passed out from Sri lanka madrasas, less than 200 may be having advance level education qualification.

    Also they lean only wahhabi cultured education as Islam and they are unable to answer modern question about Islam to anyone. With this qualification they are totally incompetent even to understand the political and economic affairs of the country.

    Therefore one should ask why ACJU should take part in political move in Sri lanka? It will be same as Bodu bala Sena or Mahasena or similar bodies that need basic religious education.

    • 1

      Latheef Nana, Muslims are powerful as they have a two third majority unlike others.

    • 1

      In addition to this, while they were in those madrasas for seven to ten years, they are not allowed to read newspapers or watch the news in TV too.

      So how on earth they come to know about the politics that are known by ordinary people at least.

      I would suggest ignoring ACJU opinion with regard to political affairs as they lack even basic understanding of the politics.

      Latheef Farook, if you can please write about the educational qualification of ACJU members. If I say less than 5% of them have GCE O/L Qualification will you disagree?

      Because of such qualification only they are being traded like Muslim politicians quickly for money and recognition.

  • 0

    Mr.Lateef Farouk….what are struggling to emphasis in your article…?
    today is Holy Prophet’s Birthday…

  • 5

    What Latheef says here is certainly very worrying but despite what he presents as possibly the main reaction of the Muslim community, the presence of Muslim women (often identifiable by their headscarf etc; unlike the less identifiable men) in every pro democracy demonstration that I have seen post 26/11, has been very noticeable.

  • 5

    not just the Muslim community but the entire country’s attitude is indifference..

  • 3

    Mr. Farook, timely article. From my childhood until few years back, I was under the impression that ACJU was there to do the moon-sighting and tell us when to celebrate Eid.
    “Muslim politicians who rushed to perform Umrah” – Well, MUSLIMS (perrriod)

    • 0

      The real and hidden motive behind is not performing Umra. But keeping them under their hold to ensure they don’t jump to Mahinda Rajapakse side before respective party leader jumps out for millions of rupees.

  • 1

    Sir Latheef Farook,
    Had the Jumma sermons were used to educate and enlighten Muslims, at the basic, you wouldn’t have to spend 15 minutes digging into pile of footwear to find yours, or see prayers conveniently walk on top of others’ footwear or jamming the roads and inviting unnecessary honking.

    • 3

      Mr Latheef Farook writes
      This is the reason why many suggested for long that ACJU and other groups who control mosques to use Friday sermons to educate and enlighten people to deal with current issues. This is extremely essential as the community doesn’t have a proper media.
      So you want to stop prayer and religious discussion, and use the mosques for political discussions? What an ungodly suggestion!
      And you think political discussions are discussions where people can all agree and go away every Friday?
      Before politics as such, let us look at what oppression exists in our own community.

      May be there should be a free discussion about the suppression of women’s rights by the old and venal men who run these organizations?

      May be we should elect a few men to some of these organizations?
      Why do you think just because Sambanthan acted in a COMMUNAL WAY, thinking only of his community, that we Muslims also should act in a communal way?
      Islam teaches the unity and equality of mankind under Allah the glorious creator.
      May be Sambanthan and Winneswaran say that Tamils must marry only Tamils (of the correct caste), and so, are we to say similar things? Tamils led by the nose by Colombo-lawyer Tamils like Chelva fought hubris foolish battles, and now they have killed themselves and dwindled in numbers. Let us not follow the foolish.

      What the Muslim politicians have actually done is exactly what the other politicians have done, i.e., formulate a strategy for them to continue to hang onto power and money. Their seeming silence does not mean that there is no activity behind the curtain , and by being silent they are keeping all their opens open, enabling them to jump to the winning side. This is what they have always done. They are politicians first, and Muslims last.

  • 6

    ACJU is a “fake” organization.
    The so-called S L Ulemas are poorly educated and influenced by Saudi Bedouin culture- nothing to do with Islam.
    They are unqualified to deliver a proper “Friday Semon”.
    Better not mix religion and politics.

  • 0

    the cancer of any world community – ulamas and the head on the ground tribals

  • 2

    Take your point Mr Lathief.

    There is so much discrimination and injustice to the Muslims in everything the Sinhala governments are doing I suggest brother Lathief, that we Muslims all go to Beruwala and jump in the sea (the place where our ancestors first landed in the 10th century in this fair island) in protest.

    Hope you will take this proposal up seriously because we will receive a lot of support from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
    I will come all the way from Sydney, Australia.

  • 0

    it is a well written article along with dr.ameer ali . both have a very rational view of muslim politics. but pl. note mr.latif, this is not new. traditionally muslim leaders such as razik fareed, badiudeen mahmood and several others took the same path and joined the sinhala nationalist parties whenever they took antinational , anti demacratic decisions. they did not want to antagonize the govt. in power. taking a firm and rational stand on national issues was not their-political leaders’-traditions.
    but this time all minority leaders -SL tamils, upcountry tamils and muslims- are together upto now.. pl. make a note of it after granting some consession. give the little space and appreciatethem mr.latif.

  • 0

    Though I do not wish to endorse what all what Muslim politicians do in this instance one must praise them for showing an Islamic attitude when the country is in grave crises. Regarding the Ulema they are led by wise and understanding men. Politics is a dirty game as we all know and politicians in most instances are nothing but scoundrels. It is best in the present situation for the ACJU to refrain from engaging with them and soiling their hands. It was not Muslims or Islam that precipitated the crises but scheming and plotting politicians having their self interest at heart. They are not patriots but use it to further their agendas in achieving political power and safeguarding it irrespective of the detrimental consequences to the country. Islam is an honorable faith and so are the Ulema they should not dirty their hands . We as Muslims love this country and consider this as our homeland and motherland we are not willing to sully the name of Islam by putting our hands in murky waters. The ACJU on numerous occasions have come forward to help and organize matters regarding their countrymen assisting not only Muslims but Sinhalese and Tamils when big and small natural disasters occur. Our attitude should always be to portray our faith in a dignified and honorable manner and not to behave like louts and mobs in the streets holding placards going in processions, screaming and yelling slogans. These are not part of our faith. We must engage and interact on the basis of our values and beliefs and not on the basis of bankrupt purported Muslim think thanks who gorge out drivel on the basis of their indoctrination viz. liberal western ideology and its warped value system.

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