By Sean Sathkorale –
The terrible events of 04/21 are now a part of our national psyche. We now know that a team of radicalized Muslim youth led by a maverick Salafist Jihadist preacher in the East has committed these dastardly crimes against humanity. It goes without saying that a lion’s share of the blame of Easter attacks rests squarely on the shoulders of the incumbent government, particularly on its pathetically inefficient and apathetic leaders, namely the President and the Prime Minister. It is these people, with their eye on the Muslim block vote, and in the name of political expediency, ignored the dire warnings issued of the growing Salafist threat, living in a cuckoo land, that allowed this cancer to pester in to its eventual eruption in a horrifying manner. These two utterly inefficient leaders have blood of the innocents in their hands and they cannot shirk from the responsibility by passing the buck like clowns in a circus. The current Opposition Leader too must bear some responsibility. It was during his regime that we saw the birth pangs of this menace. While his regime took some actions to combat, it used wrong tools towards the end. Like propping up the nationalist Bodu Bala Sena, which may or may not be a false flag operation by the certain powerful Yahapalana political entities in order deny the then President the Muslim vote. While acknowledging the overall culpability of these parties, we should not lose sight of another stakeholder, namely the Muslim Community of Sri Lanka.
The Muslim community of Sri Lanka goes back at least 800 years. They prospered under Sinhalese kings and were their allies when they confronted Portuguese invaders and were in turn helped by the generosity of the King to escape the wrath of the vengeful Portuguese and were settled in Kandyan Provinces in the East. Even today we find Muslims in Kandy with traditional Sinhalese surnames that denote the affinity they enjoyed under native rulers. As another writer pointed out recently, Muslims are true “Bhoomiputhras”, part of the rich cultural heritage of this exalted island. However, the responses by the Muslim community regarding the Easter Tragedy, is hardly encouraging. There seem to be a worrying thread running through all these utterances. That is the reluctance to confront the menace Islamic fundamentalism on their midst. A child of the expansion of Wahabism under Saudi patronage with petrodollars, it first ensnared East during late 1980s and then spread like wildfire to rest of the country. It suppressed moderate voices and today is a dominant strand among the Muslims. We have been seeing its effect on the Muslim community for decades. Their increased isolation, their attempts at expansion into suburbs, changes in their dress and manner all emblazoned the increasing Arabization of this native community. It is also well-known influx of narcotics into the country is mostly at the behest of the Muslim underworld and its close links with the Islamic fundamentalists is another worrying development.
However, apart from offering lame excuses like “Terrorism has no religion” (were they thinking of irreligious terrorists?) the Muslim community is yet to take meaningful steps to confront this menace that devours the minds of their young. Patrons of the Community like the ACJU and the Shura Council should take the initiative to wean the young generations away from the destructive Salafist interpretations of Islam. The young generation should be taught that the Qur’anic verses that incite violence against the non-Muslims should be interpreted in the context of the time of Prophet Mohammed when he had to confront the numerous enemies to his nascent religion, as diverse as the Arabic tribes who were anti monotheistic to the Byzantine Christian armies. Faced with such enmity in all fronts Prophet Mohammed perhaps had to adopt harsh methods in order to prevail in an extremely hostile environment. Therefore, literal interpretations of Quran and Sunnah hardly do justice to the context within which such verses were first uttered. Therefore, it is up to the community leaders to lead their flock out from the darkness at noon and show them the true meaning of Islam, that of pious living in harmony with other communities of Sri Lanka.
The failure in part of the community leaders and indeed the entire Muslim community to rein this cancer of fundamentalism would only embolden the extremist elements within other communities and would help to plunge this beautiful island to a blood bath of a race war. Let us all hope and pray that sanity would prevail and such horrible eventuality would not come to pass.