20 May, 2022


The Tide Is Turning, Muslims Cannot Live Cocooned

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass L. Usuf

Mass L. Usuf

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whenever the issue of IDPs was discussed by the Tamil politicians amongst themselves or with the government or with India or with NGOs etc. the resettlement of the displaced northern Muslims was never given the place it deserved. They continued to live with host families where several households crowded under a single roof, without adequate sanitation or water supply. Most lived in refugee camps. In this lot were women, children, the disabled, those chronically ill and many who were economically vulnerable. No one cared for them for the past disgraceful 25 years.

In this state of affairs, it is indeed heartening to read in the columns of Colombo Telegraph so much being written about Muslims in the aftermath of the UNHCR Resolution. I say it is heartening not because these writings referred to the plight of Muslims but marvelling at the scholarship, intellectualism and liberality in the pens through which these thoughts flowed. The indomitable spirit of justice and the conscience of feeling towards fellow humans were the manifestation of these civic minded citizens.

Nationally, this is a favourable sign that Sri Lanka is returning towards a free, liberal and civil society. Not that these were not there in the past. They were indeed there but at the beck and call of the establishment. The steady exodus of the daring journalists and the untimely death of the not so fortunate scribes bear grim testimony to the extent of the freedom prevalent at that time.

Turn of the tide

Those who contributed to the Colombo Telegraph were not politicians. They were folks who looked at the issue with equanimity and proffered their opinions sans prejudices – be it religious, racial or political. Their writings have now been the catalyst to create a ripple effect in arousing public opinion about the plight of the hitherto neglected Muslim IDPs.

In the recently concluded event in Jaffna titled, “Forum for Tamil Muslim Relations – Justice, Equality, Relations,” TNA Parliamentarian, M.A. Sumanthiran inter alia referred to the forced eviction of the Muslims of Jaffna by the LTTE as ethnic cleansing. A much needed reflection of goodwill from a person in the thick of the imbroglio. Among the several positivities in his speech must be included his magnanimous understanding of the need to help the displaced and desperate Muslims. This was an acknowledgement that was long overdue from the voices of the Northern Tamil representatives. Nevertheless, the Muslims would be pleased to hear the statement of large-heartedness.

Riding on this public opinion, we heard the speech in Parliament by Minister Rishard Bathiudeen at the adjournment debate (22nd/23rd October) on the UNHCR Resolution. The citations of the Minister, who is an IDP himself, was charged with emotion but his plea was passionate. He invited the attention and assistance of the Opposition Leader, affectionately addressing him as, Sambandan Aiya and the Chief Minister of the North, Justice Vigneswaran on the resettlement issue. During his speech he apprised the House of the various instances of the massacres perpetrated against the Muslims like the 168 killed in Kattankudy in July 1990 and again in August 1990 the 147 killed while praying in the mosque. In Eravur 126 more killed in the same month of August 1990 and so on. In addition, he cited the several instances of attacks on Muslim settlements and mosques; the unabated kidnapping and killing of wealthy civilians; the clearance and encroachment into the lands belonging to the Muslims by the LTTE and later by the government to establish security zones and naval/army camps.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was also quick to organize a high powered panel to discuss the issue of the IDPs. The highlight of this event is the presence of the people who matter and their expression of commitment in resolving this long outstanding issue.

Dismal record

The dismal record of the Muslim politicians and the Muslim political parties is greatly responsible for their wretched condition. Political disunity, horse trading with the powers that be and self aggrandizement have all been at the expense of the community especially those who have been victims of the war. Some alluded to their inability to do anything while being in the
Vice-like grip of the then President. Sadly, the past has seen the Muslim community as a whole being ignored by their own people in the higher echelons. Add to this woe the predicament of the IDPs. The vicissitudes of the IDPs life have been marked by them being socially ostracized, economically deprived, educationally backward, dispossessed, destitute and in a state of poverty. Having crossed the 25th year, it is a matter of deep concern for how long will this yet unresolved saga be on the anvil.

Cocooned mindset

In this milieu, the Muslims, apart from a few activists, have held themselves aloof from the mainstream of almost every activity. Their distinct religious needs compel them to live in community. Historically, they were a contended people with their main focus on business, religion and their community life. The Muslim community is not organized and matured enough to engage in civil activities. Most are indifferent to their civic roles or those who are knowledgeable keep away without attracting trouble to themselves. These factors have contributed to the failure by the Muslim community to demonstrate their presence in society effectively. The Muslims are cocooned within the confines of their community resulting in alienating themselves from inter-communal interaction and on national issues.

The time has come for the Muslims to shift their mindset to be inclusive and, if they are as some may argue, then to be more inclusive. Little wonder they have been mistreated not only by the majority community but by the Tamil minorities too. Their cocooned disposition has not brought to them any positive yield except disappointment and hopelessness. “Come out of your cocoons, the tide is turning”, is the call for them.

The Muslims must be grateful to those ‘soldiers’ in robes who masqueraded as the guardians of Buddhism and the Sinhala race with the tacit blessings of the previous regime. The emergence of this notorious group woke up the Muslims from their deep slumber and indifference. Muslim intellectuals, professionals, diplomats and several organizations grouped up to create the now functioning civic body the National Shoora Council. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka which was already in existence, too, sprung into action. Both played a vital role as civil bodies in looking after the interest of the community at a time when the Muslim politicians woefully failed. Civil activities and civic mindedness is gradually seeping into the fabric of the Muslim community. The emergence of the National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) which also has been focusing on the political education of the Muslim community and instilling principles of good governance etc. has had some measure of influence. If all these happen successfully, the Muslim politicians will be better advised to change the usual records that they play. They will be forced to take into consideration the existence of another force in whatever decisions they take. The Muslim voters in the future would be more circumspect, diligent and informed.

The Muslim community over the past half a century was lacking a proper leader with visionary thinking. A leader capable of evaluating the status of the community in the contemporary society and to mould it to suit the existing and changing conditions. Any takers ?

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Holy Cow! Does anybody know why Northern Muslim IDPs cannot be re-settled quickly? Where is the bottle-neck? Who is responsible for this mess?

    I have no idea why GOSL cannot resolve something so straight-forward. Something that is so Justifiable.

    CT, you know everything. Please shed some light, if you can.


    PS: By letting this kind of problems to fester Sri Lanka leaves the field open. For ethno-religious extremists from all sides to wade in. With their wicked ideologies and sinister plans.

    • 4

      Yes Yusuf, we have no other alternative but to join hands with ISIS to create the calyphate and make Ceylon part of it that we can rule.

      Then we can teach all Sinbala racists a lesson and also take back Jaffna for ourselves.

      Hail the caliphate.

      • 0

        You must be kidding, and or a bigger racists then you claim the Sinhalese to be. May you rot in Alla’s hell- without your virgins.

  • 9

    When will the Shoora council decide to bring down the loudspeaker?

    Muslims are entitled to live in cocoons and we are entitled to have a peaceful sleep.

    • 4


      Agree with you on this one.

      I truly dislike these “religious” loudspeakers. A source of total irritation. I wish they were banned by law. They should be.

      We have more than enough sound pollution in our congested cities. Yet, all mosques scream from terribly low-quality, horrible sound systems.

      Is there a scripture that discusses “easy-listening, stimulating, non-intrusive acoustics” in The Quran?

      Those who claim to be “Pious Muslims” should truly look that up in their Holy Book.

      What is worse is a religion grounded in silence & calmness of surroundings, Buddhism has taken up competition with Islam. Most of so called “Buddhist Temples” in Sri Lanka now destroy the serenity of their environment. By using terrible loudspeakers. At all times. All over the place. No matter what!
      Whether you like it or not. With total disregard to sound pollution of the neighborhood.

      If you challenge monks who do this, you will turn into a “Buddhism Hater” overnight. In fact, the local high priest will announce your objection to “Buddhist sound pollution” on his irritable sound system itself. After which of course, you will be lunch for local “Buddhist” fanatics.

      I have noticed Catholic Churches & Hindu Kovils have also jumped the bandwagon of “religious” sound pollution. Lately in Sri Lanka. It is happening and spreading. Like wildfire.

      Oh what a nuisance!

      Dear God, please free us from your misguided representatives & middle-men on Earth, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere!


      • 5

        A most welcome article. I was despairing, wondering where the intelligent Muslims were; those who would realise that religion is a PRIVATE affair, and that even within a human family there had to be a certain amount of freedom.

        Mass L. Usuf, you have done us all a great favour by speaking out bold and clear. Let us hope that many other Muslims will heed this call for a change of attitude – not necessarily by writing in, but by showing greater inclusiveness in the way you live your lives.

        Regarding this vexing question of loud speakers, I think we have some unusual “friends”. The bus operators and the lottery ticket sellers! Let us have some very strict legislation relating to noise pollution, ostensibly targetting those guys, but extending to all religious institutions as well. Digital electronic technology has advanced amazingly, and also become extremely cheap. That is the main reason for noise pollution by the selfish. Well there must, by now, be plenty of tiny gadgets capable of measuring decibels emitted, to be measured at varying distances from source. I know little of the details of such technology, but it must exist; or in the unlikely case of it not existing, Sri Lanka can develop it, patent the devices, and get an export industry going! We cannot allow only evil forces to act with intelligence and cunning! Let the good also act like serpents, while looking like innocent flowers – I hope Ben Hurling agrees with the necessity!

        Yes, Usuf, the articles in CT must be encouraging for you, because all of the comments that come in are from “ordinary” citizens, like me. But beware! Our population is in the region of 22 million by now. 21 million of them do not read CT or anything else like it. We’ve got to get this message across to all of them, although you are quite right to rejoice in what has already been achieved.

        Thanks for this wonderful and comprehensive outburst, Usuf. There are many other points to be made; I shall do so separately, since issues must not be confused.

    • 7

      In the US Mosques are not allowed to use loud speakers. How do those Muslims practice their faith without it? SL Muslims should follow the same.

    • 6

      My area was silent.

      Now, they inform everybody my area very early in the morning that they are praying.

      I can not sleep.

      why Allah is deaf ?

      Or they want to say the area is a muslims area ?

  • 2

    In the early 1970s,the minister of Education Mr. Badiudin Mahmood brought a serious legislation affecting the University Admissions. He enacted a law demanding that Tamil students should score more marks than their Sinhala and Muslim counterparts in order to be admitted to the University.

    The Sinhalese and Muslims students loved it. But after the Tamil leaders objected to this, the law was changed.The new law said each district is given proportion quota for admission.This was aimed at reducing university admission of Jaffna students who usually did better than the rest of the island.
    It is this law that laid the foundation for the “Students movement” in Jaffna which later became the LTTE.

    Through out the discriminatory acts and acts of violence against Tamils the Muslims did not utter one word. Many muslims specially Raul Hakim was among the supporters of the government when many journalists and Tamil leaders (Raviraj,Pararajasingam) and even catholic priests were killed. Rajapakse regime who enjoyed such a great support from Muslims never tried to resettle Muslims in Jaffna. Muslims as spies and Army Intelligent officers played an important role in helping Rajapakse’s war crimes and other atrocities against Tamils. Finally Rajapakses Buddhist supporters turned against the Muslims.

    • 5

      Yes, “Raymond”, “Finally Rajapakses Buddhist supporters turned against the Muslims.” And Usuf himself realises that this was not such a bad thing: “Muslims must be grateful to those ‘soldiers’ in robes . . .” like Gnanasara and the imported Burmese monk, Wiratho.

      However, we must now “find” Vijitha Thero (minus part of the anatomy that he was born with) and felicitate him for his courage. We must never forget his sincerity and commitment, and we must make every person in the country who venerates Gauthama Buddha to understand that his truest disciple was humble Ven. Vijitha, who, fortunately seems not ignorant of politics: is he not a member of a Pradeshiy Sabha in Mahiyangana, one of the places visited, according to Buddhist mythology, by Gauthama himself!

      “Truest disciple” – well, this is not a competition! What I mean is that the good Sobhitha Thero of the Kotte Naga Vihare is now known almost internationally, and deservedly so. I’m sure a full half of the monks in Sri Lanka are “good”. Let the government and civic society ensure that they are heard, but without adding to the noise pollution!

    • 5

      This is the fourth comment that I’m submitting on this blog, yet the comments number only fifteen, starting more than 24 hours ago. This indicates that not many have read this very significant article: there are just too many other things to read!

      Raymond, the complaints you make about Islam are often heard; my justification of them on the grounds that “there is no smoke without fire” must necessarily be both shallow and crude – although your comment should not be so dismissed!

      “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings . . . “, well one can’t really describe Rajiva Wijesinha as such, but the fact is that the said much discredited Professor, and cousin of Ranil W., is one of the few who had the courage to publicly say that as a result of Education Minister Mr. Badiudin Mahmood allowing students in schools to sit O. Levels for a dozen years after 1965 in English, the Muslim community shot ahead of the Sinhalese and the Tamils in their knowledge of English. The claim that they had “no mother tongue” was as absurd as saying that English was the “mother tongue” of the descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch. But let us remember that it was we, the Sinhalese, who wanted it so: we wanted to level down our own people, rather than level everyone up.

      Muslim politicians have a bad name among their own constituencies: they are considered opportunists. They are like the “Up Country” Tamils in that respect, but their reputations are much worse. Only the Thondamans among “Up Country Tamils” have a bad reputation, actually. For the Northern Tamils, there is no need to align themselves with Sinhalese political parties, since there are next to no other peoples living in their midst. As for the complicated Eastern Province, enough has been said in other blogs on “Colombo Telegraph”.

      The Muslim Community is perceived as being made up of “Traders”. The richer ones are thought of as exploitative, and dishonest; the poorer, as guys who will sit on the roadside selling poor quality goods to gullible customers at low prices. This is the stereotype that many of us carry with us – yes, it may be true of me as well! This must change.

      Then there is resentment when an odd Muslim is found rooting for Pakistan when we are playing that country at cricket.

      Lastly, I think I’d better make this list of “hate-reasons” comprehensive by adding butchers! Many a Buddhist has become something ranging from eggatarian, through vegetarian, to lacto-vegetarian, almost no vegans. However, most Sinhalese eat fish, and many chicken. Some monks (a minority, I think) also eat flesh, but most, I feel, realise that given our current economic system we cannot pass the buck. Eating flesh is morally equivalent to slaughtering. That most pigs are slaughtered by Catholics doesn’t enter in to the equation. Much of our thinking is woolly.

      However, the act of killing is itself a messy business, I’m sure; the larger the animal the messier and more disgusting. I’ve killed rats, and as a child, needlessly fished for “guppies” with hook and bait. I’m pretty sure that a majority of Muslims fall in to my category (I’m pretty omnivorous – stopping short only of eating animals that could become extinct).

      The slaughter of animals at Ramadhan – what to make of that? More importantly, I don’t think that even half of all Muslims do it, but I’m merely guessing – and I think that most Sinhalese are willing to accept that it is considered an obligation by some Muslims. Do any Muslims enjoy the killing? I think not. Also, there was logic in our not wanting to pay more for COMPULSORY Halal certification.

      Incidentally, that story connected with “Parangiya Kotte giya” – the myth that these white men ate stones and drank blood may have arisen from an actual understanding of the Christian Eucharist, and disgust at what was perceived as cannibalism.

      There, I think that I’ve said it all! I hope that some Muslims respond to this, even pillory me; I don’t mind, get it off your chests! Much better than having civil commotion.

      So, yes, Islam does present a few more problems than other religions! Responsibilities for resolving problems devolve upon all Sri Lankans!

  • 8

    Muslims can’t live with anybody or with themselves. Every country where there is a Muslim Majority, women are discriminated, no freedom of speech and Muslims are running away from Muslims countries. Ironically there are the happiest in non-muslims countries like USA, Cananda and Germany etc. they are brain-washed by there religion.

    Islam is a violent religion needs reforms.

    • 5

      very well said.

    • 1

      They flee their lands unable to live there and then go everywhere in the world seeking asylum and within a few generations multiply like rats and take over the land and kick out the original people. Like what is now happening in eastern Sri Lanka. Came there is refugees fleeing Portuguese and Sinhalese persecution and now conniving to take over the land from the very same Tamils who gave them refuge, kick them out and create a Wahhabi Islamic haven here. They will try to this in the north too. Especially around Mannar. This was the reason the nasty Muslim politician from Mannar was busy settling out of area Muslims around the Wilpattu corridor and parts of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu to create Muslim majority enclaves that was never there in the first place. He was the minister for resettlement but neither he nor the SLMC who were the Rajapakse government allies never bothered to settle a single genuine displaced northern Muslim or Tamils but were very busy settling Salafists from the south in the north and east. The Rajapakse government encouraged this as he wanted to get rid of them from the Sinhalese areas and create more headaches and chaos in the Tamil areas. The same thing is now happening in large parts of the west. Muslim immigrants many of whom arrived as refugees now demanding Sharia and Islamic enclaves in many cities. This is the reason there is so much opposition and fear of Muslim refugees fleeing Syria Iraq Afhgnistan and seeking asylum in the west. As most people are aware that once asylum is granted they will remain quiet for a generation or two and then when they are firmly established in their new land( just like in eastern Sri Lanka and parts of the north)they will try their best to oust the original population and claim for Sharia and Islamic homelands and enclaves

  • 4

    @ Chandra Jaya

    Please comment sensibly.Going by your argument, is Buddhism a violent religion because of the thuggery unleashed by Ghannasara and his Bodhu Bala Sena ( BBS) gang ? You cannot blame a great religion because the followers have twisted it.Similarly can we blame the great religion of Islam for the violence unleashed by ISIS or Bin Laden making use of it as a tool? Please read the excellent book “Islamic Jurisprudence” by that brilliant International Court of Justice Justice Judge and former Monash University Law faculty head and SL Supreme Court judge Christopher Weeramantry and discover for yourself about Islam.It is not religions that are in need of reform , as you say, but ithe twisted psyche of a few of its influential followers.

    Little learning is indeed a dangerous thing !!

    • 0

      When did you become an advocate for Islam, Brian? Does one of your split personalities happen to be a Muslim? It can’t be “Alex”, “Albert” or “Thalpahewa”, so is there another one we haven’t met yet :D

    • 4

      Dear Alan de Cruze,

      What an excellently constructive comment by you!

      Yet, it doesn’t quite answer “chandra Jaya’s” complaint. I have read most of the Koran in English; I’m hardly a student of “comparative religion” – in fact I get increasingly disturbed by the dogmatism present in all religions.

      I feel that even more than in other religions, “exclusiveness” seems to be built in to Islam. The Abrahamic Religions seem to lend themselves more readily than others to fundamentalism, but I know that there are many deeply spiritual Muslims with whom you can carry on an intelligent discourse. However, at the end of the day, moderates like Mass L. Usuf will have to play their part in tackling ISIS and the heirs of Osama Bin Laden. I think that there are many other persons of goodwill, like you, Alan, and Christopher Weeramanthry (whom I have only heard of) who will be more than willing to help Usuf.

      For now, the fact is that militant Islam is the scourge of societies worldwide. Would it were not so!

  • 4

    that is how Allah wants it, muslim must live cocooned.

    Study only islam, eat islam, sleep islam, reproduce islam, kill every thing else and destroy every thing else.

  • 0

    How about the resettlement of the hundreds of thousand of Tamils who ethnically cleansed by the Sri Lankan government Sinhalese armed forces Muslims home guards in the east and illegal Sinhalese settlers in the north and east. Very mum about this as usual. This man like all Muslim politicians and elite/intellectuals goes on about every little thing that the LTTE did to the Muslims but keeps mum abut the large scale atrocities and ethnic cleansing activities that the Muslims did to the Tamis down south and in the east. The Muslims in the north would never have been targeted by the LTTE if they did not start spying for the Sri Lankan government and armed forces against the Tamils and the Muslims in the east and south had behaved themselves and did not connive with the Sinhalese to kill murder loot and ethnically cleanse the Tamils.
    Just look at his photo and the photos of most of these Muslim commentators. Do any of them remotely resemble an Arab as they claim to be. No they look typically Dravidian and South Indian from where they really originated

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