By Nishthar Idroos –
Oh Muslims of Sri Lanka time is abundantly opportune for you to respond positively with a loud and clear message. Try and deafen ears with your choice for president in the forthcoming Presidential elections. Do try and come to your senses and reassert yourself with a bang. It’s enough you got slapped, punched, tied to trees, berated, intimated, coerced, disparaged and your modesty outraged. You continue to admire, adore, applaud, relish and cherish your own humiliation, ignominy, indignity and downfall. What’s wrong with the Muslims of Sri Lanka? You’re being duped, deluded, deceived and defrauded by everyone including your own Muslim politicians yet you know not what to do. Each one of those who claim to represent you is either working against you or busy negotiating kickbacks, compensations, recompense from individuals and faceless organizations. You simply have no idea. You think your vote matters yet there is no group more glaringly disenfranchised than the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Don’t you think your blind faith in people and a skewed political system has led you to a dead end possibly heralding your own gradual marginalization?
The other day a Buddhist friend made a moot point. He said “the irony is that the more you advocate Muslim unity the greater is your division” I had to agree with him 100%. This is plain and clear for all to see. We owe a token of gratitude for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) for making this happen. They’ve given exemplary leadership to foster a morbid strain of disunity. Just look at how the SLMC has divided since its inception? It can certainly get into Guinness World Records. Splinter groups proliferating like puppies. Enamoured and enticed by plenitude. Lucre dangled with Pavlovian vigor by the exchequer or his deputies for industrial scale salivation. Leaders created overnight prostituting the term Muslim with absolute disregard. Willing to sacrifice the soul of the community for the right price. This is the palpable and indisputable reality. This is tantamount to both physical and moral nudity of the entire Muslim political leadership. They’ve become a bunch of crooks who would dare to effect horse trading close to the corpse of their Muslim brother. They would also not fail shed tears like those professional mourners from Negombo. They have no idea as to what constitutes principles, probity or moral rectitude. Muslims are crushed, agonized, aggrieved and humiliated by their own political leaders. The Muslims of Sri Lanka feel abandoned and betrayed by their own politicians. Can it get worse than this?
We’ve got a bunch of self-serving legislators elected by the people to serve themselves. This is the bitter truth. Please do not give into sanctimony. They are assiduously working for their self-aggrandisement, using various pretexts. Democracy does not mean you got to be everyone’s pawn. A wise guy once said Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. Unfortunately the Muslims are taking a lot of bludgeoning not knowing the way forward. Enough is enough. Let the perpetual disappointment of representative democracy get a re-examination. Let a new leadership evolve uncorrupt and civilised, those who could resuscitate and restore the lost dignity of the Muslims of Sri Lanka. This calls for a new kind of leadership based essentially on strong faith and strong vision. Let’s get rid of the unprincipled, rapacious gluttons. Such a movement need not necessarily have any politicians or political patronage. It can be a grassroots movement willing to work with any political organization who can ably partner to uphold the dignity and integrity of the Muslims. Let’s follow a clear path based on these values and scale down. The following amply demonstrates the predicament of Muslims and why things have to change. Affirmative action today may yield a better tomorrow for the Muslims.
- A group led by the most learned and most venerable Gnanasara was unleashed to destroy the Muslims, none were charged or punished. The destruction happened under the watchful eyes of the law enforcement.
- Places of Muslim worship were purposefully destroyed and its premises contaminated with filth. Perpetrators went scot-free.
- Another Buddhist monk called the most learned and most venerable Wirathu of Myanmar who killed hundreds of Muslims was brought to the land to intimidate the Muslims.
- The modesty of the Muslim women was outraged by trying to undress them.
- The noble and scientifically proven Halal concept was distorted and demonised.
- Racism, vitriol and deafening profanity proliferated and flourished by courtesy of the most learned and most venerable Gnasekera.
- Muslim businesses were systematically targeted and destroyed just for political gain.
- The good name of Buddhism with its unrivalled history was terribly disfigured much to the consternation of discerning Muslims and enlightened Buddhists. All this ably aided and abetted by so called staunch Buddhists of princely heritage.
- Trying to live a life based on Islamic principles became a huge challenge, whether it was praying the five daily prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan or just having children and increasing the family size.
Oh Muslims why don’t we sit and talk. Let’s make an attempt take a stock of the situation at the same time understand our religion well. For a Muslim the two are inextricably connected. These kinds of trials and tribulations are nothing new for the Muslims. Let’s list our legitimate grievances and seek solutions in an objective and pragmatic way. First and foremost Muslims must fully comprehend their purpose in this world. Our success will always come from Allah and not from a political personality or party. This is the genesis and nothing else can replace it. Our collective humiliation has been due to the inadvertent yet monumental neglect of this cardinal issue. We’ve been trusting people for far too long. Our purpose is clearly defined and delineated in the Quran: For the benefit of the non-muslim I am citing the exact verse of the Quran and its explanation. The creator of mankind said “I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship.” (Quran 51:56) Thus, the essential purpose for which humankind was created is the worship of God (Allah). Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728H) – rahimahullah – said: “Worship (Al-‘Ibadah) is obedience to Allah by following that which He ordered and upon the tongues of His Messengers. Worship (Al-‘Ibadah) is a comprehensive term covering everything that Allah loves and is pleased with – whether saying, or actions, outward and inward.”[Majmu’ al-Fatawa (10/149)]
Muslims today are scattered all over the world. Some live in Muslim countries others in non-Muslim countries. Democratization of the world is taking place at alarming rapidity. It’s dished out by the west with evangelical reverence. There is nothing Buddhist, Christian or Islamic about democracy. It’s essentially a distinct and integral part of the secular and west. No political system especially coming from the west can be supplanted in a third country without radical changes consistent with its values and social mores. Direct implanting has huge consequences especially when power is transferred to the wrong people. The current Presidential system is one such example. Professor Zhang Weiwei says that liberal democracy can either lead from euphoria to despair or euphoria to anarchy. How many Muslims in Sri Lanka had taken the trouble to study democracy in the light of Islam? There is a very clear command in the Quran to ask from those who posses’ knowledge if one does not. Our noble scholars time and time again have strived hard to clarify this for us. They’ve demonstrated clearly how one living in a non-Muslim country should conduct themselves in their day to day affairs.
Shaykh Salih al-Fawzaan a renowned scholar of Islam said, “… And as for elections [that are] well known [and implemented] today in various nations, then they are not from the Islamic order. Chaos, personal aspirations enter into them, as do greed and favoritism (bias). Tribulations and the shedding of blood result from them, and the desired goal is not attained by them. Rather, they are just a ground for bids (i.e. campaigns), buying and selling and false claims.” The personal aspirations Shaykh Fawzaan mentioned are the candidates’ desire and putting themselves forward for leadership and authority – an act the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) vehemently prohibited. Abu Musa narrated: Two of my cousins and I entered the apartment of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). One of them said: Messenger of Allah, appoint us rulers of some lands that the Almighty and Glorious Allah has entrusted to your care. The other also said something similar. He the prophet (peace be upon him) said, “We do not appoint to this position one who asks for it nor anyone who is covetous for the same.” It’s extremely clear that the one who ask for positions in Islam is not obliged nonetheless in a democracy this is exactly what’s sought. In a democracy anyone and everyone regardless who they’re has the right to project his or her opinion and demand our vote. This is a calculated affront on the intelligence of the discerning.
Shaykh Al-Jabiree another Islamic Scholar added that Muslims should desist from taking part in this. The only exception to this is if Muslims were forced – meaning if they don’t vote, they would not receive any rights. In that case, they could select a pious, knowledgeable and wise man amongst them to speak on their behalf and look after their rights. Then he concluded by advising its better, saying, “But if the Muslims were patient upon the hardships and loss of their rights in the way of abandoning this innovated matter, it is better for them and more desirable. And Allah knows best.” The Muslims of Sri Lanka know best how many so called “pious, knowledgeable and wise men” took the Muslims on a ride. They improved their own economic position in great style. Finally another minority of scholars hold the view to work with anyone Muslim or non-muslim who commit to equity and fair-play for Muslims. They say the Muslims could work with those that are genuinely receptive to the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Muslims. Muslims can cooperate with such people and work together provided they do not prove treacherous. They’ll have to contractually guarantee the permanence of religious freedom and hindrance free access to observing all religious rights and hassle-free support for improving social infrastructure.
Now let’s examine the systematic and violent erosion of the much taunted democracy that Muslims are so gleefully rejoicing in paradise land. The most important pillar of Islam next to affirming the testimony of Monotheism is Salah (prayer). Non- Muslims all over the world have no idea what we Muslims do five times a day in congregation. We stand in front of the Creator of the Heavens and earth, acknowledging and extolling His Names and Attributes given by Himself and through the tongue of His Messenger. This is a solemn meeting. Muslim males pray five times a day in the mosque and females in their homes. It was the last will of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the first act that we will be judged by on the Day of Judgement. A sincere and devout Muslim is meticulous to obey and observe these rituals. Unfortunately Muslims witnessed to their absolute horror dastardly acts of terror within the precincts of these very sacred places. Mosques were wantonly vandalised and destroyed by supposedly ultra-Buddhist elements with tacit support from those in power. The noble Quran was desecrated, ablution ponds contaminated and congregants shot and killed with impunity right under the eyes of the law. How could this happen? So much for religious freedom in Sri Lanka.
What’s indigestible is that these acts were purely aimed at appeasing one section of the populace at the expense of the other. The objective was cheap politics. To strike alignments and secure votes. Is there anything more despicable than this? With what kind of conscience can one catapult himself or herself electorally at the expense of blood-letting, death and destruction? Yet this was the truth and the attendant macabre reality. Muslims and other minorities were used as pawns. There is something excruciatingly “Benjaminian” about this sordid strategy. Benjamin Netanyahu the present Prime Minister of Israel employed a similar strategy to good effect. When he wanted to prop his electoral numbers he would precipitate unprovoked acts of belligerence that would merit a response from the so called terrorists from Gaza. Then he would unleash his killing machine with dire and bloody consequences. Muslims of Sri Lanka should not be allowed to be made pawns. Muslims should understand this vulgar strategy and hence exercise restraint and not fall prey to entrapments. How many Muslim leaders can seriously say that they tried to pre-empt such attacks. How many resigned from their positions, perks and privileges for the sake of Allah and for the sake of the community?
Freedom is our natural heritage boldly enshrined by our creator not by civilizations, empires, nations or their constitutions. The fundamental freedoms are freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association are all a part of our heritage to be used judiciously and with wisdom. Freedom obviously has limits and these limits must be clearly and legally demarcated. From a secondary point of view the Sri Lankan constitution also guarantees religious freedom, including the right to entertain religious beliefs as a person chooses the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination. A fundamental freedom theoretically applies to everyone in Sri Lanka yet Muslims are struggling to build a mosque, they’re struggling to start a religious school. How many Muslim politicians sincerely strove to resolve these issues? Mosques in Colombo and suburbs are overflowing, this is apparent on Fridays yet it’s a formidable task to build a new mosque. Leaving aside constructing new mosques Muslims are faced with the mundane task of safeguarding existing ones. This is the pathetic situation of minorities in this country! This has to change and Muslims can make it happen.
Never in the history of Sri Lanka did the Islamic dress code pose such a challenge. It’s been subject to such harsh ridicule and controversy. The present regimes antipathy to Islam and Muslims will be etched in bold letters and will not be forgotten for a long time to come. Hijab is a divine injunction and a religious obligation and is not negotiable. From the dawn of civilization, flowing dresses and headscarves have always been associated with Godliness or God consciousness. Even the Christian pictorial representation of their womenfolk bear familiar likeness to the dress ordained for Muslim men and women (e.g. Mary). This tradition of modesty is reflected in the Quran. Hijab on the Muslim woman to protect her from harm. This dress is for all women not just for Muslims. It was not designed by Ralph Loren or Kelvin Klein but by the Creator of humankind for their own safety and security. To look at one’s own religious or cultural history and then to pass a judgment against another religion is, on the milder side, an intellectual miscalculation, and, on the harsher side, outright cultural imperialism! When Europeans penetrated Africa a century ago, they found some tribes naked. They forced the tribes to wear clothes as mark of civilization. “Now those advocates of ‘civilization’ and their crusader partners are themselves discarding their clothes. How ironic?
The latest myth vigorously propagated in Sri Lanka is that Muslims are disproportionately breeding. Something not substantively corroborated. Latest census figures released by the Department of Census and Statistics paint a different picture. Why are elements in majority Buddhist quarters so concerned about our numbers? Don’t they know how to increase theirs? How absurd can this dialogue really get? In Canada where the writer lives mosques are becoming increasingly more commonplace. Women wear the niqab; there are growing debates about religious accommodations. True to the character and credo of Canada it is doing all it can to maintain the multi-cultural character of Canada. Most of the Islamic centres in Canada are becoming very crowded. Across the country, the Muslim population is growing at a rate exceeding other religions, according to Statistics Canada. It is even growing faster than the number of Canadians identifying as having no religion. I am yet to see a Canadian who has spoken against this growing trend. Maybe Sri Lanka has to do a lot of catching up.
The city of Toronto does all it can for Muslims to get their religious obligations fulfilled. The Friday services are sometimes split in two so that local streets aren’t clogged with traffic. City officials and nearby residents work with Islamic centres to answer questions like where to put more parking etc. This is how Canada goes about building confidence with its people. It’s a confidence based on trust and respect. Muslims of Canada stand firm against all forms of extremism and radicalism yet when it comes to religious freedom there is no country like Canada to affirm the freedoms enshrined in the constitution.
Oh Muslims of Sri Lanka you alone know what you went through and you alone know which of the two candidates could best address your needs and aspirations. Do pay attention to what the true and trustworthy scholars have said about situations like yours. Understand well those who claim to represent you. A Muslim does not get tricked twice by the same gimmick. If you do bother to do your research you’ll find conclusively that the so called Muslim politicians always put their needs ahead of yours. Fear Allah as He should be feared. May Allah improve the condition and situation of the Muslims, Ameen. “Allah (Glorified is He) tells us in a very profound ayah (verse): ‘Verily with hardship comes ease.‘ (Qur’an, 94:5).