Let not history repeat itself


Easter Sunday attack

In the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings, the Peace-Loving Moderate Muslims in Sri Lanka (PLMM) has supposedly urged the government to ban the religious movement National Thawheed Jamat.

In a letter addressed to President Sirisena and other politicians, the PLMM has stated; "This movement has fast become a cancer within the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, preaching and practicing religious intolerance, exerting pressure on other Islamic movements, making it compulsory to attend mosques, making it compulsory to learn the Arabic language, making the implementation of Sharia law above the civil laws of Sri Lanka, forcing females to wear the burka and the construction of mosques and madrassas in many parts of the country are some of these activities. This movement which started in the Eastern Province has now spread to many different parts of Sri Lanka."

The PLMM must understand Peace Loving Moderate Muslims have a vital role to play in neutralizing extremist groups such as Thawheed Jamat. Mere letter writing will not do. PLMM and other similar organizations must actively join the government, openly and unreservedly, in the fight to defeat extremists within its community. Muslims need to involve themselves in policing their own community, besides actively monitoring activities of extremist elements and sharing such information with the authorities, and besides placing such information before Parliament. It will serve the twin purpose of inducing an inept government into action from its slumber (hopefully), besides establishing the genuine intentions of the moderates within the community.

M.R.M. Malik, Director of the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs, recently disclosed more than 500 unregistered mosques in the country. Is it the PLMM’s contention 500 illegal mosques have been constructed by a handful of extremist Muslims? Or is it with the assistance and connivance of those among the Peace-Loving Moderate Muslims? It would be pertinent to raise the question, how many of these 500 mosques are involved in "preaching and practicing religious intolerance" as stated in PLMM’s letter? Does the government have the political will and the PLMM the commitment to shut down these 500 illegal mosques?

It is a known fact some mosques and madrassas are used by extremists for their destructive activities the world over. While religious freedom is guaranteed in our constitution, it is the state’s prerogative to monitor what goes on inside Buddhist Temples, Christian Churches, Hindu Kovils and Muslim Mosques/Madrassas. All religious organizations espousing peace, love, and harmony must open their places of worship for government inspection and oversight.

According to the PLMM, 99% of Sri Lankan Muslims are Sunnis. A majority, nearly 75% belong to Jableeq Jamaat, the moderate faction and belongs to the PLMM. By mobilizing its membership in actively supporting government efforts to contain and prevent further extremist activities, can the moderates make a worthwhile contribution.

Minister Kabir Hashim, General Secretary of UNP, a senior cabinet minister and a Muslim, during a media briefing early this week referred to a person arrested during a raid in Puttalam of a cache of explosives. The suspect had been released due to the intervention of a powerful politician. The detained and released person was one of the suicide bombers on Easter Sunday. Why does Hashim hide the identity of this powerful politician? Is he defending a member of his own community and a cabinet colleague? Should the culprit not be named, shamed and his connections with the Easter Sunday bomber thoroughly investigated?

Governments are not blameless. The anti-Muslim riots in 2014 were five years ago, and in 2018 over one year ago. The main culprit of 2014 attacks Ven. Galagoda Gnanasara is in jail for an unrelated offense. Rioters arrested in 2018 are now out on bail. Judicial process related to both episodes is non-existent.

The lack of judicial process is a repetition of the July 1983 pogroms.

Time was in the early 1980s when LTTE and other Tamil terrorist groups began raising its head. The Tamil community in the North and East consisted of two groups, i.e. those who sympathized with the terrorist groups and those who actively supported such groups. Sizable numbers of both categories were also present in Colombo and other metropolitan cities. This was before LTTE emerged as the most powerful group. The sympathizers had elders who even affectionately referred to the terrorists as ‘the boys.' That was before LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran started forced conscription of their own ‘boys.'

It would be safe to state that Sri Lankan forces in the North and East received little or no help worth mentioning from the Tamil community.

Let not history repeat itself.


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