These days we are witnessing the spread of disturbing information and news which could cause disharmony and disunity among communities, especially between the Sinhala Buddhist and the Muslim Community. These ‘misinformation’ campaigns seem to be targeting the Sri Lankan Muslim community. In this brief writing I wish to clear certain misconceptions contained in these misinformation campaigns.
The reference of words “Islamic Extremism” or “Islamic Fundamentalism” appears all over the media including in the local media recently. Fundamentalism according to the Oxford dictionary means a strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline: free-market fundamentalism. Even the professionals who normally follow their professions fundamentally could be brought under these definitions. When the word fundamentalism is referred to strict religious adherence it is termed as ‘religious fundamentalism’. Although the term religious “fundamentalism” has its roots in the Niagara Bible Conference (1878–1897) which defined those things that are fundamental to Christian belief, it was used at first to describe some people in the Protestant community in the United States in the early 20th Centaury because they stood by a set of fundamental religious values.
In recent times both Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries also made reference to Islamic fundamentalism. If the religions preach righteous precepts like justice, brotherhood, unity and peace, then following any religion fundamentally will not harm anyone. It is the right (sometimes become duty) of any follower of any religion to follow his or her religion fundamentally. However, following a religion fundamentally should not cause any harm to anyone or to the followers of other religions. The word ‘fundamentalism” is not a word to cause anxiety and fear as long as the person who follows the religion fundamentally is an innocent and sincere follower of his religion without causing any form of harm or injustice to others.
Those who attempt to equate Islam and Muslims with violence are attempting to show that word ‘Jihad’is harmful and a threat to others. They conveniently borrow their contention from the Western media who are engaged in overt and covert operation of misgiving and misleading campaign to tarnish the good name of Islam to sustain their own political and economic goals.
No war against Brothers
The word ‘Jihad’ derived from Arabic Jahadun means ‘struggle’. It does not indicate to give a meaning of fighting or holy war. The concept of holy war is alien to Islam and nowhere in the Quran or Hadees is the concept found. The Prophet (PBUH) said “your first ‘jihad’ is a struggle against your desire and evil thoughts.” This struggle could be against injustice and struggling against injustice is an accepted norm by mankind and even by the international conventions. Islam does permit killing, injuring or hurting anyone unjustly and further it does not provide justification to any aggression which is committed or intended to be committed in the name of any labels or isms. Some misguided elements attempt to portray Sri Lankan Muslims as violent and concoct a false and manipulated story to show that they will fight against other communities especially against the majority Sinhalese. This is utter nonsense and a fabrication to mislead people.
For Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils are brothers and sisters and what is the reason or purpose on earth for Muslims to fight against their brothers and sisters? In fact, Sinhala Buddhists, Sinhala, Tamil and Burgher Christiains, Tamil Hindus and Muslims are the children of this soil. Why should one desire that they should fight each other? No one should be allowed to destroy the centuries old close relationship between Sinhala and Muslim Communities. There is no reason whatsoever for these communities to strain their good relations. It maybe some forces are attempting to create divisions by relying on poisonous propaganda against Muslims in the media and websites which were especially created by divisive global forces who are bent on creating divisions and destructions in other states. The history and record is very clear, Sri Lankan Muslims have never engaged in rebellion against the state in the Sri Lankan history
Religious extremism and Non Compulsion in Religion
Religious extremism is not what Islam preaches though Islam pursues Muslims to be extremely good and to love others and to be extremely just and fair. In the question of practicing religion extremely, Islam is very clear and stresses moderation in worship and practice. Al-Quran Says: “We will ease you to the Easy Way”(AlQuran 87:8). Ibn Kathir says in his commentary on this verse.” We shall make easy for you the easy way ) meaning, ‘We will make good deeds and statements easy for you, and we will legislate such Law for you that is easy, tolerant, straight and just, with no crookedness, difficulty or hardship in it (Tafsir Ibh Kathir)
The Prophet said: “This Religion is easy, and no one overburdens himself in his religion but he will be unable to continue in that way. So do not be extremists, but try to be near perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded. Gain strength by worshipping in the mornings and afternoons and during the last hours of the night.”(Abu Huraira(Ral))
The Quran says ‘There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path’ (The Quran Chapter 2: 256 ) meaning “Do not force anyone to become Muslim, for Islam is plain and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear.
Brotherhood and Solidarity
If we are united by respecting each others’ religion and culture, no external forces can interfere in our internal affairs. We can show to the world our brotherhood and solidarity. If we cannot appreciate others religious practice and cultures at least we need to tolerate it. Only through mutual understanding and tolerance the communities can peacefully coexist. In a multi-racial and religious society like ours every community may have problems and grievances but these should be resolved in a very civilised and democratic way.
If we start stereotyping communities by picking up from the biased international media, blogs and internet sites which in most cases are fabricated, manipulated or half baked truth, it will turn into unending misunderstandings and mistrust among communities and also will contribute to intensify the campaign of vilification and hate against each other. If we start accepting all the hearsay and slanders as conclusive facts, it will not only bring disharmony among us but it will also degrade our intelligence to a low level.
There are references of Wahabism, Salafism and Sufism in the several articles that appeared in the newspapers these days. Nowhere in the Quran and the Prophet’s tradition are these ‘isms’ mentioned. These ‘isms’ were firstly referred by the western writers and media to describe different groups, political affiliations and these ‘isms’ do not have any religious significance. Every child knows that the imperialistic powers created instability and a volatile environment in the Middle East for their political, economic and military ends. For this purpose they also create divisions among the people on several grounds. Only eminent Islamic scholars and experts could give the right interpretation to Islamic preaching.
Muslims do not follow any ‘ism’. According to their faith, they have to follow the Quran and the Prophet’s tradition for their salvation. Despite all the anti propagandas the message of the Quran and Prophet’s tradition indisputably stands clearly with the message of peace and universal brotherhood. In conclusion I wish to quote from Lord Buddha’s saying “Hatred will not cease by Hatred but with Love”
The writer is PhD (Hawaii) LLM (Aus) MA (Sri) LLB (Sri) BA (Sri), Post Graduate Dip-International Affairs and International Politics