There are also reports of Muslims with beards and women wearing the Hijab being jeered at in public
Muslims in Sri Lanka are a battered race given that people who don’t practice Islam look at them with suspicion and hatred now. The whole world collapsed on this minority community on April 21 following a series of bombings on churches and hotels; carried out allegedly by the ISIS.
Tensions have been brewing since this ‘dark day’ in history and the taking place of incidents involving Muslims is giving rise to a tide that’s building up against Sri Lankan Muslims.
If the allegations in the past about Muslim eateries serving food to non-Muslims containing drugs, which make one infertile were unsubstantiated, the news that a Muslim doctor from Kurunegala carried out a large number of abortions with the patients suffering severe side effects has refuelled the suspicions within the majority Sinhalese.
Kurunegala is a city that’s about to explode in racial violence. The growing complaints from mothers, who were operated on by this doctor, identified as Dr. Shafi Mohammed Shihabdeen, have added to the tensions existing between the Muslims and the Sinhalese. This issue has also opened a door to mischief-makers and opportunists to cause mayhem in the country. This situation is ideal for those lawmakers who wish to gain political mileage.
The biggest contribution to this clash of cultures between the Sinhalese and the Muslims comes because the majority race in the country is ignorant about the teachings in the Quran. The Sinhalese know of only one type of Muslim and that’s the one who wears the takiyah-a short rounded skullcap.
But according to Islamic scholars there are three categories where Muslims are grouped into. The first is ‘Mumin’ and those included in this category will take up penance and undergo hardships to practice the teachings of the Quran to the letter. The second category is ‘Muslim’ where practitioners of the Quran will only do what they comfortably can. The third category are people who pose as practitioners of the Quran, but have come to destroy this faith. According to renown scholars in Islam like All Island Islam Adviser Al Haj Kaleel Mawlavi those who belong to the latter group must be delt with severely, so that the virus of hatred that they spread is wiped out completely.
According to Kaleel Mawlavi the Muslim community had alerted the government authorities about the activities of extremist Muslims like Mohammed Saharan, but all those efforts were to no avail. This Mawlavi has told a weekend Sinhalese newspaper that he rated Saharan as a terrorist.
"it is the responsibility of those who practice Islam to make sure that the world at large has a good impression of the faith they practice. This is not possible when security forces are in and out of mosques"
The Muslims are a closed, but well-knit community. This feature has also contributed to the mess they are in now. This could be the reason why the developing trend towards extremism took time to surface. It is known that authorised Muslim scholars have encountered radical thinking youth, especially in areas like Kathankudi and Mawanella. Some of these radical thinkers, who were trying to promote a distorted version of the Quran, were even sidelined from their families. Some were told to leave home. There have also been clashes between Islamic scholars and these radical thinkers; sometimes proceedings leading to fisticuffs. It is said that there had been protests initiated by orthodox Muslims against these religious extremists. These protests had drawn large crowds numbering 1500 people, but such developments hadn’t received the attention of the media nor that of the government’s security establishment, according to Kaleel Mawlavi.
Now the entire Muslim community is suffering the consequences of actions carried out by radicals like Saharan. Western Province Governor Azath Salley has been bitterly complaining about the security forces continuously searching mosques; sometimes search operations being carried out more than once a day. These search operations have at time unearthed dangerous weapons like swords.
Muslim scholars have time and again pointed out that it is the responsibility of those who practice Islam to make sure that the world at large has a good impression of the faith they practice. This is not possible when security forces are in and out of mosques and Muslims have to pray in a war-like environment.
Saharan’s work and those activities of religious extremists put the true practitioners of Islam under a cloud of gloom. Very recently we heard of a story of a female Muslim doctor employed at the Homagama Hospital tending her resignation because she was told to remove the Burkha (A face veiling) she was wearing when on duty. There are also reports of Muslims with beards and women wearing the Hijab being jeered at in public. For the record Minister Rishad Bathiudeen is a marked man now. Posters have come up in some areas featuring anti-Rishad rhetoric. One poster which came up in Wattala warns lawmakers not to step in this town if they don’t vote in favour of the No Confidence Motion that’s to be moved against Bathiudeen.
Sri Lanka is known for backlashes taking place after violent incidents hence the issue of targeting innocent Muslims should be nipped in the bud before Sinhalese hardliners agitate and go on the rampage, again.
This government lacks the expertise to defuse a tense situation. At a time when fingers are pointed at Muslim lawmaker Bathiudeen and Governors Salley and Hisbullah for annoying the Sinhalese majority, the latter was given another portfolio making him the Co-Chairman of the Districts Coordinating Committees in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. This appointment made by President Maithripala Sirisena only adds to the tensions between the Sinhalese and the Muslims because the majority Sinhala community is up in arms due to the non-compromising attitude maintained by Hisbullah regarding the Sharia University in Batticaloa.
Despite all this turmoil and hatred that’s spread across this island nation, there are stories of brotherhood where one community saving another do surface. Just a few days ago we heard of some Sinhala families in Naththandiya, Thunmodara and Mallakele areas giving shelter to Muslim families when mobs from outside stormed the village and damaged property and places of worship. After the attacks the comments made by Haleema, a female Muslim, praising the efforts of Sujeevani, a Sinhalese woman, were recorded in the print media in one of those rare positive stories to be carried regarding the Sinhala-Muslim issue. These heartwarming stories not only help heal the mental wounds, they remind us of an old saying, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.
A Sri Lankan Muslim woman (C) takes part in a remembrance ceremony in front of St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo on May 21, 2019