Finding a black cat in a dark room
- Only about five persons linked to the killer group were at large
- It is the responsibility of the Muslims to identify the killer ideology among them
- What to correct and where to start correcting is not clear even to Muslims
The terrorist group that was behind the barbaric suicide bomb attacks on three churches and three five-star hotels on Easter Sunday (April 21) which killed nearly 300 innocent men, women and children seem to have been contained. President Maithripala Sirisena, who is in charge of defence as well as law-and-order said on Wednesday in Sainthamaruthu where the last suicide bombs were exploded by terrorists on April 26, that only about five persons linked to the killer group were at large.
In the light of the experience gained by the security forces during the 30-year long war against the LTTE and the seeming weak organizational structure as well as the short-term target of the Muslim terrorist group, the battle-hardened troops could wipe out the remaining criminals within weeks.
But the ideology that drove the religious fanatics to kill people would haunt the masses of this country including the Muslims until it is wiped out from among the people of the Islamic faith. These fanatics do not have a long- term or collective objective such as carving out a separate State as the former suicide bombers, the LTTE had. They have an individual objective - attaining paradise -by killing people other than them. Hence one man or a woman with this lunatic objective can create havoc.
Yet, first, you have to identify it or differentiate this killer ideology from the faith of the ordinary Muslims to exterminate it. It would be a gigantic task even for the Muslims as there is no clear-cut dividing line between the deadly ideology and Islam that is followed by the Muslims.
One cannot identify the extremists with the Burqa or Niqab or the bushy beard people don. That is not that easy. They are donned by many ordinary Muslims as well. The women whom the Police described as terrorists were not in Burqa or Niqab in the pictures published by the Police.
Burqa ban only facilitated the law enforcement authorities to identify whether a person is a man or a woman.
Also having studied in a Madrasa or an Islamic religious school cannot be a criterion to identify a terrorist, as many people suggest.
All Maulavis or Islamic scholars in the country are the products of Madrasas and they were recognized as Maulavis after the Al-Alim examinations conducted by the Examination Department.
Some of the Madrasas are nearly a hundred years old. For instance, the Gafooriyya Madrasa in Maharagama has been founded in 1931. It was mainly these Maulavis who had been instrumental in maintaining peace during the anti-Muslim propaganda campaign during the last regime and when anti-Muslim riots broke out in Beruwala, Aluthgama and Welipenna in 2014 and in Ampara and several places in Kandy District in February/March last year.
Hence, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to identify the killer ideology among them that is hanging over their head as well, like the proverbial Sword of Damocles and wipe it out from among them.
"In the light of the experience gained by the security forces during the 30-year long war against the LTTE …the battle-hardened troops could wipe out the remaining criminals within weeks"
A state of total denial would be disastrous. It is an invisible suicide bomb that they are carrying with them which might someday bump them off along with some others.
It is a well-known fact that the killer ideology is an extension of various ideologies that were imported since 1980, from the Middle East where the Western powers had created armed groups fighting in the name of Islam. The initial call to the Muslims by those who brought these ideologies was not harmful. They called on the Muslims to dissociate from the innovations such as wearing talismans, vows to those other than the God, soothsaying, over respect for the graves of saints, sorcery, magic spells, astrology, image-drawing and image-making of living creatures. Even a Materialist would agree with them.
However, the gradually increasing infighting over religious issues that were brought in by these ideologies created a group of zealots or cults with crude rituals sans ceremonies within the Muslim community. The cults had gone to such an extent to reject the science for which Muslim Arabs contributed immensely hundreds of years ago that they even foolishly reject the immunization for children and injections for patients. Yet, it was not considered or seemed as harmful, in spite of the fact that it has divided the community.
The overzealousness created by this infighting also gave rise to the Muslims being isolated among other communities while Muslim groups among themselves. This was where the Sri Lankan Muslims might have crossed the Laxamana Rekha. The ethnicity-based political parties created by the war, ethnicity-based schools created by the lack of inclusiveness and rivalry in the education system and the PR electoral system aggravated the divisions among the communities.
Meanwhile, some sort of religious exhibitionism crept into the Muslim community with this overzealousness created by the infighting. Many wanted to show off their religious identity with their clothing instead of the righteous behaviour stressed by Islam. This happened parallel to the isolationism. The Muslim housemaids and men who returned from the Middle East had already brought in the Abayas, Burqas, Niqabs and Jubbas (For men) which well suited to this exhibitionism.
They spread among Salvar-Kameez-clad women and sarong-clad Muslims to such an extent that they became an eyesore to the other communities, who started to look at those who don these attires and coverings as a set of strange animals. But the overzealousness and the resultant isolation blinded many Muslims not to be concerned about the apprehensions among other communities.
That was another point where the Muslims made a blunder. True, they should not be dictated to by others in respect of their attires or lifestyle. Yet, neither should they unnecessarily irritate their neighbour, when Islam has not recommended any particular dress or lifestyle. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of any community to embrace the local culture as far as possible while maintaining their religious or ethnic identity.
"Muslims, especially women are being vilified in buses, trains, hospitals and workplaces which in the long run might push them to find solace in justifying the very same terrorists, as happened to the Tamils after 1983"
The three-year-long hate campaign against the Muslims between 2012 and 2014 which was triggered and encouraged by the business and political rivalries played a negative role in Muslims coming to terms with the situation. The hate campaign instead united the Muslims and even pushed the moderate Muslims to defend the Arabian attires as rights of individuals, since the opposition to the so-called Arabisation sprang up as a part of the demonization of Muslims.
According to a statement by a suspect arrested after the Easter Sunday carnage which had been quoted by Sunday Lankadeepa last week, the hate campaign has also furthered the radicalism which seems to have been in the making then.
Nevertheless, some Muslims had woken up with the hate campaign. For instance, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL), an amalgam of over 50 organizations requested the Muslim women during the hate campaign against Muslims to shun black colour in their attires as an initial step, but to no avail, apparently, as it was deemed as a surrender of their rights.
The MCSL had even started a dialogue with the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) over the controversial issues. But the cultism seems to have grown as an undercurrent which had turned into another hate campaign against all those who are not them. Yet, what to correct and where to start correcting is not clear even to Muslims.
Shedding Burqa or even the head cover which is religiously mandatory to Muslim women would be self-deceptive as the issue is a question of ideology.
On the other hand, the support expected by Muslims from the other communities seems to be not forthcoming.
They expect them to be recognized as a part of the anti-terror movement. The President and the Prime Minister have been requesting the Sinhalese and the Tamils not to push the Muslims towards terrorists. Ordinary Sinhalese and Tamils too accept that almost the entire Muslim community is against terrorism. Yet, they are justifiably not sure about any individual Muslim.
Thus Muslims, especially the women are being vilified in buses, trains, hospitals and workplaces which in the long run might push them to find solace in justifying the very same terrorists, as happened to the Tamils after 1983.
Wiping out the terrorist ideology must be a national campaign with Muslims being in the forefront. But politicians seem to be playing politics with one wanting to become the President, another the Law and Order Minister another wanting to get the proposed anti-terror laws passed using the situation.