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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
  • Pakistan says likely ban on Niqab in SL to serve as injury on Muslims
    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
  • යුරෝපයේ රටවල් 8 කින් හිස්බුල්ලාට සහාය
    මානව හිමිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ප්‍රමුඛ නීතිඥවරයකු වන හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා වැනි මානව හිමිකම් ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ට ගරු කරන ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමින් යුරෝපීය රටවල් අටක මානව හිමිකම් තානාපතිවරුන් ඒකාබද්ධ නිවේදනයක් නිකුත් කර තිබේ. නෙදර්ලන්තය, ජර්මනිය, එංගලන්තය ස්වීඩනය, එස්ටෝනියාව, ලිතුවේනියාව, ලක්සම්බර්ග් සහ ෆින්ලන්තය...
  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
  • Circular on burial of COVID-19 victims issued
    The circular containing the guidelines with regard to the burial of COVID-19 victims has been issued, the Health Ministry said. Some key guidelines are as follows, The relatives of the deceased should inform the Director/ Head of the health care institution (Where the death has occurred) of their desire to bury the corpse without delay. The Director of the hospital/ Head of the health care institution should obtain a written request from relatives for burial. The relatives need to provide a coffin in advance. It is the duty of the director/ Head of health care institution to transport the corpse in a coffin provided by the relatives to a designated location in Colombo Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (office of JMO) / BH Welikanda where the corpse will be received by the designated officer. The vehicle transporting the...
  • Muslims to raise concerns over Iranaithivu burial with global bodies
    A leading Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka will this week send an official letter of concern to the global Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the World Muslim Congress, seeking their intervention to urge the Sri Lankan government to allocate a decent land for the burial of Muslim COVID-19 victims. The Daily Mirror learns that the Sri Lanka Islamic Centre, which is a member of the World Muslim Congress will raise serious concerns with the global bodies and will also send a letter to the World Muslim Congress office in Geneva urging for immediate intervention after the government announced that burials of the COVID-19 dead would take place on the Iranaithivu Island, in the Gulf of Mannar. Senior Muslim officials said they were disappointed at the government’s decision to allocate the Iranaithivu Isle for the burials and instead urged...
  • Hizbullah and Madrasa School Principal further remanded
    Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah and Principal of Madrasa School Mohammed Shakeel were further remanded till March 18 by the Fort Magistrate’s Court today. They were earlier remanded under section 2 (1) (h) of the PTA and section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act. Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.
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Beyond Dambulla mosque Attack - Part 2

by Dr Sulaiman Rifai, Naleemi (London)

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Dr Sulaiman Rifai, Naleemi

Today one in every six person is a Muslim. Out of approximately 6 billion people one billion or little bit more people are Muslims in the world. It is a universal duty and responsibility of International Muslim community to reach out to these 5 billion Non-Muslim people with the compassionate message of Islam.  Religion of Islam is not a monopoly of certain race or ethnicity rather it is a universal religion for humanity. Indeed, Islam is the culmination of monotheistic faith of all prophets on the earth. From the very first prophet Adam to the last Prophet Muhammad all prophets of God came with same message of Islam: literally to demand people to submit to the will of God. This universality of Islamic message is very clearly articulated and elaborated in the Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions and therefore, reaching out with the message of Islam should be number one priority of collective responsibility of international Muslim community.

Yet, Universal Muslim community is divided into groups and sectarians. Fragmented nature of universal Muslim community into different political and religious groups makes tasking of reaching out with universal Islamic message more difficult and intricate. Rather than engaging in this primary task of reaching out with the universal message of Islam Muslim community all over the world is interlocked in ideological and dogmatic battles between many groups. Today, humanity is in a dire need of divine and spiritual guidance than ever before and it is pathetic that International Muslim community that possesses such a pristine divine guidance is not competent enough to reach out with its message. Unfortunately, porosities of international Muslim community are mixed up and consequently less important issues are given preference over most important issues.

No doubt in 1400 hundred years of Islamic history, Muslim Ummah is going through a hard time today than ever before.  Muslims are beings mocked simply because of their faith and they are portrayed and branded as terrorists simply because of some handful of radicals. Despite the international media manipulation and bias reporting on Muslims and Islam it is said that the message of Islam is spreading more than ever.  More and more people return to religion of Islam than ever before. What does this dichotomous trend tell us?  It tells us a lot. Since 9/11 and some other attacks in Europe western people have begun to read the Holy Quran and Islamic books and Islamic awareness dramatically increased in the western world.  Yet, a large percentage of western people do not have any clue about basic teachings of Islam and most of basic Islamic teachings and doctrines are wrongly understood or presented to them wrongly.

Today more than 25 Million Muslim people live in Western countries. It is expected that Muslim population in Europe will be doubled in 2050. Muslim presence in Europe is unprecedented in Islamic history and these Muslim people in Europe have a golden opportunity to be ambassadors of Islam. They could inspire, influence and invite Non-Muslim people with wisdom and rationale argumentation. We live in a modern age of science and brain power and ultimately by the virtue of the quality of our rational and logical arguments we could win the hearts and minds of people in modern world not through means of violence and extremism. Unfortunately, we have failed to represent the true Islamic message in these countries to manifest the true beautify of Islam. As a result of this Non-Muslim people still have some misperception of Islam and Muslims in general.

It is responsibility of Muslim intellectuals and scholars to clear these wrong perceptions about Islamic teachings and doctrines. In a recent research done by a group of dedicated Islamic researchers some astonishing findings are revealed on Non-Muslim perception of Muslim in England. Though this research is done in England these research questions are viable in all Non-Muslim countries. We should do a similar research project in Srilanka so that we could collect pool of opinions on Non-Muslim perception of Muslims in Srilanka. That will help us to guide our community to build a strong communal connection and strengthen relation between communities. More importantly, to amend some of our past mistakes and social perceptions. As a prelude such a field survey, I shall share some of the questions presented to Non-Muslims in England to reveal some astonishing findings. I repeat these questions here because we as Muslim minority in Srilanka have somewhat same challenges as Muslims in England? That challenge is to reach out to People with Islamic message before they get wrong perception about Islam.

Some of the questioned asked in survey by IERA in England are more or less similar to these questions.

1) How much do you know about Islam?

2) Have you ever been taught or actively sought information on Islamic faith?

3) Where did you learn about Islam?

4) Which Holy Texts have you come into contact with?

5) How would you rate your knowledge of the Quran?

6) Can you Identify who or what Allah is?

7) What is your perception of Prophet Muhammad?

This questionnaire survey reveals some astonishing findings and I shall discuss these findings in my next week writing.  It would be more viable and appropriate in Srilankan context to carry out some field research work among Non-Muslim people in Srilanka to collect other perceptions of Muslims and Islam so that we could clarify some of basic wrong perceptions. Unlike today, we have all luxuries of information technologies and facilities to educate people about Islam and Muslims.  Unlike in the past today wrong information are so quickly filter through  people minds and hearts with international media that operates against Muslims and Islam at local and International levels.  This is very much similar to introducing new product or new piece of legislation to people. Until or unless a new product or new laws are being introduced people would have any clue or knowledge about them. Like wise, We Muslims in Srilankan context should educate our non-Muslims brothers about Islam and Muslim traditions.

Today when modern governments introduce any piece of laws the law enforcement agents educate people with new laws before enforcing then on people. Similar ways we are obliged to reach out and educate Non-Muslim people about Islam. At least, in the most of Western countries Religious Education is a mandatory subject and schools are obliged to teach at least six religions so that children of different faiths will have good understanding of other people’s religions, culture, tradition and way of life. Unfortunately, people in Srilanka do not learn about other’s culture, traditions and way of life.  I shall refer to one good example to illustrate this lack of interfaith knowledge. I happened to listen to Doramadalawa TV programme recently in ITN.  It was about greeting methods in different religious practice. One caller phoned this programme and questioned our Muslim Moulavi with a basic question. This caller posted this question with sincere remorse and sadness.

This caller said that he participated in one of convocation ceremonies at Sri-Jayewardene Pura University recently and certificates were given to students by the chancellor of the university most venerable Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratne Thero. All most all Buddhist, Hindus and Christian graduates did bow down and physically paid their worship to Chancellor on receiving their certificate except Muslim graduates. This behaviour of Muslim graduates may have been perceived by this caller as an act of disrespect to his religious Leader. Yet, this Islamic theology and belief system do not allow doing any form of worship except to Almighty Allah.  Thus, the lack of knowledge in Islamic belief system leads this caller to assume that Muslim graduates disrespected his religious personality. Similarly, a lot of Islamic rituals and traditions are not clearly comprehended and understood by Non-Muslim people today in our countries.  To appreciate our way of life and traditions our Non-Muslim brothers should have some clue and basic knowledge about Islam and Muslim.

To be continued next week  Insha Allah...

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