Do Sri Lankan Muslims Lack Empathy?
Posted on August 20th, 2013

By Bisthan Batcha

There is a world of difference between the terms fundamentalist and extremist. A fundamentalist is one who chooses to adhere strictly to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah, but does not impose such practices on other Muslims “”…” verbally or otherwise. An extremist is also one who chooses to adhere strictly to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah, but is ready and willing to go to extreme lengths including violence to ensure that other Muslims too adhere to such practices. It is extremely important that the members of Muslims Questioning Extremism understand this distinction and ensure that their comments and opinions are directed at ‘extremists’ and not at ‘fundamentalists’ who are basically at peace with themselves at the thought that they are following Islam as it was intended.

We are Sri Lankan Muslims “”…” a unique ethnic group found only on this Island. Our lives and life-styles are inextricably linked to that of the other 90% of Sri Lankans. Over the centuries we have evolved a somewhat liberal outlook, but have not strayed away from the basic tenets of Islam. Our life-styles have emerged as being compatible with the more secular lifestyles of Muslim Countries such as Turkey and Malaysia / Indonesia rather than that of the rigid, spiritual life-style of Saudi Arabia. Let us try to keep it that way. Let us ensure that our way of living, while adhering broadly to the rules of Islam, empowers our young men and especially our young women to face the future with confidence and courage. We owe them that much. Bear in mind that a young Muslim mother living in a Muslim Country will be looked after by the State if anything unfortunate should happen to her husband. However, a young Muslim mother in Sri Lanka will at the end of the day have to fend for herself. Our community has to ensure that such unfortunate females are armed with the necessary educational and social skills that will enable her to lead an independent and respectable life in Sri Lanka. This could only be achieved by making it possible for every Muslim girl to realize her full potential as a human being.

We should perceive the recent upsurge in anti-Muslim rhetoric as a timely warning that everything is not quite hunky-dory with regard to our standing among the other ethnic groups “”…” specifically the Buddhists. We have to ask ourselves as to what exactly it is about our way of living that is causing concern and apprehension among our Buddhist brothers and sisters. We have to accept that fact that we may not like the answers to such questions, but should not shy away for this reason.

Some of the key issues that have been raised in the comments of anti-Muslim bloggers are as follows.

The Halaal Issue : The question of Muslims consuming permissible foods was never a problem to the Buddhists who couldn’t care less as to what the Muslims chose to eat or not to eat. The ACJU made the mistake of attempting to explain the concept of Halaal to all and sundry to defend it’s actions. Unfortunately what the ACJU failed to realize is that the main bone of contention was the perception that the consumption pattern of over 90% of Sri Lankans was being determined by the religious leaders of a minority group. If the ACJU had addressed this issue at the very beginning by stopping the Halaal Certification process completely, all the subsequent events that followed could have been avoided.

The abaya issue : Once again we have to ask ourselves whether we are not seeing the woods for the trees. Is it the abaya per se or is it the alack abaya that is a matter of concern to the Buddhists. Is the dramatic increase in the number of black abaya “”…” clad females creating a sense of unease among the other communities that there is a commensurate rise in Islamic Extremism in Sri Lanka “”…” specially since the black abaya is strongly associated with fundamentalist brands of Islam often referred to as “ƒ”¹…”Saudi’, “ƒ”¹…”Salafi’ or “ƒ”¹…”Wahabism’ by the mainstream media. A very simple method of overcoming this issue would be for our Muslim females to popularize the wearing of non- black abayas.

What we should realize is that the above concerns together with others such as the “ƒ”¹…”azan issue’ and the “ƒ”¹…”Construction of Mosques Issue’ are perceived by our Buddhist compatriots as being promoted by Muslim extremists and creates the fear that Sri Lanka is gradually undergoing a process of “ƒ”¹…”Islamification’. This sense of apprehension is sharpened further by the irrational fear that the Muslim population will outnumber the Buddhists in the not-so-distant future. Street name-boards emerging in Kattankudy with Arabic letters only worsens the situation for the Muslims of Sri Lanka.

The Muslim Community has to take the steps necessary to negate and neutralize the concerns of the Buddhists before it becomes a serious issue like the Halaal problem. We need to voluntarily :

[1] Stop the issuing of Halaal certificates & logo
[2] Encourage the use of Non-Black Abayas
[3] Cease completely the use of external Loudspeakers for Azan (Why continue with this practice which causes Non-Muslims to curse Islam 5 times a day ? In this time and age, would it be difficult for any pious Muslim to be aware of the times of prayer ?)
[4] Ensure that all future construction of Mosques adhere strictly to the existing rules and regulations and avoid completely the practice of surreptitiously building Mosques by establishing first a Madrasa at that location.

The extremists among us are going to resist any move on the part of the more secular Muslims to address the concerns of the Buddhists. However, we should bear in mind that the future of our children and their children depends on what we do now to ensure that the members of our Community do not have to experience any physical pain or mental trauma for being a Muslim in Sri Lanka.

Taking the above (and other related ) steps voluntarily will only help our Community to be perceived as being sensitive to the concerns and apprehensions of the majority mommunity and moreover will empower the non-racist Sinhalese to speak-up on behalf of the Muslims if required.

7 Responses to “Do Sri Lankan Muslims Lack Empathy?”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Agree.

    Sensible people on both sides should come forward. For this to happen the 4 steps are necessary.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Bisthan,

    Thank you. Well stated. We agree with your suggestions. These are good points for the start of unification of the country. At the end of the day, all of us are subject to the Laws of Nature, whatever religion. Our Nature is to seek Peace and Contentment. Islam means Peace (Peace for All).

    May I go further and say that Islam started in the dessert areas and most of the practices are suited to those areas and may not be suited to the tropics or crowded modern cities. Re #[3] “Cease completely the use of external Loudspeakers for Azan” : In old days, the beautiful high towers to call the faithful to worship was/is very appropriate for dessert areas. In modern cities with modern electronic equipment, new methods to call the faithful to worship could be devised.

    —————

    From the point of view of Science & Survival :

    We must be aware of population numbers in each country too. The People of each country ought to have numbers that suit the size and Economic conditions of that country, no more. With CO2 build up due mostly to use of fossil fuels, and global Warming happening, it is likely that water and food will be in shorter supply, and insects/pests multiply faster under these conditions and take control of farming areas, whilst soils get depleted. These are ground realities and no religion can help, really. We have to use our Common Sense with rational thinking in a responsible way to overcome such problems that are happening. Limited Resources and weather patterns limit our growth, and the earlier we recognise this, the better for the survival of human beings, irrespective of religions. Think far ahead to overcome future problems before they overtake us.

    Above is meant well for survival in Peace, for us all.

  3. Senevirath Says:

    AT LAST THERE IS ONE SENSIBLE MUSLIM. THANK U VERT MUCH. BE CAREFUL OTHERS MIGHT KILL U. WE NEED MORE OF YOUR KIND . IAM FED UP HATING MUSLIMS…..

    ATLEAST NOW WE SHOULD THINK OFA PLAN TO KEEP UP THE PRESENT POPULATION RATIOS UNDISTURBED.
    NOT MY HUMAN RIGHTS —–SHOULD BE OUR HUMAN RIGHTS——
    NO BODY SHOULD COME FROM OUT SIDE TO ANY COUNTRY AND TRY TO CHANGE THE POPULATION RATE

    NO SHARI SHOULD BE WELCOMED ABOLISH THESAVALAMAI THEY ARE CANCERS

  4. helaya Says:

    Bristhan,
    Thank you. Finally a sensible Muslim. You should start a movement to educate other brothers.

  5. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Bisthan!
    A fantastic authentic and informative writeup indeed. The moderate Muslims should start the reform within, otherwise the society around these hardcore, senseless Arabized Muslims will have to pay the price. We hope that good sense prevails over these moderate Muslims and they gain the courage to speak out against these Arabized radicals.

  6. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    In my opinion yes they do. If one looks at the 50 odd Muslim nations Muslims show little if any empathy towards other faiths. In fact the Koran teaches them to be intolerant. During my visit to Sri Lanka a Singhalese Jeweler told me that Muslims openly abhor the consumption of alcohol, pork, and western style clothing but in private they throw parties where what is forbidden in public is indulged in private.
    If what this jeweler stated is right then this goes far beyond empathy towards other faiths. It is a hypocritical stand that needs exposure. The entrenched and enforced intolerance found in the Koran removes any empathy and in its plae is bigotry. To date the Middle Eastern nations have gone out of their way to find a method to eliminate Jerusalem and the Jews even though Islam’s roots go to the Jewish faith
    Yet these same Muslims demand empathy from the host nations they occupy where they use the laws of the host nation to spread their faith. Sri Lanka has faced such double standards in the past with the European Christian powers and have won over them. A classic example is the Panadura Debate that confirmed the higher values of Buddhism over that of Christianity.
    Maybe a similar public debate should be held between a well educated Buddhist monk who knows the teachings of Mohammed and an Islamic scholar. There is no way the Muslims could win such a debate and whether they turn down such a request of acquiesce to it Buddhism by her universal laws and pragmatic approach to life would triumph over the intolerant double talking Mullahs.

  7. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    In my opinion yes they do. If one looks at the 50 odd Muslim nations Muslims show little if any empathy towards other faiths. In fact the Koran teaches them to be intolerant. During my visit to Sri Lanka a Singhalese Jeweler told me that Muslims openly abhor the consumption of alcohol, pork, and western style clothing but in private they throw parties where what is forbidden in public is indulged in private.
    If what this jeweler stated is right then this goes far beyond empathy towards other faiths. It is a hypocritical stand that needs exposure. The entrenched and enforced intolerance found in the Koran removes any empathy and in its place is bigotry. To date the Middle Eastern nations have gone out of their way to find a method to eliminate Jerusalem and the Jews even though Islam’s roots go to the Jewish faith
    Yet these same Muslims demand empathy from the host nations they occupy where they use the laws of the host nation to spread their faith. Sri Lanka has faced such double standards in the past with the European Christian powers and have won over them. A classic example is the Panadura Debate that confirmed the higher values of Buddhism over that of Christianity.
    Maybe a similar public debate should be held between a well educated Buddhist monk who knows the teachings of Mohammed and an Islamic scholar. There is no way the Muslims could win such a debate and whether they turn down such a request or acquiesce to it Buddhism by her universal laws and pragmatic approach to life would triumph over the intolerant double talking Mullahs.

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