MUSLIMS: EXTREMIST AND PAROCHIAL ATTITUDES
Posted on April 24th, 2019

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane. 

All ethnic and cultural groups within society are not equal and therefore need not be treated in the same way. All people do not hold the same values. All those who are privileged to have  Sri Lanka was their home, should be aware of the fact that the foundation of our nation, its societal norms and values originate from the Sinhala Buddhist heritage, which has a history of over 2200 years in this island. Whether we choose to live as Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay or Burger, or as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians or atheists, our right to do so is derived from this heritage and associated way of life. It should be well remembered that in spite of attempts by European colonial powers for over four hundred years, to undermine our nation’s indigenous culture, and also, in spite of serious challenges faced by our country during the decades of Tamil terrorism, the fundamental elements of our Sinhala Buddhist national culture prevailed. That gave our nation its distinct identity and character. It is a well evident fact that our nation was able to confront these vicious forces and subdue them, owing to the courage, dedication and sacrifices made patriotic Sinhala Buddhists.  

          Islamic community in Sri Lanka is a small non-indigenous minority amounting to about 9% of the total population. Despite their small numbers they enjoy many special privileges. In recent years, with their new found petro dollars, it is noticeable from their attitude and actions, that some extremist Muslims in our country are posing a threat to the norms and values of our national culture and way of life. 

          It was an admirable characteristic of the Sinhala Buddhists, from historic times, to have accommodated without prejudice, in their country various non-indigenous ethnic and religious groups of people such as Muslims, Malays and Tamils, who settled down in our country at different times in the past, for various purposes.           Non-indigenous minority communities such as the Muslims should feel morally obliged to reciprocate the generosity and cordiality accorded to them by the dominant mainstream Sinhala Buddhist community, and adapt themselves to the norms and values of this mainstream of the country where they have chosen to live.

         Whatever discord and conflicts between the mainstream and the minorities in recent decades, can be largely attributed to extremist and parochial attitudes of ethnic and religious minorities. These undesirable developments were the outcome of extremist views of these minorities with short-sighted and misguided leaders having their own hidden agendas for their own benefit.

          There is clear evidence of disregard and disrespect on the part of most Muslims, for the Buddhist cultural heritage of our country.  Muslims have been responsible for the destruction of archeological remains and historic cultural monuments in areas inhabited by them, especially in the Eastern region of the country. The fundamentals of ‘Islam’ that are widely propagated by Muslims especially those pertaining to attitude towards non-Muslims, have serious negative implications as far as the national culture is concerned. Peaceful coexistence of different communities and the democratic principles and rule of law that form the basis of social organization in our country appear to be threatened by the divisive attitudes and covert actions of Muslim extremists.  

         The younger generation of Muslims are being brainwashed with extremist Islamic fundamentalism, in ‘Madrasas or exclusively Muslim schools that have sprung up in the country in recent years. The fundamentals of ‘Islam’ that are widely propagated in these Madrasas  have serious negative implications as far as the national culture is concerned. The younger generation of Muslims are being brainwashed with these extremist Islamic beliefs and practices in their exclusively Muslim schools.

Their new male and female attire displays their desire to look different and to be exclusive and separate from the nation’s mainstream. This polarization tendency of the Islamic community is self-imposed. It is definitely not because they feel marginalized.

This divisive spirit of Muslims is owing to the influence of Islamic teachings to keep away from non-Muslims who are considered as inferior to Muslims. The Koran forbids Muslims to closely associate non-Muslims. Islam has dualistic ethics with one rule for Muslims and one rule for non-believers and there is no exception to this rule. Why these extremist Muslims want members of their community to have a common attire and to look different from others is a big question. However, this has a divisive effect on society.  

          Islam’s teachings say that non-Muslims are inferior to Muslims. To closely associate non-Muslims is forbidden or ‘haram’ according to the Koran. Islam has dualistic ethics with one rule for Muslims and one rule for non-believers who form the majority of Sri Lankans. There is no exception to this rule. Most Muslims do not appear to be interested in integrating with other communities, perhaps because assimilation is not permitted under Islamic Shariah law.

         The rules of Islam govern politics, marriage and the day-to-day lives of its followers. In fact, Islam is a political ideology where the church and state are not separate. Under the circumstances, one cannot expect Muslims to develop a sense of patriotism and national pride in a predominantly non-Muslim country such as ours. Our people are well aware of Muslims of Sri Lanka cheering Pakistan at cricket matches played between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

How many of us, especially those living in Sri Lanka are aware of the fact that Halal is a most repulsive and horrendous practice that involves extreme form of abuse and cruelty towards animals?  Halal is a gruesome method where the animals are tied down and their throats slashed, letting their blood ooze out slowly from the animal’s body and making animals die on their blood, a slow, lingering and agonizing death.  What is most horrendous is that this torturous practice takes place while the animals are desperately struggling for their lives. It is a well evident fact that these animals are conscious of what is happening to them. This is a most sickening and inhuman way of killing animals. It is a practice that should not be tolerated in any civilized society.

In a society such as ours where Buddhists predominate, and where non-violence towards all living beings is a fundamental tenet, practices of this nature cannot and should not be tolerated under any circumstances.  Animal welfare has been a tenet of the rulers of our nation from very early times, from the 3rd century BCE, when King Devanampiyatissa ruled the country. This was in-keeping with the declaration of the Buddha in the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta (Digha Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka) that an ideal or virtuous ruler of a nation or ‘Cakkavatti King” will give protection and shelter not only to human beings, but also to birds and beasts. It was this king, over 2200 years ago, who established the world’s first Bird and animal sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Since this time, the principle of animal welfare prevailed in our country until the arrival of European colonial powers, starting with the ruthless Catholic Portuguese invaders, about at the beginning of the 16trh century. Besides hunting animals as a sport, the slaughtering of animals as a vocation started with the entry of Christianity and Islam to Sri Lanka.

The resurgence of Buddhism is a well evident development in the country in recent years. It is an opportune time to take action, on the part of the nation’s Buddhist leadership – lay and ordained, to develop a well-conceived policy against cruelty to animals, to save our animals from   ‘terrorism’ meted out to them by some quarters of people in our country.

Muslims are well known to be running successful businesses in predominantly Sinhala majority areas with the Sinhala people as their customers. They are involved in wealth generating employment connected with tourism and travel.  The household income of Muslims far exceeds those of ordinary Sinhala people. The per capita income of the Muslim community is far higher than that of the Sinhala majority community.

It is a pity that the Muslim leaders and successful individual in general, have shown greater interest in furthering the interests of the Muslim community and not the general public as a whole. It is time that Muslims invested more on hospitals, schools and other national social welfare activities and contributed tangibly for infrastructure development activities that benefit everyone and not necessarily the Muslim community.

It is time that Muslim establishments refrain from exclusively hiring Muslims, especially for responsible positions in their establishments.  There have been many instances of Muslim encroachment of places that are of Buddhist historic value, and the destruction of Buddhist monuments and items of archeological value in the Eastern Province in particular.  This definitely has to stop. If Muslims are involved in the illicit drug trade as often reported in the media, this is a national crime and has to stop. There has been much discussion in recent times about the deceitful and exploitative nature of the halal’ business venture of Muslims. Also, the allegation of various covert practices to increase the Muslim population at the expense of the Sinhala population has received much publicity in recent times.

Muslims should consider it their duty to participate more actively in national events such as the National day festivities and other important national events and international events as Sri Lankans and cheer Sri Lanka and rejoice in their international attainments in all fields including cricket and sports in general.  The indigenous cultural norms and values upon which this nation is founded should be well understood and respected by all citizens of this country, irrespective of their religious or other affiliations.

Most importantly, there are no restrictions in Sri Lanka for the construction of mosques in predominantly Sinhala areas.  It is a well known fact that Muslim countries do not permit even the display of a Buddha image, let along building Vihares. In activities connected with Muslim mosques, especially in early morning prayers using load speakers, the Muslims should pay more attention to the comforts and conveniences of the non-Muslim neighbors.   

It was not long ago that the exclusively Muslim, religion-based political party – the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and several Muslim civil society groups opposed the construction of Buddha’s statues on the southeast coastal areas. These were   predominantly Buddhist areas in the recent past, where Buddhist historic monuments and important archeological remains abound and these are some of  the cultural wealth of the nation

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane. 

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