Galle Fort and Ms Rifqa Barrie
Posted on August 21st, 2009

Authored By Smiling – with roots in Galle Fort. Sent by : Dr.Reffai

The controversy of Ms Rifqa Barrie’s conversion from Islam to Christianity has been in the news in recent weeks.


To me, it started out as just another attack by the media on topics of a similar nature. With the passage of time, the hype died out, and it was probably going to be just another brick in the wall. Sure, I did wonder who she was; from where she hailed in Sri Lanka; and what was all this commotion about.  Many have walked out of the fold of their birthright faiths, and thousands have converted through the years.  So what’s the big deal about this girl’s decision to move on, if it was her own choice that is? She has to face her Creator one day, and He alone will judge if her intentions were right and whether her actions are justified, and whether she was coerced unethically by some unscrupulous missionary.



However, to a viewer such as me, and I am sure there are many who share this perspective, the incidents related by her do not make true sense. I gradually started noticing the inconsistencies in her statements which were blatantly apparent. She didn’t know the right context in using the word “Halaal.”  It should have been that she was “Haraam” to her people. 



Rifqa tried portraying Sri Lanka as an Islamic nation, whereas it comprises of over 70% Buddhists! She was also untruthful in implying that in Sri Lanka honor killings, revenge and putting people into asylums at the drop of a hat, based on religious teachings, are the order of the day. The conniving media have portrayed our nation to be on par with countries or states which practice such atrocities thereby  blinding the gullible public in that part of the globe to view things differently as they should. Why this incident has made a great impact on me is that an unassuming relative of mine recently announced that Rifqa Barrie, who had her origins in my little home town, hailed from Galle Fort!


Galle Fort:

Galle Fort is a tiny fortress situated about 115-kilometers from Colombo along the Southern coastal belt. Built in the 18th Century by Dutch colonialists, it is a quaint little sleepy village surrounded by a fortress and its inhabitants used to be predominantly Muslim traders.



The Fort and its lifestyle are unique and all houses abut each other, and the citizens of this enclosed village are very closely knit and united irrespective of ethnicity. Muslims hailing from Galle Fort are considered very liberated vis-ƒÆ’†’ -vis those living in other townships of the island.  The ladies used to be well dressed and fashionable, and most men were very well educated in Christian missionary schools, either academically, professionally, in business or in the many other ways of the world. Their lives always centered on the local community and the mosque, and I am sure no one in the history of the Muslims of Galle Fort, for whatever reason, has ever been subjected to an honor killing.



Muslim womenfolk hailing from Galle Fort are also considered very liberated. Whilst we have our affiliations to Western culture and lifestyle we surely do not forget our Eastern roots. Most of us, unlike some of the Muslim women in Sri Lanka, do not adorn the veil, but that doesn’t deter us from being good human beings. Muslim women hailing from Galle Fort are, presently, scattered around the world and have stood up and made their names wherever they went. Sure, there have been those rebels who left the fold, both in religion and the Fort itself, and whilst in some cases they were reconciled, in other instances ostracized for life. However, it has not been recorded, in any known history of Galle, of any sort of barbaric behavior as stated by young Miss Barrie, now in the U.S.


The traditions and customs of the Muslims of Galle Fort have always been unique.  Volumes could be written about the people.  Their exceptional gourmet food is a culinary art by itself. The laid back lifestyle of the inhabitants coupled by their very broad outlook towards life, has enabled many of its citizens to reach the zenith of their careers and livelihoods both within and outside Sri Lanka.  With this rich tapestry woven around us, it is so hard for me to digest the fact that anyone who has an iota of Galle Fort in one’s blood would ever accuse its people of such atrocities.


Miss Barrie

You are very young Miss Barrie. You do not know what you have accused people of; people whom you left about a decade ago when you were just a tiny tot. I guess you have read too many novels written by lopsided and biased authors in the West where they portray Muslim women as chattels and subjugated citizens.


You do not know what Sri Lanka is, and, in more particular the Galle Fort, where people are just normal human beings much liberated than the rest of the country, or, for that matter, across the South Asian Subcontinent.  The people here basically mind their own business, and, of course, if something affects the community as a whole, they unite and stand by and support each other.


No one is going to touch you or hurt you, they will leave you to your own devices and let the Almighty judge you. Many have left Galle as you have; no one compelled them to come back; their families suffered the hurt and then went on about their lives. You, leaving the fold of Islam is your choice. You have to face your demons or your angels, someday.  No one on the face of this earth has the right to judge what you have done is right or wrong. They can only comment in general as an opinion or even come forth and advice you according to their beliefs and thoughts. It is up to you to receive that advice objectively and with sincerity of purpose. That is what you have to live with for the rest of your life on the decision you have made, especially if you made it on your own freedom of thought without being subject to any unethical or devious coercion.


Young lady, do not accuse people of things that they have never done nor will ever do.  Do not make up stories of things that never happened or didn’t exist in our quaint Galle Fort.  My People of the Galle Fort are humane citizens not capable of anything you have accused them unilaterally. Sure, they may advice you to do what they think is right, yet, they will not force down on you what you don’t want to do.  They will let you go and let you fly as you choose for yourself.  


I cannot say whether you will be welcome back home with open arms or that you will have a smooth landing if you do decide to return.  You are free to lead the life and faith you have chosen. That is your right and prerogative. The Muslims of Galle Fort are warm people, proud of their roots and their good human qualities and values,  and you have breached that goodness and hurt an entire community in the process.  You will have to live with that deed whether you choose to like it or not.


Authored By Smiling – with roots in Galle Fort.

One Response to “Galle Fort and Ms Rifqa Barrie”

  1. fadi Says:

    Well said, well written Dr. Reffai. She has her right to follow any religion but she no rights to disgrace islam, her native country or her parents. As you said, let the Almighty judge HER!!!!

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