Political allegiance of Sri Lankan Muslims -Where should it be? Part I
Posted on January 15th, 2010


The Muslim community in Sri Lanka prior to the formation of the peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s revolutionary government of late Prime Minister Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike in 1956 was more or less a community of serfdom depending entirely on the handouts from the rich traders/merchants, or from the landowners in the agricultural areas, or from the rich families in the fishing areas or from the owners of large herds of animal husbandry. An ordinary Muslim was voiceless and they had to dutifully oblige the master if they were to stay on their vocation and sustain their families. Due to these pathetic slavish status Muslims were forced to support and vote for the U.N.P of the elites, as dictated by their masters at times of election.

Official statistics showed that a mere 3812 elite Anglophile urbanites of the then population of 7.5 Million enjoyed more than ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚½ of the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s income. In such a sad situation, it became imperative for a group of patriotic intelligentsia to meet at Madampe and adopt a set of resolutions aimed at changing the course of government and ushering in real freedom to the oppressed masses and to safeguard the national values of the country, and the independence of the people. The outright rejection of these resolutions by the UNP government led late Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike to resign his ministerial portfolio and crossover to the opposition on the Budget Day in 1951 with the late Mr. D.A.Rajapakse, father of President Mahinda Rajapakse heroically taking the lead to follow him. Later 4 other UNP MPs and two independent MPs joined the duo.

Subsequently after much discussion among the patriotic intelligentsia a decision was taken to form a new party to emancipate the oppressed masses, to strengthen racial amity and national harmony, to confer prime place to national values and liberate the nation from shackles of imperialist bondage. A notice calling for the formation of this party on 2nd September, 1951 was issued with the signatures of 44 eminent personalities of that time, which included persons of all religions and all races. Among the 44 signatories were 5 Muslims and 3 Tamils. The Muslim signatories were Dr. Badiuddin Mahmoud, Haji A.T.Kareem, A.M.Marker, C.A.S.Marikkar, and A.C.Marikkar.

Over 10,000 persons, a massive crowd at that time, heeded this call and converged at the Town Hall premises for the formation of the new Party. At this convention the naming of the new party as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was proposed by the late Mr. H.Sri Nissanka and it was seconded by the late Dr. Badi-ud-din Mahmoud. The convention elected Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike as the President, Mr. Bernard Aluvihare, Dr. Badiuddin Mahmoud, and S.Thangarajah as Co-Secretaries and Mr. George R. de Silva as the Treasurer of the new Party SLFP

Education for the children of the poor Muslims at that time was mainly confined to the schools known as Government Tamil Schools most of which except in main towns had classes only upto 5th or 8th Standard. While the rich Muslims, whose children were educated in leading schools in Colombo and other places, resented the children of their servants acquiring higher education, the teachers in the so-called Government Tamil Schools, who were overwhelmingly Tamils discouraged these poor students pursuing even basic education. Elders relate that most of these teachers used to tell the students that as invariably they will be going to work in shops (or get involved in other labour related works) it would be sufficient if they learn to write something, read a few lines, and count 5 and 5 as 10. Even the far and few Muslim teachers, who belonged to the rich families and served in these schools held similar views and possessed the same attitude. The mosques were

also managed by the rich families in the relevant areas.

The first major change made by the first purely Sri Lankan oriented government of 1956 as opposed to the proxy-British UNP governments for the emancipation of Muslims in Sri Lanka was to make a complete change of the teaching staff in schools where majority of students were Muslims. These schools were named as Muslim Schools and Muslim youth who possessed a minimum qualification of having passed SSC were appointed as Teachers to these schools, disregarding their age requirement. There was an acute shortage of Muslim youths with SSC passed qualifications at that time, and it is said by many that in the years of 1958, 1959 and early sixties, Muslim youth got their teaching appointments, even without submitting formal applications, along with their SSC passes, and even before attaining the required minimum age of 18 years.

Although ethnic based schools should not be encouraged and all children of an area should have the right to receive education in the school of that particular area the establishment of Muslim Schools was a need of the era at that time in order to make a mass educational revolution in the Muslim community. This was a giant step taken by the truly Sri Lankan Bandaranaike government to emancipate the Muslim community and liberate them from the bondage to Mudalalis and open a new vista for Muslim children to pursue higher education. It was a well known fact that there were many villages and towns at that time without a single Muslim graduate, without a single Muslim Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant or even a middle ranking government servant.

This massive teaching employment drive initiated by the Bandaranaike government, produced at least one teacher in each Muslim family, and completely changed the educationally backward Muslim society into an educated Muslim polity. It is the children of this new generation of Muslims innovated by the SLFP government that occupy seats of employment today in many fields including those in the professional fields and even in Foreign Missions.

It was the SLFP that legitimized the rights of Muslim girls to wear a school dress in conformity to their religious norms even in non-Muslim schools. While the pro_UNP Western countries were not permitting Muslims girls to wear Hijab in schools the SLFP led government in addition to providing school uniforms to Muslim girls studying in government schools also took action to provide Hijabs to Muslim girls annually.

The Endowment Board known as Waqf Board was created to administer the affairs of mosques thereby providing the opportunity for the commoners to participate in the affairs of administering the mosques, and making them qualified to receive government assistance. Relaying the Azan call for the five obligatory prayers using loudspeakers from mosques throughout the island was permitted.

A Special Unit known as Muslim Service was created in the then Radio Ceylon solely dedicated for the Muslims to broadcast religious and cultural programmes and enlighten the Muslims with religious knowledge, their cultural values, and educate them about the affairs of fellow Muslims in other countries. Creation of this Unit helped Muslims to listen to whole night broadcast of religious programmes on special days such as Lailathul Qadr and listen to whole day programmes on Eid and other significant days, in addition to daily night and morning programmes.

A new set of teachers known as Maulavi Teachers, similar to teachers of other religions was appointed to teach religion to Muslim students even in non-Muslim schools. Two hours permission for Muslims to attend Jumma Prayers was granted. Days prominent for Muslims were included in the list of Public Holidays.

In the international arena too, the SLFP goverments espoused the cause of Muslims and Muslim countries. During the Suez Canal War in 1958 the late Prime Minister Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike solidly stood supporting the steps taken by President Gamal Abdul Nasser of United Arab Republic (currently Egypt), to nationalise the Suez Canal. Historical records reveal that the late Prime Minister Mr. Bandaranaike speaking at the United Nations not only vehemently condemned the invasion of Egypt by the western imperialist forces together with Isreal but also threatened even to send the armed forces of Sri Lanka to fight these Imperialists along with the Egyptian and Arab armies. Not even the Muslim countries outside the Middle East region had the courage to support President Nasser in this manner.

It was the government of late Prime Minister Mr. Bandaranaike that appointed a Muslim as Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The UNP which fools the Muslims in every election to get their votes and provide them nothing in return is yet to appoint a Muslim to such a prestigious position.

In the olden days Labour Ministry was the insignificant Ministry in the whole Cabinet. The UNP governments always kept this Ministry reserved for Muslims as nothing could be done to serve the community through this Ministry. It was the Bandaranaike government that nullified this discrimination and appointed Mr. C.A.S.Marikkar to the prestigious position of Minister of Post and Telecommunications.

Also the Bandaranaike government has the credit of appointing for the first time a Muslim as the Speaker of Parliament. The late Mr. H.S.Ismail was appointed as the Speaker of Parliament although he was not elected to Parliament as an SLFP MP.

To be contined ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦

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