Changing Face of Islam in Sri Lanka- A reply to Editor of Ceylon Today.
Posted on August 18th, 2013

By Charles.S.Perera

The Ceylon Today of the 17 August,2013 carried the Editorial, ” Changing face of Buddhism”.  The Editor is an uninformed moron. The Buddhism has not changed its face for  more than 2600 years.  It will remain the same for another 2600 years or more.  But what the editor tries to  hide is the fact that it is  Islam in Sri Lanka that has changed its face from what it had been before.

The Editor of Ceylon Today says, “Not so long ago, when the religion was described as a cause for conflict, Buddhists begged to be different. Buddhist devotees pointed out that Buddhism was not a religion, but a philosophy.”

Buddhism is neither a religion nor a philosophy. Oxford Dictionary defines Religion as “one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods.”  The Buddhism in that sense is not a religion.

The same Dictionary defines Philosophy as “the study of the nature and meaning of the universe and of human life “, and again as “a particular set or system of beliefs resulting from the search for knowledge about life and the universe.”.  That too does not define Buddhism.

Any one who wishes to criticise Buddhism takes the liberty to define Buddhism as it suits him without knowing  what exactly is Buddhism.  This is what the Editor of the Ceylon Today has done in writing his Editorial of the 17 August, 2013 on Changing Face of Buddhism.

The Editor says, “At the heart of the Buddhist teaching are benevolence and tolerance. No time in the history Buddhists resorted to violence to  propagate the message of the Lord Buddha.”  

Mr. Editor the Buddhist teachings by itself is benevolent and tolerant, but the heart of the teachings is more profound and sublime. Buddhism now needs no propagation as persons of intelligence  accept it willingly as a teaching without parallel.

The Editor continues that, ”  It is in this historical context that the spiral of violence that we have witnessed recently is disturbing, and in fact, insulting towards the very message of Buddhism. “ 

There is here  a distortion of facts when the Editor alludes to  Buddhist teachings as violence which he had, ” witnessed recently as an insult to the  message of the Buddha.”

The Editor states that, the   “”¦.recent violence, such as the recent attack on a Muslim prayer centre in Grandpass and the cacophony of voices of religious ultra nationalism have now  called into question the authenticity of the very message of Buddhism.” 

In making that statement  the Editor has come to a  wrong conclusion. There are two aspects of  the situation the Editor is trying to deal with in his Editorial. One is the violence itself,  and the other the  “insult to the  authenticity of the very message of Buddhism” .

Unfortunately the Editor of Ceylon Today has mixed up the two issues thereby  casting aspersions  on the great teachings of the Buddha.  What happened in Grandpass has no connection to the teachings of the Buddha.  Therefore, it had better be left out.  If it is  violence by persons it has to be spoken of as such without contriving to bring in the teachings of the Buddha to distort  the issue.

The Buddha Dhamma the teachings of the Buddha is also the Buddha Sasana, which is  more than 2600 years old.  All  other religions except Hinduism are of recent evolution.  The Buddhism had not been an organised religion like the Church, but the teachings of the Buddha had been  carried without interruption through word of mouth from teacher to disciples in the most democratic system of an Order of Sangha (the Community of Monks) with its own rules of discipline. 

This ancient order of Sangha or  Community of Monks  is which continues even today.  These monks had not only to carry the teachings of the Buddha from word to mouth until it came to be written down in the 1st century, but also to protect the Buddha Sasana from its enemies.

It is this Order of Sangha (the Community of Monks) which protected the teachings and brought it to this day intact  “without changing its face” since its inception more than  2600 years ago.  These monks still continue to play the role of the  protectors of  the teachings and thus the Buddha Sasana, with its temples, monasteries, lands offered to the sustenance of the temples and the monks, while at the same time instructing  the followers and propagating the teachings-the Dhamma, and will do so for years to come. 

The Buddhist monks cannot depend on the government for the protection of the Buddha Sasana, because it is primarily their duty.  The government has a duty not only for the  Buddhists, but also for the  non-Buddhists. Therefore if what belongs to Buddha Sasana is in peril it is the Buddhist monk who has the right to bring it to the notice of the Government and demand protection.

If such protection is not forth coming from the government, the Monks have to find out other means to solve the problem and protect the Buddha Sasana of which they had been the protectors for more than 2600 years.

The Editor of the Ceylon Today has to understand the reasons behind certain “violence” taking place and analyse the reasons for them with wisdom after studying the whole question putting it into its correct perspective, without jumping to conclusions.

Now from what follows we see that, the problem the Editor of Ceylon Today has is not with the teachings of the Buddha but the Bodu Bala Sena. 

He writes, “Today, the mention of the three words,  Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) which is a “Buddhist Organization”, drives fear even into the minds of some Buddhists leave alone the followers of other religions like Christianity, Islam and Hinduism .”  

Neither the Buddhists nor the  followers of other religions should have fear on the mention of the words  “Bodu Bala Sena”.  They are not an extremist group or terrorists. They are merely trying to high light matters concerning the Buddha Sasana that had been neglect by the government and taken for granted by non Buddhists, due to inaction by any one responsible. Buddha Sasana also comprises the Buddhist Culture of the followers of the teachings of the Buddha.

The Sangha as pointed out earlier, has a duty to protect the Buddha Sasana.  Due to lethargy of the Government, inaction of the Buddhists, and taking things for granted by those followers of other religions, matters concerning Buddha Sasana had been long neglected. Due to the absence of any one moving in to protect what belongs to the Buddha Sasana, some monks have organised  themselves to point out to the authorities where wrongs which have a direct effect on the Buddha Sasana have or is being committed by others with the motive to weaken the Buddha Sasana.

Muslims for instance since of late  have developed a great desire to build mosques all over  Sri Lanka, (perhaps to out do the Buddhist Stupas by number), for that they use mean subterfuge such as building boutiques , warehouses, and shops in areas often close to Buddhist Temples or sometimes even on Temple land leaving them empty and use them as Muslim prayer houses, with the secret motive of later declare them mosques and build a large mosque in place of the derelict buildings originally constructed as, shops, boutiques or warehouses.

The Editor of Ceylon Today before writing Editorials on the Changing face of Buddhism should have investigated the changing attitude of Muslims in Sri Lanka and highlighted that as a responsible Journal.

The Editor points out that, the “Rhetoric that emanate from Bodu Bala Sena and Sinhala Ravaya therefore give a bad name for Buddhism. In fact, many hard line groups that are spewing violence and religious disunity are not about the religion at all. Those groups are  about power,  politics and money. “ 

The arms of the Bodu Bala Sena and Ravaya are not guns but words, arguments, and counter arguments. It is listening without being prejudiced that will help in such situations to find a solution to the problems over which rhetoric emanate. In defending the Buddha Sasana of Buddhist Sri Lanka, power, politics and money naturally get involved.

The Buddha Sasana had no rival religions at the beginning, but with the colonialism the Budhha Sasana received a hard blow.  It is only since 1956 that Buddhism and Buddhist Culture are being rediscovered.  The Buddhists , Muslims and Christians lived  peace  without interfering into each other’s religious devotions. 

But now the world itself is changing and there are competing foreign  power blocks, some using wealth and others religion.  The non-Buddhist religions in Sri Lanka have come under foreign influence,  and are being secretly financed  and infused with new religious fanatism which make them  take different political, and social moves that had not been evident  before.

The ordinary lay Buddhists are concerned with their day to day living.   The Government overlooks certain developments in order not to be partial to one community against others. Therefore, if there is danger to the Buddha Sasana the Order of Monks cannot wait  until the lay Buddhists or the Government come forward to safeguard the interest of the Buddha Sasana, therefore they Organise themselves, to draw attention of both the lay Buddhist followers and the Government to the dangers they foresee to the Buddha Sasana.

Perhaps the Editor is not aware that there was a period when there was what was called  Catholic Action that had interfered in the administration of the Governments causing considerable difficulties for the Buddhists not only in Sri Lanka, but also in many Asian Buddhist Countries. 

During the period there were very active lay followers of Buddhism who organised themselves to fight against the Catholic Action.  They, led by L.H.Mettananda formed into an organisation called Bauddha Balavegaya which put an end to nefarious activities  of the Catholic Action.

These foreign manoeuvres against Sri Lanka and the Buddha Sasana had taken place from time to time.  Thanks to the vigilance  of the Buddhists and Buddhist monks great dangers to the Buddha Sasana had been averted.   

Why does not the Editor of Ceylon Today ask himself,  why Muslims are under attack not only in Grandpass but in countries the world over, for instance  in USA, UK, Germany, France, Netherland, Denmark, Sweden and so on ?

Even in Sri Lanka the sudden upsurge of anti national activities of some sections of the Muslim Community is a new phenomenon.  Many fingers are being pointed at Saudi Arabia for promoting Wahibism and promoting the rise of  extremism  amoung the Muslims in the world. Halaal, Shariah Law, and Quazy Law courts   have now taken an importance of  immense dimension whereas they were not even heard of before.

How is it then that the Editor of Ceylon Today gives such importance to what happened in Grandpass which had been settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, without having at no time informed of the sinister developments taking place amoung the Muslims in Sri Lanka ?

In such a situation we should be thankful to the Buddhists monks for their vigilance making a hue and cry when necessary to draw attention of the people to disperse the danger.  Such foreign influence does not auger well for Muslims in Sri Lanka as well , as their being unnecessarily forced to create dissension amoung the communities  with whom they have lived for generations. Such foreign fanatism seeping into Sri Lanka Muslim Community will thwart the unity  and reconciliation of the Communities and hamper development which is of greater value to every one of us.

The Buddhist Monk is the pulse of the Nation, which could detect the dangers coming from other religions and from outside and give timely warning.  As Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan are Muslim Countries, Sri Lanka is a Buddhist Country.

The Editor  writes in his Editorial that , ” Buddhism has a long standing reputation as  a “tolerant religion”. The present day keepers of Buddhism should not desecrate that premise.  In the true spirit of Buddhism, their concerns about the wellbeing of the bulls and cows are well received, But, above all, they must respect the human life.”

It appears now with considerable interference in to  the affairs of Sri Lanka by some of the foreign countries after the elimination of  ruthless terrorism, the, “the long standing reputation of Buddhism as a tolerant religion”  has given easy access to those taking advantage of that reputation of  tolerance to spread their own religious extremism.

Buddhism is concerned not only of the wellbeing of the humans, but of all beings.  The present day keepers of Buddhism, as the Editor says are well aware of it and  their effort in that role of  keepers of Buddhism is to look after its welfare of all beings.  It is because of the tolerance of Buddhism and its keepers that the Muslims had been living amoung the Buddhists building their villages and mosques in complete freedom and acceptance.

With regard to the wellbeing of animals, the Muslims living in a Buddhist country which had accommodated them should in respect to the country they have made their  home,  stop  killing animals for food and to celebrate their religious functions.

In Peru virgins and physically unblemished young men were sacrificed at a religious festival.  But it was stopped after its conquest by the Spanish.  Can one imagine what would happen if  similar religious customs are perpetrated today ?

That is to emphasise what ever were  the religious practices of ancient times, they  need not be carried on now  just because they were written in the Koran and the Muslims have made it a custom,  when there are so many other things to offer to Gods, eat, and with which to celebrate festivals. 

According to the Bible the followers of the  God had made blood sacrifices and peace sacrifices smudging the altar with blood, but now the only sacrifice the Christians make is eating a Turkey for the Christmas dinner.  In the Munneshwaran Kovil thousands of innocent animals are killed to please Kali. Is this savage custom necessary in the present time ?

Why cannot the Government put a stop to animal sacrifices at the Munneshwaran Kovil forth with like the Spanish did to Peruvian human sacrifices ?.

These are the themes on which  the Editor of Ceylon Today  could if intelligent write his Editorials.

The Buddhist monks had always advised the rulers and the rulers of Sri Lanka had always sought the counsel and advice of the  Buddhist monks.  Therefore it is an exaggeration on the part of the Editor to say, ” It is also important that they comply with the modern tenets, which evolved over centuries and are now playing a pillar in the modern state system. That is the separation between the Church ( or to that effect Temple) and the State. “

The Editor of Ceylon Today states, “Those hard-line followers should not tell governments how to run the country.  They should be cognizant of the fact that many great states in today’s world are  secular in character, including our neighbour India. They should be mindful and respectful of the sentiments of the followers of other faiths. “ 

In Sri Lanka as in many countries the  role of the State and the religion is well defined.  But it is often the Islamic fundamentalism that infringes into the secular Character of the State, by imposing their  religious customs such as wearing the Shawl or the Burkha in public.  In France where the children from Catholic families do not even wear the cross around their neck when attending school,  the Muslims demand the  schools to accept the shawl (a religious identity) worn by Muslim girls.

The Editor writes, “The government should safeguard Buddhism and its righteous values. It should fend off attempts to distort Buddhism and to give a bad name to the religion and its followers. Also, It should not use religion as a measure to  garner support to cling on to power.” 

The Buddhist Monks have a role to play vis ƒÆ’†’  vis the Buddha Sasana.  That role also included the protection of the Buddhist culture which forms the life of the individual.  The Buddhism is  well known as a great teaching, and the  Order of the Sangha is known as the protectors of that great teaching  and its actions  is a necessity and the followers of other religions should understand the role of the Buddhist Monk in a Buddhist country-Sri Lanka, and  consent to a healthy dialogue in place of vindictive actions and  distortion of facts through media.

The Grandpass event had been settled in a peaceful manner, which the Editor has failed to take in to account .  The most importantly at the meeting held on the dispute that arose over  the Grandpass Mosque, the Buddhist monks agreed to chop off the Bo tree so that the trustees of the mosque could use the space to build an  extensions to the mosque. Also in an unprecedented gesture of religious tolerance and amity, the Monks had  also invited the trustees of the mosque to use the temple Dharmasala any time they wanted extra space for prayers.

Editor Ceylon Today please note the  above and understand for yourself that the Buddhist monks are generous and tolerant contrary to the image the Editor is projecting of the Buddhist monks.  Their actions seem harsh and intolerant  only when their role as protectors of the Buddha Sasana is misunderstood, and they are portrayed as intolerant gangsters by the media such as yours- Ceylon Today.

13 Responses to “Changing Face of Islam in Sri Lanka- A reply to Editor of Ceylon Today.”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The article states: “Buddhism is neither a religion nor a philosophy. Oxford Dictionary defines Religion as “one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods.” The Buddhism in that sense is not a religion.” I disagree. Buddhism taken in whole is both a philosophy and a religion. Under Hinayana Buddhism if practiced in it’s purity the Buddha is a great prophet, yet the laity pray to the Buddha, temples are built for the Buddha and an ordained priesthood which can only exist if there is a presence of a God, is fundemantal to Buddhism.
    In addition Mahayana Buddhism does treat the Buddha as a God with heavens hells, angels and saints. It almost is the eastern version of Catholicism. Under Vajrayana Buddhism practiced in Tibet the Sanga is elevated to spiritual heights not seen in the other branches where the concept of reincarnation becomes central to that branch and the Dalai Lama is considered the living embodiment of the Buddha himself reincarnated a thousand times and will reincarnate thousands of times as long as that branch of Buddhism survives.
    I fully agree with the article that the Editor of Ceylon Times deliberately went out of his way to besmearch Buddhism. Every nation has a military regardless of the teachings of its faith. Buddhist Japan during world war two became a power strong enough to take on the US and defeat the British holdings in Asia. But that cannot be used to demonize the teachings of the Buddha. The civil war was won using force and not diplomacy as India tried with her `13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. But again it defended a Buddhist nation and won the right to continue the practice of Buddhism. That Editior should have also taken into account that the Vatican itself which is the very heart of the Catholic faith has guards trained to defend and even kill if the Vatican (which is a recognized nation) ever be attacked.
    As for the Muslims I fully believe they want to make Sri Lanka into a Muslim nation. Throughout their history they have used a heavy hand to force conversions or use subterfuge to gain their goal. A Muslim Sri Lanka would be a great asset to the Muslim world. Which then begs the question are the Muslims of Sri Lanka getting foreign help to convert Sri Lanka from a Buddhist nation into a Muslim nation?
    During the war Colombo was forced to seek the help of many Muslim nations who supplied arms to fight the Tamils. In one of the articles in the Times of India which dwelt on Sri Lanka my comment was replied by some Muslim commenters that “soon we will make Sri Lanka a Muslim land”. If so then Pakistan to the Middle East has earned itself a strategic gem.
    If Sri Lanka is facing such a force which has been successful to the extant that now there are around 52 Muslim nations and large Muslim populations in non Muslim nations who refuse to accept the local culture and instead proclaim loudly that they will make their host nations into Muslim nations. This has occurred time and time again in Europe who is now awakening to this threat to her civilization, religion and culture and are passing “pro European” laws that are aimed at the Muslim community.
    Unless Sri Lanka follows suit and passes pro Buddhist laws that upholds Buddhism and its values over other faiths or make Buddhism a state religion the Muslims will make Sri Lanka into a Muslim dominated land governed by Sharia laws.

  2. Charles Says:


    My reply was to Ceylon Today and not to Ceylon Times as you write.

    On Buddhism I do not want to have polemics on the subject. What is more important is the role of the Order of the Sangha, which is relevant to the Editorial under reference

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    If I remember right, Minister Cyril Mathew strongly supported LHMs Bauddha Balavegaya

  4. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    To: Charles the editor.
    I do apologize for my mistake regarding which paper stated this. This is due to my haste in writing down my comment. Secondly I do agree with you that the Sanga and her role is epitomized by the three jewels of Buddhism that places the Sanga in the same level of respect as given to the Buddha and the Darhma.

    I do want to address one section of this article which I will quote:”Muslims for instance since of late have developed a great desire to build mosques all over Sri Lanka, (perhaps to out do the Buddhist Stupas by number), for that they use mean subterfuge such as building boutiques , warehouses, and shops in areas often close to Buddhist Temples or sometimes even on Temple land leaving them empty and use them as Muslim prayer houses, with the secret motive of later declare them mosques and build a large mosque in place of the derelict buildings originally constructed as, shops, boutiques or warehouses.”
    There is one simple way to deal with such treachery; bury them with regulations. If they claim to be building a warehouse then there should be no need for parking and they should state what will be stored in that warehouse. If it remains empty then have regulations that the warehouse has to be removed for other purposes. Another example is to enforce a code, lets say a fire code that limits the number of people in that warehouse. The same or similar regulations can be enforced or boutiques or shops or structures built for reasons other than a Mosque. If it is a boutique then send the Marshal or inspector to see that the building is being used as a boutique . Here in the US strict codes are enforced to prevent building structures meant for other means than stated. The classic example is codes that restrict commercial structures in residential areas and residential structures in commercial zones. The construction of religious buildings too have to go through strict codes that meet the regulations of that area. Some codes do not allow any religious structures in certain residential areas and other codes limit the number of religious buildings. Maybe if such regulations are strictly administered the Muslims will not be able to do what they are doing.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Cyril Mathew had his problems.

    But compared to VP and OBL, Cyril Mathew was a saint.

    This is another case of “Hitha honda gani emadama budding”.

    First the Tamil clients misused the “Hitha honda gani” now the Muslims. The QUEUE is LONG with Endians and Americans waiting for their chance and even the Chinese will get the taste soon.

    And who do they blame for the pregnant “Hitha honda gani”? Herself for being such a w!!

  6. Senevirath Says:

    Lorenzo, hema minihama avith hitha Honda geni hapa karala yay . genita venne badath ussagana hullanay.

    nobody should trust muslims

  7. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Muhammad held out a bait to men and women, in the name of God, to compass his own selfish needs. All Muhammad’s marriages were extraordinary and improper, and Mohammad suffered from epilepsy. Whereas Muhammad only allowed his followers to have 4 wives, Muhammad had 22 wives, the youngest was six years old. According to Muhammad, loot and arson is the highest act of the religious life, and this religious aggression will go on until the end of time. A paradise where there will be lovely young women is the reward for spreading Islam in this way. Muhammad was in fact a terrorist, criminal and murderer whose entire life was based on victimizing innocents and indulging in mindless violence, carnage and massacre. Muhammad’s criminal acts in the form of battles and murders, including the killing of four merchants during the sacred month of Rajab, the killing of 70 merchants and 900 men from Mecca, the killing of the poets ‘Asma’ bint Marwan and Abu ‘Afak.
    Islamic ritual, including the Hajj, the stand, the throw and the run were all practiced by the pagans long before Muhammad adopted them into Islam. Muhammad took these pagan practices and declared them to be the correct way to worship a monotheistic Allah. In this way, the pagans could keep their old pagan practices and apply them to one god rather than hundreds. It made conversion to Islam very easy for the Arabs since Islam felt the same as their paganism.The highest and greatest reward for Muslim men is to go to heaven where he will have 72 bashful dark eyed virgins (houris) at his sexual disposal and whim. I wonder what Muslim women get as their great reward?
    What we are experiencing today in Islamic terrorism is the normalized pattern Muslims learned from Muhammad. Muslims never negotiate, compromise or enter peaceful co-existences with non-Muslims that are considered permanent. So too Muslims are content to dwell and sound reasonable and peaceful, until they reach large enough majorities to start flexing their terrorist muscles.
    Muslims say, “Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you from the inside. Thanks to our religious laws we will rule over you.” There is no reciprocity of the freedoms offered Muslims in the lands where they came from. Today, Muslims are the second biggest supplier of immigrants to Canada. Apart from oil production, the GDP (gross domestic product) of all Arab nations combined is less than a single European nation, a large US state or the province of Ontario in Canada. Without oil, Arabs would be hopelessly part of the third world for centuries to come. Arabs don’t manufacture and produce stuff the world want to use. They are living off of the “welfare of the oil” in their land. Even then, they need foreign genius, technology and manpower to get it out ground. Arab nations are like a lazy, unproductive and uneducated son of a rich man who inherits a large sum of money and then lives the life of a king on the money. From an economic point of view, they just sit back and collect the oil royalty money each month without doing a thing and think the blessing is from Allah. Islam is a 21st century political project driven by 7th century ideology.

  8. Ratanapala Says:

    As far as the muslims are concerned the remedy for a large part is simple. They swim like fish among the unsuspecting Sinhalese selling their wares and buying up Sri Lanka with the money they earn. As Mao once said the thing to do in a situation like this is to – “Drain the pond and the fish will disappear”. Broadly this translates to Boycott Muslim Business places and they will come around. At the moment it is Ange indagena Kana Kemai un koranne’. The task for the patriots is to find ways and means to effectively do this.

    In 1976 Muammar Gadaffi on his visit to Sri Lanka to attend the Non Aligned Conference asked muslims in Sri Lanka increase their population and then buy lands on either side of main roads. One can see the progress so far from 1976 to date. The leaders of Sri Lanka who come to power with the majority Sinhala Buddhist vote have no regard to the plight of the Sinhalese. They are being gradually pushed out from Colombo and from its suburbs. Every piece of real estate ends up in the hand of the rich muslims. Even if one sells his land to another Sinhalese, it finally ends up with the Muslims. They are buying into whole neighbourhoods. Finally the few who remains are forced to leave the area due to Muslim activities – like loud chanting of prayers, killing of animals etc etc and finally with a of thuggery and thievery. For whom is the beautification of and upgrading of the infrastructure of Colombo if they are all to end up in the hands of minorities who have no love for Sri Lanka other than to exploit it. The jewel of Sri Lanka – Colombo is in danger of being lost for ever – legally!

    The Neros are playing their fiddles!

  9. Lorenzo Says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Tamils barbarians plan animal sacrifice this Wednesday.

    Munneswaram barbarians are going to kill a thousand animals for no reason this Wednesday.

    Do something to STOP it.

    Killing innocent animals is a CURSE which brings BAD LUCK and DISASTERS to the country. Kill the killers!

  10. Senevirath Says:




  11. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Population control is very important for all of us. This is a issue that has to be above religious concerns.
    Two-child policy is now imposed on Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. The 2005 Myanmar government policy which punishes Rohingya Muslim women who bear more than two children with hefty fines and loss of legal rights for the children to dampen sectarian tensions. The Rohingya Muslim live mostly in two towns. The population growth of Rohingya Muslims is 10 times higher than that of the Rakhine Buddhists. Overpopulation is one of the causes of tension.
    Tensions between Buddhist Burmese and the Muslim Rohingya go back centuries but were greatly heightened during the British colonial period and the Japanese occupation in World War II. Since 1982 Myanmar has not even acknowledged that they are citizens.
    In 2005 local authorities began to enforce a two-child policy. Rohingya couples who wish to marry must seek government approval – a process which can take up to two years. They must agree to have no more than two children. More children are punishable with fines and imprisonment.

  12. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Sri Lankans are grappling with ways to accommodate Muslim minorities while upholding national values. Getting the balance right has not been easy. Some policies have drawn public support in some quarters but been criticized elsewhere as an attack on Islam.

    Switzerland is on its way to ban the construction of new mosque minarets. In the Netherlands, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical catalyzed debate about the limits of toleration. In Denmark, the unrest that followed the publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad was seen as threatening free speech. And several countries, including the United Kingdom, were forced to re-evaluate relations with their Muslim populations after a series of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by “homegrown” Muslim fundamentalists.

    The Muslim population in Europe is relatively new, with Muslims present in substantial numbers in Western Europe only since the labor migration of the 1950s and 1960s, when Turks settled in Germany and elsewhere, and migrants from former colonies moved to France and the United Kingdom. Initially arriving as guestworkers, the Muslim population swelled as a result of family reunification over time. It continues to grow, primarily due to immigration and family reunification, but also due to a high birth rate.

    Because Muslims are a highly visible community in Europe, the rapid pace of this demographic change has exacerbated public anxieties about how immigration has altered local communities. Fears about Muslim minorities as a security threat, their perceived unwillingness to integrate, and their socioeconomic exclusion have become interwoven in public discourse — and have propelled European governments to develop a diverse and sometimes highly controversial set of policies toward Muslims as a religious minority group.

    Battles have been fought over religious (halal) food-preparation practices, religious headwear, and mosque-building. Describing Muslims either as an ethnic or religious minority is inherently problematic. Ethnically, Muslims are highly diverse — Muslims of many ethnic origins exist, but the main groups in Western Europe are North African, Turkish, and South Asian. Muslims belong to a variety of denominations, and their religious commitment varies.
    Large-scale and diverse immigration patterns over the last four decades in Europe have contributed to rapid social change. While estimates of the Muslim population are notoriously unreliable (because countries often omit religion from their census questions), research suggests they are one of the fastest-growing groups in Western Europe. Fewer than 4 million Muslims lived in Western Europe in 1990; by 2010, this figure had nearly tripled to 11.3 million, according to The Future of the Global Muslim Population by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Pew estimates that by 2030, Muslims will number 16.4 million or around 9 percent of the projected population.

    The complaint that Muslims are unwilling or unable to embrace the national identity and values of their country of residence is a common refrain. Critics describe areas with a high concentration of Muslims and segregated schools and shops as parallel societies, and express concerns about the overreach of Saudi & Qatar governments, for example in providing imams or funding for mosques. For some members of the public, the proliferation of visible symbols of identity such as religious clothing or mosque minarets reinforces a sense of difference.

    In a 2011 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a majority of respondents in Germany (72 percent), Spain (69 percent), France (54 percent), and the United Kingdom (52 percent) thought that Muslims in their country wanted to be distinct from mainstream society.

    In Europe, the flurry of successful and foiled terrorist attacks including the Madrid train bombings, the London Underground bombings, and the attack on Glasgow Airport made counter-terrorism a central policy priority. The role of “homegrown” terrorists in these attacks encouraged governments to turn their attention inwards and scrutinize relations with their Muslim populations. These attacks were widely denounced by Muslim groups, but levels of anxiety about terrorism remain high: a 2011 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 73 percent of respondents in Germany, 70 percent in Britain, and 68 percent in France are worried about Islamic extremism.

    For many Europeans, these concerns unite to form an impression that Muslims have failed to integrate. Policies that relate to religious headwear for women have proved particularly divisive. Bans have taken various forms: local or national bans on the burqa and niqab (both of which cover the entire body and face) in public spaces; restrictions on the hijab (the more commonly worn headscarf that leaves the face exposed) in specific professions or public institutions; and restrictions on religious dress in schools.

    The most far-reaching bans on religious clothing have been introduced in France and Belgium, where wearing a burqa and other forms of face-covering headwear in public have been prohibited since 2011. The bans were enacted ostensibly for security reasons (although in the case of France, penalties were introduced against those who coerce others to dress a certain way based on their gender). Reports of street violence and discrimination towards women wearing the burqa or niqab also raise questions about the effectiveness of these policies in promoting integration.

    Some countries restrict religious dress in certain public professions, either to ensure neutrality in the public sphere, or for pragmatic reasons like facilitating human interaction. These include civil servants, teachers (in approximately half of the German federal states, Oslo municipality, all of French public schools, and ad hoc bans in the United Kingdom), the police force (Denmark, Norway, Germany, and ad hoc cases in the Netherlands), and judges and clerks (Denmark, Norway, ad hoc in the United Kingdom and Spain).

    In France, the longstanding law of separation of church and state (laïcité) was used to justify a 2004 law — the culmination of 15 years of debate — prohibiting the outward display of religious symbols in public school. In l’affaire du foulard in 1989, female high school students were suspended for refusing to remove their hijabs. At the time, many onlookers decried the move as racism and discrimination, while others claimed that the headscarf — deemed a symbol of female oppression — was incompatible with the responsibility of public schools to instill the values of the republic. The 2004 law avoided stigmatizing Muslims by prohibiting all religious symbols in public school. Other countries (such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands) concluded that schools could set their own dress policies depending on what they thought necessary for safe and productive learning.

  13. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Muslims in Sri Lanka enjoy hundred times better privileges and benefits when compared to Muslims in India. India’s Muslim population of 120 million is the third largest in the world – after those of Indonesia and Pakistan – and forms the largest religious minority in India. The great majority are Sunni Muslims, and the remainder are Shi’a and various other sects such as Bohras, Isma’ilis and Ahmadiyas. Muslims form a majority in the state of Kashmir, while elsewhere they are concentrated in particular areas. The largest numbers are to be found in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala. In the north of India most Muslim communities speak Urdu, which is not a recognized official language of India.

    Islam was first introduced in India through the Arab invasion of Sind in CE 712 and through subsequent invasions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The religion firmly established itself as a force through the Mughal emperors in the sixteenth century. The Mughals generally refrained from forcible conversions to Islam, and the great Mughal Emperor Akbar granted a remarkable measure of tolerance and autonomy to non-Muslims. Although a considerable number of soldiers and officials came with the Mughals, the bulk of the Muslim population is descended from peoples of India, mainly from members of lower castes who converted to Islam as a means of escape from persecution and repression at the hands of the caste Hindus. While the concentration of Muslims was in the north-west of India (present-day Pakistan) and the east (present-day Bangladesh), there were also substantial numbers throughout the north and east. The decline of Muslim domination of India and the ultimate dispossession of the Mughal empire had a number of consequences. While bitterly resenting the loss of the empire, Muslims had to bear the brunt of the retaliatory policies at the hands of the new colonial masters after the failed uprising of 1857. Muslims had refrained from adopting the culture and language of the British both because of their religious beliefs and out of the conviction of a lack of necessity. Consequently they made themselves ineligible for positions of influence and importance. Fearing complete and permanent submersion at the hands of the majority Hindus, at the end of the nineteenth century some more articulate Muslims began a social and cultural movement intended to inculcate a sense of consciousness and create a Muslim renaissance. Features of this movement included the educational initiatives of Syed Ahmad Khan, and Agha Khan’s Simla deputation, which demanded separate Muslim political representation; it culminated in the establishment of the All India Muslim League. The Muslim League came in time to represent the aspirations of the Muslim masses in India, and ultimately spearheaded the Pakistan movement led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan. Conflict between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, at the helm of the movement for independence from Britain, eventually resulted in the decision to partition India and to create Pakistan.

    The division of India along communal lines could not completely eradicate the religious minorities; instead it contributed to exacerbating the already existing tensions and division. The tragedy which ensued at the time of partition with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus all victims of brutal and widespread conflict, remains one of the great catastrophes of human history. In so far as India’s Muslims were concerned, the creation of Pakistan as homeland for Muslims resulted in a new minority problem for the now independent state of India. Muslim-majority regions (with the exception of Kashmir) separated to form the state of Pakistan. The numerical strength of Muslims in India also decreased, from over 25 per cent of the population to about 10 per cent.

    The manner of partition and the form that it took left a bitter legacy, and the perception of Muslims in India as anti-India or anti-national has done much to damage Hindu-Muslim relationships. The rise of Hindu fundamentalism as a political force, overtaking the liberal attitudes and policies that were evident in the first decades of independence, have also become an issue for Muslims to contend with. In the 1970s Indian Muslims began to reassess their own position. The Emergency of 1975-77 proved a watershed, with Muslims in northern India particularly becoming victims of a forced sterilization campaign. The movement to demand rights for Muslims began to grow in the period following the Emergency and has gathered fresh momentum in recent times. Among the most significant of the challenges for India’s Muslims have been: the Shah Bano case (1985), where the demand for a uniform civil code was met with outright resistance from Muslim fundamentalist groups, polarizing views between the Hindu and Muslim communities; the destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya in 1992, which dealt a grave blow to the secular aspirations of the Indian state; and the movement since the late 1980s for independence in Kashmir, which has had an impact for non-Kashmiri Muslims living throughout India.

    Indian Muslims are not granted the same constitutional safeguards as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and they are not entitled to reservations in employment and education. Although Hinduism is the majority religion, it is not an official or state-sponsored one; India is a secular state, and complete freedom of religion is guaranteed. The Minorities Commission, set up after the election of the Janata government in 1977, monitors the position of the non-scheduled caste and non-scheduled tribe minorities such as Muslims, although it has no powers to implement changes. Nor are Muslims entitled to reserved constituencies in central or state government assemblies, although all have Muslim parliamentary representatives. There have been several Muslim chief ministers and two Presidents have been Muslim, although the latter position has little real power despite high visibility.

    Notwithstanding the large Muslim population of India, Muslims are strikingly under-represented in the civil service, military and institutions of higher education. At the beginning of the new millennium Muslims comprised only 2% of the officers and 1% of the clerks in the central civil service, and 3% of the elite Indian administrative service. Less than 2% of the army officer corps is Muslim, and Muslim representation in the higher echelons of the military is also poor. Beneath this pattern lies the issue of access to education and the general problem of large numbers of Muslims not being adequately trained or equipped to compete on equal terms at the market-place.

    Another problem is language. In the north of India most Muslim communities speak Urdu, which is not a recognized official language of India . Apart from Kashmir, Muslims are everywhere in a minority in India. Uttar Pradesh, the state with the largest population in India, where approximately 15 per cent of the 110 million people are Muslims, did not recognize Urdu as an official language before 1989. Muslims campaigned for Urdu to receive the status of an official language alongside Hindi. When this was granted in Uttar Pradesh in September 1989 there were clashes between Hindu and Muslim students in which at least twenty-three people died. Urdu has also received official language status in Bihar.

    While major differences exist between Hindus and Muslims in their religious, cultural and social outlook, in many cases the religious divide may be only a contributing factor to intercommunal discord. The main causes of dissension and divisiveness are equally likely to be poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and so on. Hindu extremist groups such as the Shiv Sena and the Rashriyan Sevak Sanga consider Muslims to be disloyal to the Indian state. On the other hand, Muslim extremist groups preach a militant Islam that argues for a separate way of life for Muslims. The Shah Bano case provides a notable example of this, where an elderly Muslim woman sued her divorced husband for maintenance. Muslim traditionalists, apparently backed by the majority of Muslims, saw the court ruling in her favour as interference in the Islamic personal laws which govern the community. Less traditionalist Muslims, however, saw this ruling as an important breakthrough for the rights of women under Islam.

    Muslim material expectations rose during the late 1970s and 1980s. With hundreds of thousands of Muslims working in Gulf countries, the new wealth they acquired created a sense of competition between Muslims and Hindus. The small business sector in the north has also helped bring about a slow improvement in the Muslim economic position. However, the repercussions of regional and internal conflicts have produced major setbacks for Muslims. The job market in the Gulf was seriously affected in the aftermath of the Gulf War and thousands of Muslims returned home with little prospect of regaining the same level of employment that they had enjoyed in the Middle East. In many ways Muslims have been increasingly conscious of their inferior socioeconomic position, and this has given them new determination to change it. However, there is no all-Indian Muslim party, and attempts to have a common front with the scheduled castes have yet to come to fruition. There has been a lack of overall direction and of any appropriate forum through which Muslims of India can articulate their demands.
    Current issues

    Notwithstanding a change in the Federal government in 2004, Indian security forces continued to pursue policies inter alia of extra-judicial killings, detentions and torture. The implication of such policies was particularly tragic for India’s many segments of Muslim minorities-in particular Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. Arbitrary practices of arrests, detentions and torture was deployed against the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir; Courts in Jammu and Kashmir were reluctant to hear cases involving militant crimes and failed to act expeditiously on habeas corpus cases. The conflict between Muslim Kashmiris and the Indian armed forces has been brutal resulting in more 40,000 deaths within the past 15 years. Since April 2005 (with the visit of Pakistan’s Military leader Pervaiz Musharraf to India) some albeit slow progress has been made in developing a peace-dialogue. In April 2005 a bus-service opened between the two parts of the divided Kashmir. In June 2005, a number of Kashmiri leaders held talks with the Pakistani leader, General Musharraf with a view to advancing the peace initiative. This was followed by the decision at the end of August by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hold talks with the Kashmiri separatists. The talks which were conducted with the moderate wing of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Delhi on 5 September 2005 provide cause for optimism: the leader of the Hurriyat-an umbrella group of parties opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir-agreed in principle to denounce all forms of violence within Kashmir. However, in the light of the intransigent stance of all the parties involved in the conflict and in the light of the continuing violations of India security forces a resolution to the dispute appears distant. The role and status of Kashmiri politicians in the present dialogue process also needs to be amplified as part of a broader political process. The divisions between the Hurriyat and the hardliners in the negotiating process has been a critical issue. This is manifest by a various killings of and attacks on moderate Hurriyat leaders by Pakistan-based hardline militant groups in Kashmir over the last few years.

    In addition to the grievances emerging from Kashmir, Muslims of India claim to have suffered persecution and genocide in the state of Gujarat. Muslim leaders condemn the failure of the Gujarat government and the Indian Courts to prosecute those involved in the killing of over two thousand Muslims at the hand of Hindu extremists. In many cases attempts to hold perpetrators of Gujarat riots accountable were hampered by the allegedly defective manner in which police recorded complaints. There were allegations made by the victims that the police failed to register their complaints or recorded the details in such a way as to lead to lesser charges. Victims complained that the police and governmental authorities deliberately failed to bring charges against prominent people involved in attacks. No appropriate action has been undertaken against those involved in the Gujarat – the Best Bakery case exemplifies the situation. This case had to be moved out of Gujrat High Court to neighbouring Maharashtra by the order of the Supreme Court. A retrial was ordered in relation to the most serious instance of rioting in Godhra and arrest warrants were issued for 10 of the 21 accused. Many other riot cases are awaiting hearing from the Supreme Court as regards Gujarat. There was also the continuation of another related sectarian Hindu-Muslim dispute over the sacred site of Ayodha. On 5 July 2005, six men pretending to be tourists, used explosives to blast through the wall of the Ayodha site. Although all the assailants were killed, Hindu nationalist parties such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for retaliatory action to be taken against Muslim organizations and blamed Pakistan for orchestrating the attack.

    Further tensions emerged after the terrorist bomb blasts on 11 July 2006 in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). These bombs blast which killed 209 people and seriously injured nearly 1000, were blamed on Islamic extremists aggrieved at the treatment of Muslim in Kashmir and Gujarat. Indian security services blamed Al-Qeeda and their Indian agents for the terrorist atrocity, and on 18 July three members of the Students Islamic Movement of India were arrested on suspicion of masterminding the terrorist plot. This atrocity has led to further increasing the nervousness and tensions for Indian Muslims and at the same time threatning to stall the peace talk with neighbouring, Muslim majority Pakistan.

    In July 2008, 21 bombs went off simultaneously in Ahmedabad, killing 53 and wounding around 200. Police and paramilitary forces poured into the area in the wake of the blasts. In August 2008, local human rights activists claimed that about 400 Muslim youths had been rounded up in response to the bombings, but the government had not identified any perpetrators.

    A recent report commissioned by the Congress government, the Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar Committee Report, brings out the issues of income, education and employment related to Indian Muslims. The Committee was set up by the Prime Minister as a High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachar to examine in comprehensive detail the social, economic and education status of the Indian Muslim community as standing in 2006. The findings of the Sachar Committee in 2006 have clearly indicated certain levels and forms of systemic discrimination and official prejudice operating in Indian society at almost all levels against Muslims and some of the results have shocked the whole country. The Committee used data tabulated indices for levels of education (matriculation, graduates and above), employment (workers and formal sector), economic (poverty and land holdings) between Hindu and Muslim Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Muslims in general and compared them with the standard all-India average. Some of the key findings of the Report as regards Muslims in general and Muslim OBCs are as below:

    OBCs are generally below the all-India average when it comes to matriculation, graduation and industry employment;
    Surprisingly, Hindu OBCs averaged better than the national mean when it came to non-formal employment, poverty levels and ownership in landholdings;
    Muslim OBCs are placed poorer than Hindu OBCs in all major categories;
    Muslims in general are the poorest and come behind Hindu and Muslim OBCs.

    Economist Abusaleh Sharif, a Member Secretary of the Sachar Committee, has observed in an Indian newspaper, The Indian Express, that, ‘(These) NSSO statistics demonstrate general Muslims are well below the status of Hindu OBCs.’ (See The Indian Express, 31st October, 2006).

    The statistical figures for Muslims in rural areas are also deeply disturbing:

    A whopping 95% per cent of Muslims in Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in rural areas do not receive their entitlement of free foodgrains. Only 2% of the Muslim community benefit from the Antyodaya Anna Yojana Scheme (a government programme meant to prevent starvation deaths by providing food grains at a subsidised rate);
    A large percentage of rural Muslims-60%-do not have any ownership of land;
    Only 3% of rural Muslims receive subsidised loans. The committee also found shocking instances of discrimination against the community. These include cases of Muslims not getting loans from even nationalised banks. ‘There is an implicit diktat that loans should not be given in specific areas dominated by Muslims because of the high probability of default’, the Committee observed after a visit to Rajasthan;
    Only 2%of Muslim farmers owning tractors (this is abysmal when seen in the context of India having about 15,25,000 tractors in the country and having the 4th largest tractor-owning population in the world after the US, Japan and Italy).

    On the education front, only about 3% of Muslims above the age of twenty are college graduates according to recent data as collected in 2006 from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). 54.6 per cent Muslims in villages and 60% in urban areas have never attended schools. There are 3% of the Muslim community in urban areas who are graduates and 1% who are post-graduates. Only 1% of Muslims in rural areas are graduates. The Committee also found inadequate number of government schools in the Muslim-dominated areas contributing to the low number of Muslim boys and girls attending the schools. One of the most shocking revelations was that the share of Muslims in all state government jobs – across all grades – in a dozen high-Muslim population states is just over 6 per cent. The Report findings show that there is no state where the representation of Muslims matches with their population share. The percentage of Muslims across all Public Sector Units (PSUs) in India illustrate the point that Muslims are severely under-represented even in government employment, including PSUs, compared to the percentage of their population in a state. What makes this statistic even more shocking is when this figure of Muslim employment in PSUs is seen in the context of some of the states like West Bengal and Bihar where the political establishment has made Muslim welfare a key political and electoral rhetoric. West Bengal provides a good example of duplicity and concealed systemic discrimination. While the Left Front government there has professed secular policies as its key electoral rhetoric and has enjoyed a three-decade reign of uninterrupted power, it has one of the lowest shares of Muslims in government employment: just 4%. This is where almost a quarter of the state’s population is Muslim. In fact, West Bengal reported zero percent of Muslims in higher positions in state PSUs. The other states where the story is similar are Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh where the ratio of Muslims employed in government jobs are extremely low – less than a third of their share of population. The percentage of Muslims in higher positions in PSUs in Maharashtra is only 1.9 percent.

    It is quite apparent that while the Left Front government in West Bengal and the Laloo Prasad government in Bihar has successfully provided physical safety and security to Muslims through the effective containment and prevention of communal riots, they have systematically failed to politically empower Muslims by giving them jobs and education. This becomes quite shocking when it is seen that that both the Left Front government and the Laloo Prasad government have been in continuous power in office for long periods of time and have consistently used Muslim upliftment as part of their electoral rhetoric.

    Data received by the Sachar Committee show that representation of Muslims in jobs is less than half of their population share in all states across the country. The state with the highest percentage of Muslims employed in the government is Assam: 11.2 per cent Muslim population percentage share is 30.9 per cent. The highest percentage of Muslims in higher positions in state PSUs is in Kerala – 9%. Some of the states that have a relatively higher proportion of Muslim representation in state government jobs are: a) Karnataka (Muslim population share: 12%, share in jobs: 8%); b) ironically Gujarat (Muslim population share 9%, share in jobs: 5%); and c) Tamil Nadu (Muslim population share: 5%, share in jobs: 3%). In Kerala, where literacy levels are highest in the country, it is shown that only 10% of state government employees are Muslim (less than half of the share of Muslims in the population of the state). The percentage of Muslims in higher positions in state government owned PSUs in Bihar and Karnataka is 8%t. Ironically, it is 8% in Gujarat, higher than most states, though not even 50% of the population share of Muslims.

    The 2006 Sachar Committee Report also found clear evidence that Muslims severely lacked representation in the central elite civil services. Muslims in India constitute just over 3%of the Indian Police Service and 1% of the Indian Foreign Service. There are only10 of a total of 619 Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers according to the Expenditure Reforms Committee 1999-2000 documents. The senior-most Muslim IFS officer is Talmiz Ahmed, who is presently Director General of Indian Council of World Affairs. The percentage of Muslims in the Indian Police Service (IPS) is about 3%t. According to the IPS Civil List 2006 (as on January 1), there are 109 Muslims out of a sum total of 3209 names. There is only one Muslim who is holds a sensitive intelligence post in the country-Asif Ibrahim-who heads the Delhi desk of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The percentage of Muslim intake in the Indian Administrative Service is 2% according to the Civil Services List of 2006 (as on January 1, 2006). Again, there are about 108 Muslim IAS officers out of a sum-total of 4790 such officers in the country. This figure also includes 1248 State Services Officers who have been promoted to the IAS. Mohammed Riazuddin of the Kerala cadre is the senior most Muslim IAS officer in India.The Committee also found an alarming low level of state-wise Muslim representation in all levels of the judiciary as compared to the share of Muslim population. The overall figure of Muslims in the judiciary in the 12 high-Muslim population states stands at only 7% as an average percentage. Again, Left Front-ruled West Bengal features as the lowest performer with only 5% of Muslims in the higher positions of the state judiciary (percentage of Muslims in the state is 25.%). The position in neighbouring Assam is also quite similar. While the state has a Muslim population percentage of 30.%, the percentage of Muslims in the judiciary is only 9%. The percentage of Muslims in the judiciary in Jammu and Kashmir, the state with the highest Muslim population (66%), is only 48%. Andhra Pradesh is the only state that has more Muslims in the judiciary in terms of proportional representation – Muslims constitute 12% of the judiciary (their population share is 9% in the state).

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