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20 Jul, 2013

In Sri Lanka, As One Disastrous Conflict Ends, Another Looms

By Latheef Farook, Colombo Telegraph

Colombo – Organized attacks on Muslims which began almost two years ago continue unabated while the government remains indifferent, impatient Muslims thinking of turning to streets to highlight their grievance and Muslims worldwide closely monitoring developments here.

Growing feeling within the Muslim community is that though these attacks look isolated, but they are well organized and coordinated with ulterior motive. The deliberate employment of few Buddhist monks in the forefront in these attacks is dangerous as, at some point that some Muslims may be provoked to react and trigger a calamity leading to unpredictable consequences.

However the country which has just emerged after a thirty year ethnic war cannot afford another catastrophe. Muslims suspect that this is what the racist provocateurs wanted, to implement their design to attack, loot, plunder and kill Muslims least bothered about the impact on the country.

The precarious situation prompted former Information Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar to ask, “what are we waiting for? Are we waiting for a calamity to take place? Isn’t it time to drive sense into Buddhist extremists who are pushing the country towards yet another disaster?”

In a recent interview with a Sinhala weekly, Markar, a politician loved and respected by Muslims and Sinhalese alike, emphasized the need for immediate government action to stop these attacks on Muslims warning that failure to do so will inevitably lead to a catastrophe.

Growing feeling and fear among the besieged Muslim community who constitute almost 10 percent of the island’s population, is that the government’s refusal to bring these extremists to book is viewed as providing patronage to them. So far all appeals from the Muslim community and the mainstream Sinhalese community to stop this hooliganism have fallen in the deaf ears.

Muslim politicians in general, sandwiched between their desire to cling on to position to enjoy perks and their obligations towards the community, betrayed the community and sold their souls. Divided into many splinter groups they were cleverly exploited as tools to serve the interest of the government. This is the reason why Muslims parliamentarians are not taken seriously by the government and the Muslim community as well.

As a result they have become a liability to the community. These Muslim politicians should either get the government to stop this senseless harassment of Muslims or resign if they have an iota of self respect or feeling for the community.

The question is that if Tamil National Alliance, TNA, parliamentarian M.A Sumanthiran could accuse the government of being behind attacks on Muslims what is preventing the Muslim parliamentarians from opening their mouths.

Shameful state of affairs was such that while Mr. Sumanthiran accused the government of being behind the attacks on Muslims and had done nothing to protect Muslims, Muslim parliamentarian Faizar Musthapha defended the government claiming that it was “Bodu Bala Sena which was responsible for these attacks”.

However the prevailing view among Muslims is that “how BBS could function as a government within the government and openly violate laws, harass and humiliate Muslims without the government connivance”.

If Faizar Mustapha lives in the planet where we live he should know the pathetic plight of the Muslim community to which he belongs to. The problem with some of the Muslim politicians is that they compete with one another in expressing their hypocritical loyalty to the power that is at the cost of the community. Some even say that it is time that they go for some tuition class to TNA on what is self respect and how to defend the community’s right.

The irony is that these extremists claiming from roof top that “ this is Sinhala Buddhist country” which has no place for minorities who constitute one third of the total population , have forgotten that it was the firm Muslim community’s stand against Tamil separatist struggle, sacrifice and sufferings prevented the breakup of Sri Lanka .

Muslim were attacked and massacred in mosques, ethnic cleansed and their properties and belongings looted, their lands acquired, cultivation destroyed, livestock robbed, fishery industry crippled and virtually deprived of their livelihood throughout the ethnic war. Yet Muslims were steadfast in rejecting the LTTE call for separate Tamil Elam. Had the Muslims joined the LTTE in the early years when the island’s armed forces were very weak there wouldn’t have been a united Sri Lanka today?

The reward for this sacrifice today is organized attacks on Muslims all over the country.

These attacks on Muslims which began with the destruction of a Muslim shrine at Anuradhapura under the watchful eyes of the police around two years ago have now become almost a regular occurrence in one form or other.

For example last month a group of Buddhist extremists went on protest march from Kataragama to Temple Trees to submit a memorandum asking President Mahinda Rajapakse to ban animal slaughter. Is there any need for a provocative march, aimed at whipping up anti Muslim sentiments, to submit a memorandum? The irony is that these marchers who openly flout laws of the land were given police protection.

Days later, on June 30 night a Buddha statue was secretly placed at Azhar Vidyalayam playground in Batticaloa district. This has been the only play ground for students at Azhar Vidyalayam and Shaduliya Vidyalayam.

The playground is located adjacent to a Buddhist Temple and the monks in charge of the temple have demolished the partition wall on 1 March 2010 claiming that the playground belonged to the temple. A complaint was lodged at Valaichenai police followed by filing a case in the court which, in its 25 June 2013 verdict, stated that the playground belongs to the school.

Defying the court verdict, five days later, the temple authorities placed a Buddha statue in the centre of the playground. No one was taken to custody so far.

Ten days later Arafa Mosque in Mahiyangana was desecrated in one of most barbarous manners on Thursday 11 July 2013. The most shameful aspect of this dastardly crime is that this was committed while Muslims observe the Holy Month of Ramadan Fast.

Muslims in the area left the mosque after the Ramadan night, Tharaveeh, prayers around 10 PM. Around 11.10 PM power supply was disconnected only to the area where the mosque is located. Little later six persons wearing masks arrived in three motor cycles with a bucket.

They attacked and threw chili powder on the face of the mosque trustee and businessman Seeni Mohamed who was standing in front of the mosque. Later they threw rocks and tried to break open the front door of the mosque. Unable to break open the front door they broke the windows and entered the mosque where they threw a slaughtered head of a pig, blood, liver, intestines, legs and other such items all over inside the mosque demonstrating their mental frameworks and extreme hatred towards Muslims.

The tragedy is that this happening in a country known as the land of Dhammadipa, known for its 2500 year old Buddhism, Buddhist culture and ancient civilization? Even the aborigines Veddhas never stooped to this low level of barbarism. Do the perpetrators understand the damage they are causing worldwide to the image of the mainstream Sinhala Buddhists?

Muslims in the area contacted Uva Province Minister Anura Gamage who promptly arrived together with the Mahiyangana Police at the scene within 15 minutes. On the advice of Mr Anura Gamage and the police top officers the mosque was cleaned up.

This mosque, built on lands belonging to Mahiyangana Ranmuthu Gold House owner Seeni Mohammad who arrived here 44 years ago from Kattankudi and settled down, has been functioning since 1991. During the past few months there have been repeated threats demanding the trustees to stop Friday Juma prayers and remove the mosque.

As a result the Juma prayer on July 12 was conducted with police protection.

However, as usual, there were no reports so far of any one being arrested. Instead of bringing the culprits to book they were rewarded when the mosque was forced to close down under threats on Friday 19 July. According to reports this was done under pressure by Buddhist extremist Bodu Bala Sena which is planning to hold a meeting shortly in Mahiyangana where the BBS reported to have been very active these days.

In a statement to the media Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem had this to state: “The Mahiyangana Mosque has been targeted for over a week, in what appears to be the latest in an organized series of attacks carried out on mosques and the hate campaign against the Muslims in Sri Lanka by extremist Buddhist groups for many months. Such acts of intolerant especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan hurt the sentiments of the Muslims in the country contributing to further polarization of communities. On an earlier occasion when the mosque came under attack by extremists, evidently, no preventive had been taken.”

Minister also stated that he was reliably informed that Secretary General of Bodu Bala Sena.Ven Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero is openly promoting a hate campaign in the area.

“The government’s impervious attitude to such rising crimes and non action in curbing such mounting hate campaign will be dangerously read as that of stimulating religious violence,” added Minister Hakeem.

Within a week after the attack on this mosque there comes another attack – this time three Buddhist monks set fire to a Muslim owned lorry that had arrived at Baseline Road abattoir at Dematagoda to collect meat. These monks arrived around 1 am, parked their vehicle, threw petrol on the parked lorry, set fire and burnt it before getting into their vehicle and driving towards Dematagoda junction.

In an article in the Tamil daily Thinakkural the National Unity Alliance Chairman Azat Sally stated that this is a move to force Muslims to close down their meat industry and import meat from abroad by vested interests to cripple Muslim economy. Some suspect this also as a move to kick out Muslim traders from there and grab the valuable land. He reiterated that if these attacks are not stopped Muslims will be forced to turn streets to highlight their legitimate right to live in peace.