No cause for alarm | Daily News

No cause for alarm

President Maithripala Sirisena has appealed to the majority community not to discriminate against the Muslims as a whole or view them with suspicion or hostility, in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terror attacks, lest this create a situation similar to the one that drove ordinary Tamils into the arms of the LTTE terrorists. Following suit is Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey. Issuing a statement he has called on the public not to demonize the entire Muslim community because of the crime of a few. "Muslims have lived among us for hundreds of years, and, therefore, I appeal to the authorities, politicians as well as the media and public not to demonize the Muslim community for the sins of a few delusional individuals”.

No doubt, all right thinking people who view the situation dispassionately would agree with the President and the Head of the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka. Muslims have lived in brotherhood with the majority Sinhalese for generations. To begin with, the Sinhalese have had no major issues with the Muslims right throughout. They (Muslims) have never demanded a separate state nor sought special recognition in any other sphere. In fact the Muslims suffered as much as the Sinhalese at the hands of the LTTE, having being driven from their homesteads sans all possessions and belongings. There has never been any organised uprising by the Muslims against the Lankan state. Muslims and Sinhalese had always lived in harmony in geographical areas dominated by either community, engaged in trade and doing business with each other.

Besides, the Easter Sunday carnage was the work of a tiny group of Islamist fanatics who have been disowned by the mainstream Muslims. There is no movement among the Muslim community which shows signs of waging a long term struggle to win demands of any kind. Hence, there is no reason to view the Muslim community with a jaundiced eye. In contrast, the Tamils were viewed with suspicion by the Sinhalese due to the campaign by Tamil politicians, since Independence, to breakaway from the Sinhalese and carve out a separate state. Matters exacerbated when the LTTE, which was nurtured by the Tamil politicians, launched an armed struggle to win their demand. Thus, all Tamils, rightly or wrongly, were viewed with suspicion. The common response often give by a Sinhalese to a Tamil during an altercation that he (the Tamil) go to Jaffna to get things done eva yapane gihing karaganda exemplified this chasm between the two communities.

This is not the case with the Muslims. No Sinhala individual will ask any Muslim to go to Samanthurai or Kalmunai. This is because there was no region based division, with both communities firmly integrated.

Hence, there is no reason for things to change to any significant degree. Both the President and the Bishop can take assurance that the Muslims will be viewed by the majority community from a different perspective. There is no case for Muslim youth leaving in their numbers to join a homegrown terrorist outfit. As mentioned, the unfortunate incidents were linked to an International Jihadist network which the entire Western world is fighting against. In that respect Sri Lanka will have strong allies to help root out the menace from our soil.

True, relations have been strained, somewhat, following the barbaric attacks and it would take a while before things settle down. This is why every effort should be made to bring the communities together by allaying all fears and suspicions. Muslim political leaders can do much by way of assurances to the majority community (Here too in the case of Tamil political leaders there was only silence in the face of LTTE atrocities). They (Muslim politicians) should play a more pro-active role to diffuse the situation. It must be mentioned that they acted with circumspection and understanding with regard to the ban imposed on the burka and niqab without making an issue about it. Some of them were also instrumental in the arrest of Jihadi suspects and it was the Moulavis who tipped off the Security Forces as to the goings on in the terrorist Safe House in Sainthamarandu. Such acts, no doubt, could go a long way in establishing the bonafides of the mainstream Muslims and re-establishing strained relations.

Meanwhile, according to media reports, the Pevedi Handa headed by firebrand Buddhist monk Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera is planning to stage a Sangha protest against, among other things, urging the Government to fulfill election promises, in defiance of the prevailing Emergency regulations. This certainly is a case of fishing in troubled waters at a time when the Bikkhu community in general has rallied round the Catholic community in their hour of grief (Television on Wednesday showed a large group of Buddhist monks led by the Ven. Baddegama Samitha Thera engaged in cleaning up the bomb ravaged Katuwapitiya Church). Ven. Muruththettuwe Thera, who is a staunch supporter of Mahinda Rajapaksa, no doubt, in bent on whipping up anti-Government hysteria -whether at the instance of the former President or not, it is not clear. If in the negative, it behoves on Rajapaksa to instill some good sense into the Ven. Thera. After all he (Rajapaksa) has pledged support to the Government in this hour of national crisis.


 

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