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Hard Lessons BBS Has Taught Us

Friday, 8 March, 2013 4:04 PM
From: “Mohamed Harees” <ml_harees@yahoo.co.uk>
Dear Brothers /Sisters in Islam, Assalamu Alaiqum
Internal circulation Only
Hard Lessons BBS Has Taught Us
 
Ever  seen a barking shepherd dog running round a disorganized flock of sheep , to make them go in a certain direction!  Well! Think of the BBS and its’ barking partners as ‘God sent’, in this metaphorical sense.  Their barks, in my view, have at least  managed to wake us up from our slumber and underlined the need to organize ourselves .All we got to do is to  learn lessons from their barks ,while avoiding  their hateful bite. Good shepherd (our Creator) knows best. We must therefore take the crisis our community is going through as a wake up call and an opportunity afforded by Allah to put our house in order. The lessons this BBS/JHU led crisis portends are many, if we care to observe. We must not let go this opportunity to do what is right , stand up for our rights and even reform our ways of need be.
First and foremost,  this fiasco makes it incumbent on the community to form a ‘Think- Tank’ or Shura Council consisting of religious scholars, intellectuals and representatives of social service organizations to take a holistic/ proactive  approach in putting our house in order  and deciding strategic matters on our behalf.  Preserving our identity ,the  dignity of our community and working with other communities for common benefit will be I am sure, acts of  Farl Kifayah , in the present context, which responsibility will fall on a body of  this nature.
It’s true that we, Muslims in Sri Lanka are going through hard ,emotionally challenging times, because of the BBS barks and also its’ biting threats. We must not however lose hope.. These trials and tribulations  are only a test from Allah. Besides, this also gives us an opportunity to understand the pains and suffering of  global Ummah , in other parts of the world . In these times, we must be firm in our belief that Allah alone can help us and give us dignity. We must also not forget  the fact that Sri Lankan Muslims derive their identity from their religion , as opposed to a common language as in the case of the Sinhalese and the Tamils.  Islam gave us our identity  and is our guiding light . So, our solutions should be also be sought in accordance with Islam and not at the expense of its’ values.
The reason for bringing this point is that as a community, we should not cross the limits of Dheen or ‘throw the baby with the bath water’ in trying to accommodate others’ cultural values. It is admirable that our community is  rightly going to great lengths in  winning over the goodwill of the mainstream the Sinhala Buddhist people. We are being commended on the  measured and civilized manner of our response , when hate mongering packs were screaming at our throats. Our community took part in joint Independence Day events and also getting involved in helping good causes initiated by other communities.  However, we must also keep in mind that as Muslims, we cannot  adopt certain practices , which will adversely impact on our Imaan or compromise our religious values  just to satisfy these vested interests.
Let the BBS barks not lead us to panic and laxity ,but instead encourage us get more involved in the social life in this country, while not compromising our Islamic identity . It was regrettable for example that  some Muslims have reportedly  helped financially to build up Buddha statues in some areas, which are against the basic teachings of Islam.  We must also be careful in responding to or reciprocating the gestures of Buddhists who organized ‘Ifthar’ inside temples. There are also suggestions being floated around ( in websites ) inviting  Muslims to reciprocate these gestures by allowing Buddhist ‘bana’ or pirith in Masjids as well. In this muddle, some principals have requested Muslim pupils to prostrate before teachers and sought to keep out Hijab from schools as well. These are areas where we should carefully tread and diplomatically avoid , in order to protect our beliefs. Let ACJU lead in raising awareness among Muslims of what are allowed and what are not , in promoting peaceful coexistence. Otherwise .if unchecked or unguided, this will lead to untoward consequences in the future.
Another area we must not compromise is the dignity of our community .  It is a life and death issue for the community .  We are aware that BBS is drawing inspiration from Anagarika Dharmapala ,who was well known for his extreme anti-Muslim stance .  Besides their ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ platform and cries are nothing new, as renown historian K.M. De Silva says : ‘The emphasis on Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhala Buddhists carried an emotional popular appeal, compared with which the concept of a multi-ethnic polity was a meaningless abstraction…”..’ Therefore, it will be futile to convince these extremist elements to accept the’ multi-ethnic multi-lingual character of the Sri-Lankan nation. They will maintain that Sinhala Buddhists are the hosts and other communities are only guests. What we must do is to work with the government and the other professional and social groups to undertake a series of  public awareness programs at the grass root levels, and also school focussed programs to underline this poly-ethnic character and officially counter the xenophobic messages given by BBS. We should not allow the government to forsake their obligations under the UDHR and the country’s Constitution  and pursue a policy of ‘ running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’. It is great that many professional groups ,latest being the Friday Forum led by Mr Jayantha Dhanapala and Prof .Savithri Goonesekere  have begun to take the government to task for failing in this task. If we fail to hold the government to account for failure to protect our rights to practice our religion and culture at this stage, or  continue to turn a blind eye for the failure of the law enforcement authorities to prosecute those who caused offence to our religious beliefs, heritage and damaged the property of the Muslims , then we are only encouraging the BBS to transform their barks into ‘bites’ .
We have also seen the BBS and their likes barking at our claims of a 1000 year old history. We must begin to publish books and works in Sinhala with documentary evidence about our heritage and also about our contributions to society. We must also establish a research unit to undertake further studies. ACJU  must also through Khutbas advise our community to desist from destroying our heritage sites, based on flimsy religious reasons. People like Dr Anas and Dr Shukri could lead these initiatives . Another area of vital importance will be the establishment of a Media Unit in Sinhala to start off online TV sites and more online Sinhala newspaper to counter hostile propaganda . The services of  eminent journalists of the likes of  Latheef Farook, and online bloggers like Anver Manatunge can be co-opted.  More Khutbas in Sinhala should  be encouraged.
ACJU/ Shura Council should also liaise and coordinate with Muslim Diaspora groups in many capitals in the world in respect of funding issues as well as lobbying issues beyond our borders, if it comes to such stage. This coordinated approach will prevent irresponsible overseas groups taking up issues on their own ,without considering the implications within  the country.
Finally, this BBS fiasco has also brought to light the need for all Muslim factions to desist from the blaming game and washing dirty linen in public . ACJU/ Shura Council should reinforce unity among our community and also reign in rebel elements whose short sighted actions may harm our interests. Further, it is also useful to ascertain whether our community needs more masjids without an underlying need . Rather, we could even counteract BBS propaganda ,if we care to extend masjid facilities beyond mere worship , to transform them as community  centres to undertake family ,youth and community development programs, like the times of Prophet (Sal) and his Sahabas (Rali)
These are few thoughts/ lessons for us to reflect and act upon and may Allah help us.
Lukman Harees
UK