The Sunday Leader

Govt. Has Allowed Hate Campaigns Against Muslims To Go Unchecked – Hashim

  • Govt. trying to blame minorities for its failure to deliver

UNP Kegalle District parliamentarian and economist Kabir Hashim says the anti-Muslim campaign carried out in the country is politically motivated to divert people’s attention from the Government’s failures. He observed that the current anti-Muslim campaign would be detrimental in the sense that the international community has already made many allegations against the Government on its inaction to protect the democratic rights of citizens. Criticizing the Muslim political leaders in the Government, Hashim says, “Muslim Ministers haven’t got the spine to bring these issues up to their Government and to tell them that there is a deliberate conspiracy to create communal discord in the country.”

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: What in your view has prompted a sudden anti-Muslim sentiment in the country?
A: I believe that it is mostly a politically motivated campaign to divert the people’s attention away from non-performance by the Government. The Government has failed to deliver its promise of an “Ashcharya” to the majority of this country and the easiest way is to put the blame of all economic, social and political woes on the minority. I say so because more civil and saner channels of dialogue could have been initiated by the Government to address whatever allegations or issues that may have arisen and may have caused doubts in the minds of a section of the Buddhists. Instead, the Government which has the law enforcement arm well under its control has allowed dangerous “hate campaigns”, acts of inciting communal hatred and an anti Muslim campaign to go unchecked.

Q: How do you respond to the various allegations leveled by the Sinhala Buddhist extremist groups that have commenced a campaign against the Muslims?
A: Muslims in this country have never demanded anything outside their constitutional rights granted to citizens. They have been well integrated with the Sinhala community. I do not wish to go into the various allegations of which most are unfounded. If there are genuine concerns among the Buddhists then there is always the opportunity for the Government to facilitate a dialogue between the leaders of both communities and to address those allegations instead of taking to the streets and creating communal discord and damaging the country’s reputation. In the alternative there is always the recourse to make a complaint to the relevant authorities like the Defence Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry, and the Trade Ministry etc. Today young Muslims are becoming more conscious of their religion and are dressing in a more orthodox fashion. This is misconstrued as extremism. These misconceptions must be explained and cleared.

Q: These groups have called on the President to appoint a select committee to inquire into the grievances of the Sinhala Buddhists in the country as opposed to the religious and ethnic extremism that is raising its head in the country. What do you think the outcome of such a move would be?
A: As the Opposition Leader said in his speech in Parliament, a select committee in Parliament will only serve to waste valuable time and to open fresh wounds through allegations and counter allegations. There are incidents of planned acts inciting communal discord. The need of the hour is for the Government to enforce law and order and then address the complaints made and verify the veracity of it and take suitable action if there is any truth. If any allegations made are true, then whether it is a Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, he should be dealt with.

Q: What are the grievances of the Muslims in the country?
A: Most people judge the Muslims wrongly thinking that they are controlling a large part of the economy. There is a small minority of high-end Muslim businessmen. But the majority of the Muslim community is living in great hardship. Usually unlike the Sinhala or Tamil community, the man is the only breadwinner as the woman is usually a housewife unlike in other communities where most often both husband and wife work. Access to good education is hard to come by. That is why in Colombo city most young Muslim boys end up on the streets doing various illegal businesses. Less than 4% of Muslims are employed in the Public sector. Most young Muslim girls and boys have no option but to go as housemaids and labourers to foreign soil and to toil to make some money to look after their parents and families. Rizana Nafeek is not an exception but a more a rule in the Muslim community. This is the actual situation. They have limited schools to go to. The other public schools seldom admit a Muslim child and hence they end up paying exorbitant fees to attend International schools. But, we do not complain or demand because we see that even the Sinhala and Tamil communities has their own share of problems. It is a Government’s duty to prioritize issues and provide solutions.

Q: Do you think that the Muslim political leadership has addressed the current religious extremism against Muslims? What more could be done?
A: Unfortunately the Muslim Ministers haven’t got spines to bring these issues up to their Government and to tell them that there is a deliberate conspiracy to create communal discord in the country. Instead they have made statements that it is an international conspiracy. It looks like Wimal Weerawansa still has a fan club left. I ask these Ministers that when a mob went into Kuliyapitiya town and shouted anti Muslim slogans and had a painting or picture of a pig with the name of God written inside it, why didn’t the Police take action? Why did the Government allow the breakdown of law and order? Is that also an international conspiracy? The UNP organizer for Kuliyapitiya, Hon. Akila Kariyawasam and the UNP Provincial Council Member, M. Nazeer made a complaint to the Police and still no action was taken. Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe had named some of the participants involved during his speech in Parliament. But still no action has been taken by the Government. The Muslim Leaders should immediately talk to senior Buddhist Leaders and look at the allegations and if there is any truth in them, then they should address them immediately and win the confidence of the majority. We have nurtured and protected our unity and it is the responsibility of all to protect it.

Q: What role do you think the opposition political parties could play at this juncture? Do you think that the UNP has addressed the issue?
A: As the Opposition, we have taken members of the Muslim community to meet the Opposition Leader and as a result he was the first person to speak out against this anti Muslim campaign in Parliament. Not one Muslim Minister or for that matter no Government member spoke against it. Hon. Lakshman Kiriella and Hon. Dayasiri Jayasekera too voiced their protest against these acts in Parliament. The Opposition Leader is also meeting with senior members of the Buddhist clergy and also the Bodu Bala Sena to address the current situation.

Q: What impact would the current anti-Muslim campaign have on the country?
A: It will be detrimental in the sense that the international community already has made many allegations against the Government on its inaction to protect the democratic rights of citizens. The UN session starts in about a month. There are implications for the country.

Q: What would the worst case scenario be? Would it be a Jihad?
A: Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe defined “JIHAD” rightly in Parliament as said by eminent writer, Rudolph Peters: Jihad in modern history describes the concept as “the inner struggle” by a believer to fulfill his religious duties”. Even before the Holy Prophet, Lord Buddha too preached that we need to free ourselves from “Thanhaawa”. So this word “Jihad” is misunderstood and misused. The protection for all communities is enshrined in our Constitution and we should look to Leaders who will enforce the Constitutional guarantees given to all citizens

Q: Are you satisfied with the statements made by the Government on the matter? What action do you think the Government should take to stop the campaign from moving any further?
A: I am not satisfied with Government action. Hon. Nimal Siripala’s statement in Parliament did not even acknowledge that there is an anti Muslim campaign. The sad part is Hon. Rauf Hakeem also seemed to agree with this statement that every thing is hunky dory in the “Ashcharya”.

Q: What sort of implication do you think the campaign against Muslims would have on the country at international level?
A: It will have serious ramifications since we as a country have already been hauled up before the UN committee. I think it will have serious consequences and it should be checked.

Q: Do you have confidence that the current Government could bring about reconciliation among the communities in the country?
A: The Government submitted an LLRC report to the UN in which it said it is striving to build a Sri Lankan identity amongst all communities. So far by their actions would anybody believe it? I put your question to the people of this country – Do you believe that this Government can bring reconciliation amongst all communities and groups?

1 Comment for “Govt. Has Allowed Hate Campaigns Against Muslims To Go Unchecked – Hashim”

  1. sangaralingham

    i am really saddened by the comments quoted re suffering our muslim sisters brothers but as a citizen all groups must see their rights and priviledges are protected by strong constituton. segregated divided society is bad for the country its social justice economic growth and most important for the inner peace of the citizens. numbers does not make society too many rotten fruits always make the whole lot unapprtisable. citizens should educate to respect each other learn from other religions culture to build cultured morally profitable society. mus start from all the leaders of the communities.

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