There Would Be Another Communal Problem If Campaign Continues – Fowzie
- Govt. must ensure citizens the right to follow a religion of their choice
Senior Minister for Urban Affairs A. H. M. Fowzie says the current issue over the anti-Muslim campaign launched by some extremist forces must be approached very carefully in order to ensure that there would not be any kind of provocation on either side. “The Muslims have had good relations with the Sinhalese Buddhists. But there has been a sudden change,” he said. Fowzie observed that the Government has taken action to safeguard all religions in the country and is committed to do so. However, he added that the current situation would have a negative impact on the country before the international community.
Following are excerpts:
Q: Why do you think a sudden anti-Muslim campaign has commenced in the country?
A: I’m also wondering why such a campaign has started. The Muslim community has been friends with all other communities in the country. The Muslims have had good relations with the Sinhalese Buddhists. But there has been a sudden change. I’m wondering if outside forces are trying to create problems for the Government by carrying out an anti-Muslim campaign. At one time, the Sinhalese considered Muslims very trustworthy. In the past, Muslim traders performed the duties of banks where the Sinhalese community was concerned. There was such trust and confidence between the Muslims and the Sinhalese. Therefore, the current situation must be approached very carefully in order to ensure that there would not be any kind of provocation on either side. I do not consider Sinhalese Buddhists to be communal minded. If that were the case, they would not have elected me as the number 1 candidate from the Colombo District when there were so many Sinhalese Buddhist candidates.
Q: How do you respond to the allegations leveled against the Muslims by extremist groups?
A: There are no extremist groups among the Muslims. The younger generation of Muslims have not only leant the Quran, but can also translate it. They work towards purifying their existence and getting the blessings of Allah. As for the halal certification, the income generated through issuing the certification is not sufficient to even pay the staff salaries at the organization. I have even told the Jamiyyathul Ulama that we will contribute to continue with its work. We as Muslims have to eat, dress and live according to our religion, which is called halal. If it is not according to our religion, it is haram. For example, the clothes I wear have to be purchased from monies earned the proper way or it would be haram. It is all about living according to the God’s way of life. Halal is not forced upon any one it is a way of life for the Muslims.
Q: Do you believe the Government has made the necessary intervention to prevent religious and ethnic extremism in the country?
A: The Government has taken action to safeguard all religions in the country. In the present situation, the Government has spoken to Buddhist priests and discussed concerns. This is a sensitive issue and had to be dealt with accordingly.
Q: Are you satisfied with the actions of the Muslim political leadership in the country over the anti-Muslim campaign?
A: The so-called Muslim political leaders are not united. Some feel that it is better to first watch the situation before taking any action, and some have tried to expose other Muslim leaders in a bid to score points. I have discussed issues of concern with Muslim leaders and requested the President to intervene in the matter.
Q: What role have you played as a senior Muslim minister in Government?
A: I have continuously spoken about this issue with the President, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Muslim leaders and I have presented our issues to them and after hearing what we have said they have all said that our presentation was reasonable. They have ensured that religious harmony would be safeguarded.
Q: What do you think would happen if the anti-Muslim campaign continues without the Government taking any steps to stop it?
A: I hope and pray that it would not continue. In such a scenario there would be another communal problem. We are just recovering from 30 years of war. Another communal problem would prevent us from enjoying the hard won peace and the development work.
Q: Would the Muslims be pushed to an armed struggle if the anti-Muslim campaign continues?
A: There’s no armed struggle. Jihad is a struggle that is within our community. It is not a fight or a battle to kill each other. Jihad is to get a Muslim to follow the holy path or God’s way of life. For example getting a Muslim who stays away from mosque to visit the mosque and pray is jihad.
Q: What impact would the anti-Muslim campaign have on the Government’s attempt to create reconciliation among communities in the country?
A: The Government must ensure that all are citizens of Sri Lanka and have the right to follow a religion of their choice in peace.
Q: What implications do you think the country would have to face internationally due to the current situation?
A: It would be very bad internationally. The current issue could be used as a slogan to say that there is no place for minorities in the country. It would therefore go badly against the Government. The so-called anti-Muslim community wants to do just that. They are trying to expose Sri Lanka in a bad light before the international community. The Jamiyyathul Ulama that issues the halal certificate has been there for 15 years. It is important to understand that the Muslims have to make sure that all their actions are according to Allah’s teachings. It is obvious that this campaign is politically motivated. The head of the Jamiyyathul Ulama campaigned for the Government at the UNHRC sessions last March. He is now being targeted because of it. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that the head of the Jamiyyathul Ulama had called for a meeting during the last Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) election and asked people to vote for the Government candidate Milinda Moragoda. All these statement indicate that this campaign is politically motivated.