The Sunday Leader

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.

7 Comments for “There Would Be Another Communal Problem If Campaign Continues – Fowzie”

  1. Riyaz Rauf

    This is one minister that can truly represent the community as he is trusted by the Muslims as well as all other communities.

    In my view the majority of our Buddhist brothers understood the issue and spoke against the anti Muslim campaign in Sinhalese in the Sinhalese media.

    Even the respected Buddhist monks spoke against the actions of a few misguided individuals and recognized there were external elements that wanted to destabilize the harmony we had in our tranquil island nation.

    I am more confident of Sri Lanka today than ever before as the majority Sinhalese Buddhists are speaking up for the rights of the minorities than ever before .

    This is true Buddhism in practice and we should be thankful to our Buddhist brothers for this.

    The misguided activities of a minority was a blessing in disguise that has challenged the different communities to unite together and move forward towards prosperity and interfaith harmony .

    Lets all move forward with the slogan ” One nation one smile ”

    May Allah bless us all and bless our Buddhist brothers with the best of health ,wealth and never ending happiness for respecting and protecting the wishes and aspirations of the minorities .

    Amin.

    Riyaz Rauf
    Toronto Canada.

    • fazmi

      thank you for your article published in propper time with right undestand i hope
      and peay almighty allah for safty of all muslims
      fazmi
      from jeddah

    • Mirage

      Well said Riyaz we needs more people like you…

    • edward

      This is one reason why Muslims cant live in there soil but can live in USA ,Canada ,EU n other countires and provke all problems and ask respects

      • Abdur

        Dear Mr. Edward, could you please explain how the Muslims provoked this issue in Sri Lanka. Please enlighten us.

      • Riyaz Rauf

        This Response if for Mr Edward,

        Only if you come out of your country you will understand the contribution Muslims have done silently for our mother country – Sri Lanka.
        Stretching from Contribution in business, Sports and the War on terror.

        It was not Ranatunga and Cricket that took Sri Lanka to the World stage of Sports but the Contributions of a Muslim namely – M.J.M Lafir who brought the World Championship to Mother Lanka.

        Mr Edward , its the Muslims that lives in Toronto and not the Sinhalese that drove there cars with the National flag fluttering in Toronto at the Height of the Anti Sri lankan campaign organized by the LTTE diaspora that is 400 000 strong.

        Its true the The National flags were less than 12 but it did bring out the Pride in us to have it Amongst 30000 LTTE flags and at a time the Scarborough Buddhist Temple was partly burnt by the LTTE.

        This alone requires guts and Love for ones mother country .

        This is heroism and inspiration for nothing but the love of our country and its more meaningful than carrying the National flag in to the SSC cricket ground and showing off the pride for the National team and tucking it away when they loose by a big margin and take it out only when they perform well.

        At present we see , Tom, Dick and Harry Carrying the national flag in Colombo once the country is secured and safe .

        So brother Edward, please do not Judge others with out knowing there backgrounds,contributions and history.

        Similarly , our Muslim brothers too should appreciate the fact our Buddhist brothers have contributed to our success , well-being and freedom.

        ” A chain is only strong as its weakest link ” ,

        Think of our country as the Chain and make sure every community that is a link is strong and make the chain stronger and fight the common enemies.

        The country will not benefit if only 74 links ( Buddhist %) are strong and 10 links ( Muslim %) are very week . Make every one strong by believing in the concept of “one nation – one smile – strong and united”

        May Our Sri Lanka be Blessed

        Mohamed Riyaz Rauf

  2. Riyaz Rauf

    Why the Buddhist can eat meat with some limited restrictions.

    What the Buddha Said About Eating Meat
    Ajahn Brahmavamso

    Since the very beginning of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monks and nuns have depended on alms food. They were, and still are, prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Instead, every morning they would make their day’s meal out of whatever was freely given to them by lay supporters. Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine. The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate – and that was often meat.
    Once, a rich and influential general by the name of Siha (meaning ‘Lion’) went to visit the Buddha. Siha had been a famous lay supporter of the Jain monks but he was so impressed and inspired by the Teachings he heard from the Buddha that he took refuge in the Triple Gem (i.e. he became a Buddhist). General Siha then invited the Buddha, together with the large number of monks accompanying Him, to a meal at his house in the city the following morning. In preparation for the meal, Siha told one of his servants to buy some meat from the market for the feast. When the Jain monks heard of their erstwhile patron’s conversion to Buddhism and the meal that he was preparing for the Buddha and the monks, they were somewhat peeved:
    “Now at the time many Niganthas (Jain monks), waving their arms, were moaning from carriage road to carriage road, from cross road to cross road in the city: ‘Today a fat beast, killed by Siha the general, is made into a meal for the recluse Gotama (the Buddha), the recluse Gotama makes use of this meat knowing that it was killed on purpose for him, that the deed was done for his sake’…” [1].
    Permission for Meat eating
    Siha was making the ethical distinction between buying meat already prepared for sale and ordering a certain animal to be killed, a distinction which is not obvious to many westerners but which recurs throughout the Buddha’s own teachings. Then, to clarify the position on meat eating to the monks, the Buddha said:
    “Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.” [2]
    There are many places in the Buddhist scriptures which tell of the Buddha and his monks being offered meat and eating it. One of the most interesting of these passages occurs in the introductory story to a totally unrelated rule (Nissaggiya Pacittiya 5) and the observation that the meat is purely incidental to the main theme of the story emphasizes the authenticity of the passage:
    Uppalavanna (meaning ‘she of the lotus-like complexion’) was one of the two chief female disciples of the Buddha. She was ordained as a nun while still a young woman and soon became fully enlightened. As well as being an arahant (enlightened) she also possessed various psychic powers to the extent that the Buddha declared her to be foremost among all the women in this field. Once, while Uppalavanna was meditating alone in the afternoon in the ‘Blind-Men’s Grove’, a secluded forest outside of the city of Savatthi, some thieves passed by. The thieves had just stolen a cow, butchered it and were escaping with the meat. Seeing the composed and serene nun, the chief of the thieves quickly put some of the meat in a leaf-bag and left it for her. Uppalavanna picked up the meat and resolved to give it to the Buddha. Early next morning, having had the meat prepared, she rose into the air and flew to where the Buddha was staying, in the Bamboo Grove outside of Rajagaha, over 200 kilometres as the crow (or nun?) flies! Though there is no specific mention of the Buddha actually consuming this meat, obviously a nun of such high attainments would certainly have known what the Buddha ate.
    Prohibitions in meat
    However there are some meats which are specifically prohibited for monks to eat: human meat, for obvious reasons; meat from elephants and horses as these were then considered royal animals; dog meat – as this was considered by ordinary people to be disgusting; and meat from snakes, lions, tigers, panthers, bears and hyenas – because one who had just eaten the flesh of such dangerous jungle animals was thought to give forth such a smell as to draw forth revenge from the same species!
    Prohibition of Vegetarianism
    Towards the end of the Buddha’s life, his cousin Devadatta attempted to usurp the leadership of the Order of monks. In order to win support from other monks, Devadatta tried to be more strict than the Buddha and show Him up as indulgent. Devadatta proposed to the Buddha that all the monks should henceforth be vegetarians. The Buddha refused and repeated once again the regulation that he had established years before, that monks and nuns may eat fish or meat as long as it is not from an animal whose meat is specifically forbidden, and as long as they had no reason to believe that the animal was slaughtered specifically for them.
    The Vinaya, then, is quite clear on this matter. Monks and nuns may eat meat. Even the Buddha ate meat. Unfortunately, meat eating is often seen by westerners as an indulgence on the part of the monks. Nothing could be further from the truth – I was a strict vegetarian for three years before I became a monk. In my first years as a monk in North-East Thailand, when I bravely faced many a meal of sticky rice and boiled frog (the whole body bones and all), or rubbery snails, red-ant curry or fried grasshoppers – I would have given ANYTHING to be a vegetarian again! On my first Christmas in N.E. Thailand an American came to visit the monastery a week or so before the 25th. It seemed too good to be true, he had a turkey farm and yes, he quickly understood how we lived and promised us a turkey for Christmas. He said that he would choose a nice fat one especially for us… and my heart sank. We cannot accept meat knowing it was killed especially for monks. We refused his offer. So I had to settle for part of the villager’s meal – frogs again.
    Monks may not exercise choice when it comes to food and that is much harder than being a vegetarian. Nonetheless, we may encourage vegetarianism and if our lay supporters brought only vegetarian food and no meat, well… monks may not complain either!

    May you take the hint and be kind to animals.
    References:
    [1] Book of the Discipline, Vol. 4, p. 324
    [2] ibid, p. 325
    Ajahn Brahmavamso

    (Newsletter, April-June 1990, Buddhist Society of Western Australia.)

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