CAIRO – In an effort to defuse tension over halal meat, Sri Lanka’s imams appealed Thursday, February 21, to Muslim traders not to serve halal to non-Muslims the Buddhist-majority country.
“We want to promote peaceful co-existence and harmony,” Rizwe Mufthi, president of All-Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Sri Lanka's main Muslim body, told a conference cited by The Statesman.
“That is why we are asking that halal certified products are not offered to non-Muslims.”
Tension has been growing in Sri Lanka over halal meat in the Buddhist-majority country.
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A hardline Buddhist group known as "Bodu Bala Sena", or Buddhist Force, has called for banning the sale of halal food in Sri Lanka, a call resisted by the government.
The group staged a rally on Saturday to call for a boycott of halal products in the country.
The hardline group has also given an ultimatum to Muslims to shelf all halal products by the end of March.
It argues that non-Muslims, mostly Buddhist, are being forced to consume food items certified halal.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
Muslim imams hope that their call for limiting the sale of halal products would help ease tension in the country.
"Since the halal certification has been misunderstood the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama has decided to request the manufactures who have already obtained the certification to confine the certification to the products offered for sale to the Muslim Community only," said Rizwe.
Sri Lanka has been thrown into tension following a string of serious incidents involving extremist Buddhist provocations against Muslims.
In June, some 200 demonstrators led by several dozen Buddhist monks converged on a small Islamic center in Colombo’s suburb of Dehiwala.
Throwing stones and rotten meat over the mosque gate, protestors shouted slogans demanding the closure of the Muslim worship place.
Earlier in April, a number of Buddhist monks disrupted Muslim prayer services in the village of Dambulla. The attackers claimed that the mosque, built in 1962, was illegal.
Weeks later, monks drafted a threatening letter aimed at Muslims in the nearby town of Kurunegala, demanding Islamic prayer services there be halted.
A ministerial committee has been appointed by Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into growing religious tension in the country.
The main Opposition UNP has accused the Buddhist Force of having covert blessings from the government for their campaign of Muslim hatred, a claim denied by the group.
Sri Lankan Muslims, known as “Moors”, are the third largest ethnic group in the country after the Sinhalese, who make up 70 percent of the populace, and Tamils, who account for 12.5 percent.
Analysts say successive governments have been under pressure to give in to the Buddhist majority whenever there is an ethnic clash.
During the country’s long civil war, the Muslim community was often caught between the two warring parties and it has a reputation for moderation.
Muslims live scattered throughout the island from Galle in the south to the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula in the north.
Generally they are involved in commerce, from running local dry goods stores to dominating the wealthy gem business associated with Ratnapura [Jewel City] and much of the capital's import-export business.On the west coast, Muslims are primarily in business and trade, while on the east coast they are agriculturists, fishers and traders.
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