CAIRO — Falling victims to intimidation and destruction of property, Sri Lanka Muslims are voicing deep worries about replacing Tamils as Buddhists’ new primary enemy.
“We have lived peacefully, united, with other faiths for centuries,” Sheik Fazil Farook, media secretary for the Congress of Muslim Theologians, an organization of 6,000 scholars in Sri Lanka, told The Star on Tuesday, January 14.
“Only in the recent past has there been turbulence by a very few groups who are trying to divide the community, hardliners who claim to be Buddhists.
“The majority do not approve of them.”
As the end of the civil war brought hopes that the country could become united, frequent attacks by radical Buddhists suggest Sri Lanka faces have thrown the country into a fresh internal tension.
During the 30-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LITE) and the central government, the island’s Muslims, though Tamil-speaking, sided with the government against the LTTE.
This was in part a result of thousands of Muslims being ejected from Jaffna in the early 1990s.
The recent calls by the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s to hold an international probe into the alleged human right violations during LTTE war were vehemently condemned by Sri Lanka Muslims.
“This turbulence is new to us. I think they fear the extremism, the terrorism that prevails in other parts of the world,” Farook, a sixth generation Sri Lankan, said.
“But Muslims in Sri Lanka are very well educated. We have a 99 per cent literacy level. We’re not going to support terrorism. We never have in the past.
Refuting allegations of Sri Lanka's Islamization, Farook said: “They say we’re going to bring in Shari`ah law, even though we tell them over and over again that we have no interest in doing so.
“This is not an Islamic country.”
In their recent crackdown on the Muslim minorities, Sri Lanka Buddhists attacked the thriving halal industry in the Asian country, requesting the removal of the halal logo.
“This really shocked us,” Farook said.
“But we decided, OK, we’ll give it up. This was meat going into their houses too.
“Only one of 52 companies withdrew their certificate. But they’re still halal, so it really had no impact.”
Eyeing market monopoly, which has been hindered by the spread of the halal production, companies are fighting halal meat for commercial gains.
“We’re 10 per cent of the population but the Halal companies had captured 20 per cent of the market,” Farook claimed.
“That’s really why they were angry.”
In a dear sacrifice to save their country’s harmony, Muslim scholars in Sri Lanka decided in March 2013, to give up the halal logo on all products to help ease tension with Buddhists.
Feeling let down by their community, Muslims are decrying backlash against them despite their loyalty and contributions in the Indian Ocean's northern Island.
“This is the Prophetic approach — be calm, be peaceful. The more you aggravate him, the more forbearing he becomes,” Farook said.
“We have never degraded any religion, certainly not the ideology of Buddhism. We give the highest amount of dignity to religious communities.
“We respect a monk more than the Buddhist community respects them.
“Muslims have lived in this country since the time of ancient kings and we have made a lot of sacrifices. Muslims supported the government to bring an end to the war.
“We have been loyal.
“All we want is for the rule of law to prevail for us too.”
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.
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