Tuesday 12 February, 2013
HISTORY, HARPING AND MUSLIMS
Third Response to Shenali Waduge
Hameed Abdul Karim
This halaal certificate affair keeps coming up in Shenali Waduge’s every argument, despite the fact that I explained this in my very first response. So I am compelled to repeat myself. The halaal issue popped up when non-Muslim restaurants like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC opened shop here. It was they who approached Jamaithul Ullama for this endorsement so that they could cater to Muslim clients fearing that if they didn’t have this certificate they would lose out on the Muslim consumer. As far as I know only these three establishments ‘hang’ these certificates. I can understand her ‘grievances’ if you find halaal certificates ‘hanging’ in Saiva or Sinhala Kamay Kades dotted all over the country. The halaal certificate is not compulsory as Shenali would have us believe. A popular biscuit factory, a soap factory and a foreign food outlet have rejected the halaal certificate. No Muslim is complaining. But of course you wouldn’t expect Muslims to buy these products or eat at outlets that proclaim they are not halaal. And I don’t think anybody should find fault with us over this.
Moreover, much as certain quarters would dislike this, the halaal certificate assures the strictest of vegetarians among us that the halaal tag on biscuits, soaps and other consumer products are for their benefit. The halaal certificate ensures them that no lard or any animal substance has been used in the production of these items. Lard is derived from pig fat. The Vegetarian Society of England is rather fussy about ensuring that no such stuff gets into biscuits or other consumer products in the UK. Just look at how Thailand, a Thervada Buddhist nation, has gone about the halaal certificate issue. The Thai government is directly involved in ensuring the halaal tag is strictly adhered to and this has boosted their exports tremendously.
The Sunday Times of February 3, 2013 quotes Moulavi Mubarak saying that the ACJU is all too willing to stop issuing halaal certification, but he adds that Economic Minister Hon. Basil Rajapaksa has requested him not to do that. What now? Is Basil Rajapaksa also a part of the halaal ‘conspiracy’?
On the same page of the said newspaper, we have a Buddhist monk telling us that he has ‘reliable’ evidence that Muslims are been trained in terrorist activists. If that is the case then what have the CID, Police or the Military intelligence been doing? Shouldn’t such pronouncements come from them?
Besides if the Muslim issue of halaal tag was the major concern, tell me why churches and kovils come under attack? Why are Christian pastors being assaulted? Why, only the other day a statue of Mother Mary was damaged in an act of vandalism. Doesn't this suggest that there is a campaign underway in the country against all minorities?
In a previous article she has claimed that there were no non-Muslim judges in Muslim countries, but because of space constraints I avoided answering that question. Well, there are non Muslim judges in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Justice Rana Bhagwandas a Hindu was a senior judge of the Pakistani judiciary. He served as the acting chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan at a crucial time during the judicial crisis in Pakistan. Presently he is chairman of the Federal Public Service. He was the third non-Muslim chief justice in Pakistan. Incidentally the percentage of non-Muslims in Pakistan is only 3%.
Churches, Kovils and Temples
There are many churches, Kovils and Temples in Muslim countries. There is a Kovil in UAE for Hindus and a Gurdhwara for Sikhs as well. Buddhist temples are found in Malaysia and Indonesia. Don’t forget the Borobudur site in Indonesia. It was built in the 9th century and today it is the Cultural Heritage Triangle.
In Kuwait too there are churches despite the fact that there are only 200 Kuwaiti Christians. Many Churches exist in Kuwait. Kuwait's largest cathedral is situated in the eastern part of Kuwait city .And all over Arab/Muslim lands there are so many churches that you will lose count. A famous one in Iraq was bombed by the Americans in what they call the ‘First Gulf War’.
There are numerous and kovils in Pakistan scattered all over the country. I have personally visited one church in Lahore. I also had the good fortune of visiting the famous Sikh temple there. Moreover, Pakistan takes great pride in preserving its Buddhist sites in Taxila and about a year or so ago they sent Buddhist artifacts for display in Sri Lanka as a gesture of goodwill. Long years ago I met two Buddhist monks from Kashmir and they told me there were Buddhist monasteries in existence and they have had no trouble at all with the freedom fighters there. There are numerous churches in Iran as well as synagogues. Moreover, Pakistan and Iran have reserved seats in their respective parliaments for minority groups.
Now that I have said this let me say that I suspect there is a subtle attempt to create rifts between minority communities in Sri Lanka. Buddhist and Christian priests I associate with share the same view.
In her alarmist views Shenali Waduge creates a picture to indicate that there is a huge conspiracy to finish off Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Nothing could be further from the truth. Her statement that the Saudi authorities don’t permit religious books into the country is true. This includes Islamic books also, as so many Muslims who go on pilgrimage will testify.
Once again Shenali Waduge complains about the way some Muslim women dress and states this as an attempt to segregate themselves on the footing of a separate identity. The Muslims all along in history have maintained a separate identity based on their faith. And to impose on them a Western form of dressing on the basis that ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’ is akin to another saying. ‘Monkeys see monkeys do’. Besides, do we sense a superiority complex in Ms. Waduge’s admonitions to us Muslims?
Instead of constantly berating us on our faith, traditions and customs with such callous disregard and without any concern for our feelings it would be a good idea for Shenali Waduge to accept us as we are.
Sharia and other laws
Once again Waduge brings the Sharia to the forefront of her arguments and I think I have dealt with this subject before. So just let me say that the Sharia is not the only law outside the Roman Dutch law that we practice. We have the Kandyan Law which lays down separate rules for those who come under its purview. According to Dr. Wickrama Weerasooriya ‘Kandyan law has peculiar rules relating to succession, inheritance, marriage, adoption, and donation, the greater part of which has now been codified’. There is also the Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law. Dr. Weerasooriya says ‘recognition of principles of Buddhist Law is evidenced in the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Rev Keselwatugoda Chandananda Thero v Rev Sirimalwatte Ananda Mahanayake Thero(1997). Then we have the Thesawalamai law, which is a code of custom, legal rules and principles applicable to Tamils of the Jaffna Province. Dr. Weerasooriya says that ‘although the Kandyan law and the Thessawalamai are noteworthy for their essentially secular character, the Buddhist law and Hindu law are also applicable in Sri Lanka…’
Right throughout Shenali Waduge’s comments you will find a strain that is hostile to Islam and the Sharia. On previous occasions I have responded by giving authorities like Judge Weeramantry and John Makdisi of Harvard University. Both say that the Sharia has contributed immensely to both domestic laws in various countries and to international law as well.
If the Sharia law was medieval or outdated why then do we find so many non-Muslim institutions opening up Sharia based finance companies all over the world. Would these non-Muslims be considered ‘extremists’?
Lincoln’s Inn in England has acknowledged the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) as one of the greatest law givers. More recently Harvard Law University has placed the following verse from the Qur’an in its lobby.
‘Oh you have believed; stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives and whether it be against rich or poor. For Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lust of your hearts, lest you not be just. And if you distort (your testimony) or refuse to do justice, certainly Allah is well acquainted with you do’ (Qur’an Sura 4:135.)
The causes that Waduge give for the 1915 are disputed. For nearly a thousand years the Muslims and Sinhalese had co-existed in peace and harmony whilst they served as officials ‘in the administration of state as well as of Buddhist monasteries’, according to Lorna Dewaraja in her seminal book ‘The Muslims of Sri Lanka – One Thousand Years of Ethnic Harmony’. ‘It is noteworthy’ she says ‘that Muslims were functionaries in the Temple of the Tooth and participated in the ritual of the Asala Maha Perehera. This process of the structural assimilation which took place without any erosion of the cultural distinctiveness of the Muslims is perhaps unique in minority majority relations’. In such an environment it’s hard to believe that the causes of the riots were faith based. According to certain sources, the reason was commercial rivalry.
But is it proper to constantly harp on what happened nearly a hundred years ago? Makes you wonder if there is a sinister agenda lurking somewhere in the shadows? When writing on subjects of this nature we should ensure interpreting history’s negative factors do not get overemphasised. Would someone in 2083, when most of us will be dead and gone, talk about the July 1983 riots to sell a few points? Shouldn’t we be ashamed of these incidents and try to remain silent on such negative factors?
Waduge refers to the conflict between Muslims over the Pehlavan issue. It’s true that things had turned bad, but today there is hardly a reference to that issue. A similar incident took place between Buddhists when a Sri Lankan monk wanted to introduce the Mahayana sect of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, but the matter was sorted and no one from any other faith in the country ever accused the Sinhala Buddhists of extremism. But when something of this nature happens in the Muslim community all sorts of allegations and accusations of ‘extremism’ hit the headlines.
It’s true that the two southern insurrections had nothing to do with faith. But the fact remains that faith, language and religion of both parties which were the same did not prevent the horrible bloodletting. But when such issues crop up among Muslims, Ms. Waduge will be quick to blame Islam for the cause of the conflict.
Ms. Shenali Waduge subtly accuses me of uttering a fib when I quoted the destruction of the Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura. She says ‘It is advised not to create or change history for political advantage’. This I feel is very unfair because I, as a practice, always stick to facts. As a rule I always get my articles checked by two Buddhist and two Muslim friends for any inaccuracy or mistake on my part. That how scrupulous I am when I write on these issues.
Let me quote Ms. Lorna Dewaraja to show that Muslims were present during the Anuradhapura times. On page 25 she says Mantota was the chief port of the Anuradhapura Kingdom and there was a highway connecting it with the capital. ‘Consequently Mantota became for the Arab traders what it had been for the Persians, a great emporium for the East-West trade. Archeological excavations in and around Mantota have unearthed Middle Eastern ceramics ware approximately dated between the 8th and 11th centuries ….’Three Arabic inscriptions erected over Muslim burials have been unearthed in this area …All these have been attributed on epigraphical grounds to the 9th and 10th centuries confirming Arab presence in the ports in the late Anuradhapura period….
‘Recent excavations in certain archeological sites in Sri Lanka, undertaken by UNESCO Cultural Triangle Project have unearthed what are known as “Sassanian Islamic” ceramic storage jars approximately dated from the 7th to 9th centuries’. Some of these have been found among the ruins of the ancient hospital site at Mihintale in Anurdhapura’….Middle Eastern ceramic jars dated in twelfth and thirteenth centuries have been found, denoting the continuation of the commercial contacts during the
As a matter of fact Arabs were there in Anuradhapura prior to the birth of Islam. I quote Lorna Dewaraja from page 46 of her book that ‘The Sinhalese seem to have made a distinction between the early Arab settlers and the later Muslim migrants from South India. Pandukabhaya (377-307 BC) set aside land in his capital of Anurdhapura for the use of the Yonas who were pre-Islamic Arab traders who visited the capital. Here she is quoting the Mahavamsa X-90 making it impossible for Ms. Waduge to dispute her. Ms. Dewaraja, quoting the 15th century Sinhala literary works known as Sandesas, says that they refer to Yon Liyas or Arab women.
Ms. Waduge states and I quote ‘the demolition (of the Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura) was a valid and legitimate exercise carried out by the State’. This statement of hers is an arrogant exercise in duplicity. There was no court order neither was the demolition carried out by state agencies. It was carried out by a mob headed by Buddhist monks and the police became helpless spectators to the vandalism. A picture on BBC shows a Buddhist monk burning a flag that he had removed from the shrine.
The general impressions conveyed to the public by Shenali Waduge is that Muslims were lazy and good for nothing fellows and so the generous Sinhala kings gave them lands and privileges to ‘civilise’ them or help them escape the Portuguese persecution.
It’s true that King Senarath gave refuge to Muslims. But this is only half the story. Here is the other half. Ms. Lorna Dewaraja says in her book on page 63-64 ‘King Senarath’s objective was in settling Muslims in the fertile lands around Batticaloa, was to maintain food supplies during his campaigns. The King’s far sighted policy which was mutually beneficial resulted in quick recovery of the kingdom as is proved by the successes of his campaign of 1628 and 1630.
Ms. Lorna Dewaraja reports of occasions where Sinhala kings had sought the services of Muslims to fight their enemies. Muslims fought in Mayadunne and later his son Rajasinha’s battles against the Portuguese. They were also employed as envoys to secure assistance from the rulers of Calicut and also served as gunmen that the army was lacking in’.
It was the Muslims who took Sri Lanka to the world, exporting the produce of the land and enriching the kings. And during the worst of oppression under the colonialists the Sinhalese wilted under pressure and changed their loyalties and took the faith of the conquering armies. No Muslim did that. No Muslim bartered ‘God for gold’. They stuck to their faith, traditions and customs and today we have people like Shenali Waduge telling us to ‘do as the Romans do’. The plan, I suspect, is to force Muslims to change their faith, customs and traditions. The plan is to subjugate Muslims and not allay Buddhists’ fears. God willing, that won’t happen.
We have to be accepted today as the kings of yore accepted us. We are much a part of the Sri Lanka landscape as the Sinhalese and the Tamils and the Burghers. S.W.R.D Bandaranaike had said ‘the Ceylon Moors have been in Ceylon as long as we the Sinhalese have been here’.