It is almost a month and half since a mob brought in from outside the area, led by a Buddhist monk, and vandalized Dambulla Khairiya Jumma Mosque on Friday 20 April 2012 in violation of all laws of the country and all known human decency.
The beleaguered Muslims await justice while the mob remains free backed by some undisclosed Buddhist Organizations.
The island is passing through one of its most difficult times in the independent history. There are numerous burning issues, both local and international, to be dealt with. The West in general has been very hostile since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 29. On the other hand this is the time after 30 years of ethnic killings every effort needs to be made to bring communities together to move the country ahead.
In this critical time, instead of concentrating on these issues, a handful of racists, often led by Buddhist monks, started attacking mosques and madarasas which pose no threat to anyone.
Is there any need to antagonize the island’s Muslims and thereby antagonize the Muslim countries which remain a source of employment to almost a million Sri Lankans strengthening our economy besides having friendly relations with the island?
However the unanswered question is why not they campaign against ever rising crime, corruption, lawlessness, rape, incents, liquor trade, casinos, prostitution and the like to clean up the society? Do these miscreants understand the seriousness of their disastrous campaign? The frightening question is where will this end? Are we heading towards another July 83 pogrom?
The unanswered questions are who are these vandals? From where did they emerge? Who is financing and organizing them? Why no legal action against them? Isn’t it time that the government step in and save the country from yet another communal carnage?
However there is still hope for the country because the mob attack on Dambulla mosque was condemned by mainstream Sinhalese community as a whole .For example from politicians, journalists, Buddhist monks and even ultra nationalists distanced themselves dismissing this as a despicable act . UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa said this vandalism has nothing to do with Buddhism or the majority Sinhalese community. The country is yet to hear from the opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe on this burning issue.
Thus the good news is that this was not a dispute between Sinhalese and Muslims, instead lawlessness of handful of, perhaps, ultra nationalists backed by anti Muslim external forces, aimed at political gains.
The day after the incident, Saturday 21 April, 2012 morning, Senior Minister A.H.M.Fowzie, Minister Rishard Bathiuddin accompanied by several others went to Dambulla and made arrangements to open the mosque which was closed for prayer previous day.
In the evening on the same day, 21 April 2012, Muslim politicians, moulavis, civil society members and others gathered after Maghreb prayer at the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulmea head quarters, Maradana, to discuss the issue.
Amongst those attended the meeting were ACJU President Rizvi Mufti who presided, ACJU General Secretary Mubarak Moulavi, Ministers Rauf Hakeem , A.H.M.Fawzie, Rishard Badurdeen, former minister A.R.M.Mansoor,parliamentarians A.H.M Azver, Bashir Shegu Dawood, Feisal Cassim, Provincial Councilor Mujibur Rahman,lawyer Faisz Mustapha and several others.
Vandalism at Dambulla mosque took place in broad day light under the watchful of eyes of police. Thus the Muslim community expected the meeting to call President Mahinda Rajapakse to bring the culprits to book, restore law and order and ensure the rights and dignity of Muslims.
Instead the tone of the meeting was to yield to the demands of the mob. For example Minister Rishard Badurdeen said that the government will give a larger land and even help build the new mosque.
Only provincial councilor Mujibur Rahman emphasized the need to pressure the government for legal action against those who vandalized the mosque. He also pointed out that if we agree to shift the mosque there would be no end .They may even call for the demolition of other mosques all over the country.
At the meeting it was unanimously agreed;
1-To condemn the vandalism at Dambulla Mosque.
2-All Muslim parliamentarians to sign a letter to President Mahinda Rajapakse appealing him to bring the perpetrators to book, protect the mosque and ensure justice.
3-Not to agree to demolish or shift the mosque.
4- To go for legal action seeking justice and protection.
5—Minister Rauf Hakeem to raise the issue at the cabinet meeting.
6- Any decision on the fate of the Dambulla Mosque to be decided by the special Jamiyathul Ulema committee which was to request the trustees of the Dambulla Mosque to consult them before taking any decision as this has become a national issue today.
Meanwhile a group of Muslims decided to hold peaceful demonstrations, but the ACJU opposed the move and asked Muslims not to join any demonstration instead to pray and fast.
On Tuesday 24 April 2012 a meeting, attended by several organizations, was held at the Maligawatta Young Men’s Muslim Association office to discuss the issue of peaceful demonstration. The ACJU President Rizvi Mufti said that that the ACJU will not be able to hold the demonstration under its banner, but assured all his support in his private capacity.
However the ACJU published advertisements in the media asking Muslims not to take part in peaceful demonstrations but to wait until President Mahinda Rajapakse returns to the country.
On Wednesday 25 April 2012 a meeting was held at Senior Minister Fowzie’s office attended by Muslim parliamentarians to try to stop peaceful demonstration. On Thursday 26 April 2012 after Isha prayer there were calls in the mosques all over Colombo asking people not to participate in demonstrations.
DEFIANCE was the only response of the Muslims island wide for the ACJU call not to join demonstrations.
On Thursday 26 April 2012 shops and other business establishments were closed throughout the East and even in Puttalam. On the following day Muslims conducted peaceful demonstrations opposite Devatagaha Mosque in Colombo and other places despite severe pressure from leading Muslim personalities not do so.
Despite pressure demonstration was held outside Dewatagah Mosque on Friday 27 April 2012. No Muslim parliamentarian participated, but was attended by Tamil politician Mano Ganeshan and leftist Sinhala politician Wikramabahu Karunaratne. They both condemned this racist vandalism. Manu Ganeshan even blamed the ultra nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya for being this vandalism.
Up to date nothing was done to implement the decisions taken at ACJU meeting on 21 April. Some said that all Muslim parliamentarians signed the appeal drafted by eminent lawyer Faisz Musthapha. However, many believe, that Senior Minister Fowzie who had undertaken to hand it over to President Mahinda Rajapakse had not done so far.
Since then Parliament met several times and no Muslim parliamentarian bothered to raise this issue and no Muslim minister raised the issue in the cabinet. Perhaps they were scared that by raising this issue they may lose their positions. Instead, had they raised the issue, they would have earned the respect of all.
Some said that President may come out with a solution after the Wesak. Wesak came and went and even Poson is approaching, but there was no sign of any solution. However the failure on the part of the government to deal with the mob encouraged them to continue their lawlessness turning Muslims helpless and frustrated.
Meanwhile the ACJU team which discussed the issue with President Rajapakse has not informed the public of the outcome of the meeting.
However campaign has been underway in mosques sermons, radio programs and other means canvassing support for what they describe as peaceful solution –no one knows what does it means.
The government’s failure to take legal action against the perpetrators, Prime Minister D.M.Jayaratne’s order to shift the mosque and the decision taken by Sinhala government officials without Muslim participation to postpone a decision on the issue for six months indicate the government patronage.
Shifting of the mosque means yielding to the demand of lawless elements. This may not end there. Already some monks entered a mosque off Bullers Road in Colombo and threatened people there not to pray. A similar incident had taken place in a mosque in Ariyawatta, Kurunegala .Yet another mosque near the Dehiwala zoo was attacked by a mob led by monks.
Now the question is where will this organized vandalism end? The island’s Muslim community, abandoned by their politicians, remains a deeply frustrated lot.
Under the circumstance, some innocent Muslims angered by continuous vandalisation of mosques may inevitably respond and create a potentially dangerous situation which the country cannot afford especially after the 30 year ethnic carnage.