NSC – A ray of hope for besieged Muslims in the paradise isle By Latheef Farook

NSC LOGO

It is history in the making for Sri Lanka’s Muslim community. This is how one could describe the 25 January 2014 inaugural general assembly meeting of the National Shoora Council, NSC, which elected a permanent general assembly and an executive committee to deal with burning

issues faced by the community. Tariq Mahmud, son of late Muslim leader Al Haj Dr Badiuddin Mahmud, who functioned as interim working

committee chairman, was unanimously elected as permanent.

Response to NSC from Muslims of all walks of life and from all corners of the island has been spontaneous as it comes into being at a time when the community is passing through, perhaps,

the most difficult time since the Portuguese persecution of Muslims in the 16th and first half of 17th centuries.

During the past few years the island’s Muslim community has been subjected to numerous    political, religious, economic, social and other problems threatening their very existence as citizens of this country.

For example first it was the despicable kidnapping of Muslim businessmen who were the sole source of assistance to poverty stricken section in the community. The situation became so frightening that most of them fled the country with their families to save their lives.

This was followed by the disgusting “grease yaka” attacks on women when men went for night prayers during the Holy Month of Ramadhan.

Muslims, who suffered immensely due to the war between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, the LTTE, expected some relief in the aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Among the others they expected the return of Muslim refugees driven out by the LTTE from north and east to their homes, return of Muslim owned lands in the east taken over during the war and a return to normalcy.

However their hopes were dashed. Instead of relief and rehabilitation they came under attacks from organizations unheard of during the three decades of war, claiming to be Buddhist but in total violation of Buddhist teachings. A small number of ethno religious fascists began unleashing a fierce anti-Muslim campaign aimed at pitting the mainstream Sinhalese against peaceful Muslim community.

For example Muslim shrines were destroyed, mosques attacked and vandalized- some with meat and blood of slaughtered pigs, prohibited for Muslims, thrown inside , anti Muslim demonstrations with placards carrying  photos with the  word Allah  imprinted in caricatured  pigs, business centers  attacked  ,letting loose unethical campaigns asking Sinhalese not to patronize Muslim owned businessmen , acquisition of their property, ignoring the death,   evictions and sufferings the Muslims particularly of the North and East underwent at the hands of LTTE simply because Muslims did not support the LTTE dream of Elam and  depriving of Muslims, by and large ,  of employment in the government, semi government, armed forces including the police and almost  every other sector.

In the midst there came into being a malicious media campaign projecting Muslims as fundamentalists and terrorists.

The list continues unabated. Such dastardly crimes were unheard of even during the ethnic carnage. According to the local media last year alone there were around 250 incidents of hate all over the island striking at the very root of the fundamental rights of the island’s Muslim community. What is shocking is the failure on the part of the government to bring to book these lawless elements. In fact some of these crimes were committed under the watchful eyes of the police.

This shows the lawless racist elements have official blessings.

Though this is the work of a few hundred whom, I consider as mercenaries of powerful global forces such as Zionist Jews hostile to Islam and Muslims, they have done great deal of damage to poison the minds of some sections of the Sinhalese against Muslims to an extent that children refused to purchase from Muslim owned shop.

As a result today dangerous seeds of hatred have been planted against a community that stood with the majority in the war.

However silence of the peace loving majority is threatening the very fabric of the island’s communal harmony. This trend needs to be arrested in the larger interest of all in the country which has just emerged from a destructive war.

What is remarkable is the restraint demonstrated by Muslims to all these humiliating provocations which began with the blatant destruction of a 400 year old Muslim shrine at Anuradhapura watched by the police.

The irony is that this happens at a time powerful evil forces led by United States, Europe and Israel with the support of some Arab dictators, unleashed a very well calculated global campaign of terror against Islam, under the guise of fighting a so called terrorism, to justify their invasions and destruction of Muslim countries, killing indiscriminately millions of Muslims while driving many millions into refugee camps to anguish in misery.

Finally Islamophobia has arrived in the paradise island, astonishingly after the end of the war.

Under the circumstance the beleaguered and besieged Muslim community expected their politicians to raise these issues with the government of which most of them remain constituent partners and stop this anti Muslim mayhem. Unfortunately they betrayed the community and opted to cling onto the government, despite all humiliation, to ensure their positions and perks.

Today Muslim politicians have become shameful liabilities on the community at a time when even the Muslims’ feeble protests were being brushed aside.

It was in this gloomy, helpless and voiceless atmosphere that a group of enterprising   young Muslims belonging to diverse professions and committed to the welfare of the community met around   January 2013 to discuss what could be done to safeguard the community and arrest the deteriorating traditionally harmonious relations between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities.

Since then they held meeting after meeting .Following lengthy stormy sessions they prepared a list of names of people who could fit into this agenda and finally ended up selecting around 200 people, from different fields, who could play a significant role in guiding the community in the right direction and save the country from racist elements’ destructive path.

Once the list was finalized they didn’t rush. Instead they formed into different teams and met individuals, groups, associations and personally explained them the concept.

The overall response was a spontaneous reception.

Of course there were alarm bells among some who thrived on the misery of the community.

However encouraged by the warm response and equipped with all relevant details an Interim Committee for National Shoora Initiative was formed.

The Interim Committee absorbed ideas from eight different models and prepared a provisional concept which could be adjusted to suit the need of the time within the framework of Islamic teachings. In doing so it was decided that the NSC will not   overshadow or pose a threat to the existing organizations in any manner and the voluntary interim committee consisting of persons of diverse backgrounds will not opt to be members of the Shoora.

The characteristics of the NSC will be inclusive and participatory, widely represented, consultative, united and coordinated, independent, recognized and accepted, accommodative, assertive, authoritative and able to make decisions binding all.

Some of the qualifications to be members of the NSC include the need to abide by Islamic principles, genuinely committed to the development of the community, will to dedicate time and energy, president/chairman or an authorized member of an organization who has a say in it, locally or internationally recognized person in relevant fields, patriotic and supportive of national development and be apolitical.

For the first time most Muslim religious, social and cultural and other organizations and groups, buried their differences, and met in one platform under one roof at Wellawatta Miami Reception Hall on Thursday 2 May 2013 to announce the formation of an Interim Consultative (Shoora) Council-ICC.

The organizers explained the purpose, shape and all other relevant details of the ICC which would pave the way for the final consultative council. These details were submitted to the participants for their comments which were discussed at an open forum.

Some of the main organizations attended the gathering included All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, ACJU, Thowheed Jamaath, Jamiathe Islami and Thareekas besides professionals, intellectuals, businessmen and others.

In his inaugural speech Yusuf Mufthi of ACJU explained the great importance attached to consultation in Islam in arriving at any decision.

It was also addressed by General Secretary of ACJU Sheikh M.M.M.Mubarak, Sharia Council   President Moulavi Hasbulla, Shaikh Mufti Yusuf Haniffa, Professor M Siddeeq of Peradeniya University, Moulavi A.L.M. Ibrahim, former Ameer of Jamaathe Islami, Ustad M.A.M.Mansoor, Professor A.L.H.M Ibrahim, former Sri Lanka Ambassador to Iran M.M.Zuhair, former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Javid Yusuf, Shaikh I.L.M.Hashim, Shaikh Ismail Salafi, Moulavi A.L.M.Hashim and Mansoor Dahlan.

They all supported the move in one voice as timely .There was consensus that the establishment of such a Shoora council may take time and thus they welcomed the decision to set up an interim consultative council as a prelude to the formation of a permanent Shoora Council.

Dr Musthafa Musthafa, Chairman of Colombo based Abrar Institute, explained the issues,   around 132, faced by the community to be tackled.

Thus the task ahead is gigantic. However, as the age old Chinese adage says that”one thousand mile journey begins with a step” the need to start somewhere to reach somewhere was highlighted.

As part of its overall agenda the NSC will be concerned about any threat to communal harmony or any   threat to the country by local NGOs, international forces, extremists from all communities   besides doing everything possible to ensure peace and harmony in the island. Ends

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