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Anti-Muslim Violence Escalates in Sri Lanka

Shaahima Fahim

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Riots broke out in the coastal Sri Lankan town of Aluthgama yesterday in an escalation of Muslim targeted violence that many Sri Lankans fear would intensify into a resemblance of the incidents of Black July – the anti-Tamil lawlessness of July 1983 which was said to have ignited the fire for the onset of the 3 decade-long civil war.

Muslim Matters has been consistently reporting (see here and here) this escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment on an otherwise charming island, and the events of yesterday are undoubtedly the worst in post-Independence history.

Although there is greater context to the story, this pogrom in itself is known to have been triggered by a small altercation a few days ago between a Muslim motorist and the driver of a Buddhist monk. While the situation was known to have been resolved at the time, a group of militant Buddhist monks who operate under the label “Bodu Bala Sena” (Buddhist Power Force) organised a hate-rally and procession on Monday in order to gain maximum mileage from the incident. Curfews were imposed in Aluthgama and the neighbouring town of Beruwela in an attempt to keep communal tensions at a minimum. Clashes resulted irrespective, subsequently leading to many Muslim-owned shops being torched and homes attacked. There have been reports of sporadic violence against Muslim businesses across the country since.

There have been many unverified images and inaccurate reports coming out of social media as a result of a deafening silence from the local media. Official figures from international media outlets like the BBC and the New York Times however, have confirmed an official figure of at least 3 fatalities and an approximate of 78 casualties.

Thankfully, the Muslims in Sri Lanka, though provoked in many an instance (albeit less severe) before this, have not resorted to reactionary violence. For what remains undisputed is that the majority of non-Muslims on the island are supportive of their plight. In fact, many Sinhalese have actively sought to protect their Muslim counterparts, either by speaking out against this unwarranted bigotry or even sheltering them in their homes. It must also be mentioned that in instances where attempts to distribute aid have been made, the bulk of contributions have poured in from those of other faiths.

For as is often the norm in matters of interfaith conflict, this too is a case of religious mis-representation, where the religious edicts of Buddhism in its unadulterated, non-violent form have been misappropriated by a malicious few. The majority of Muslims are aware that these affronts are not representative of the Sinhala majority, but of a handful of hardliners that function on the fuel of blind hate, as proven by the vile rhetoric spewed by the ringleader of this terror-inciting operation in a rally prior to the procession.

What is a matter of throbbing concern however, is that previous attacks by the Bodu Bala Sena have gone unpunished, and that hard-line monks have been able to operate undeterred with what appears to be legal impunity. Security forces which were deployed in order to control the situation were as ineffective as the gossamer tweets from the President (who is currently out of the country)in response to the clashes. There is yet no official statement from the government.

Having said that, it must be pointed out that the Muslims in Sri Lanka are no Rohingya. The administrators of violence in both terrains don saffron garb of a most extreme hue, yes, and in that alone can a comparison can be made. Firstly, the Muslim community in Sri Lanka (10% of the population) have been long integrated into the intellectual, communal and political spheres contributing towards the country’s development. Secondly, the recent spate of clashes have not been a targeted bloodbath of mass proportions, nor an exodus of a similar severity as that of the situation of this ethnic group of Burmese Muslims.

For fear of passions heightening however, masajid across the country have been urging Muslim communities to practise restraint during this particular time of provocation. Allowing emotions to get out of hand can go woefully awry and only the sound reputation of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and the Sinhala majority that has prevailed on the island for more than a millennia, serves to suffer as collateral damage.

These attacks are a test for the Muslims of Sri Lanka, and we can only pray for their patience and protection, for the guidance of their oppressors, and that Allah allows these trials to serve as a means of purification.

 

 

Image credits: New York Times and Dinuka Liyanawatte 

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muhammad

    June 17, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    The twitter hashtag #lka is being used by ground reporters although you’re going to find hearsays there as well.

  2. Avatar

    Muhammad

    June 17, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Some of these places in Sri Lanka where the Muslims have been attacked, have shirk… Allah must guide us all.

  3. Avatar

    Hyde

    June 17, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    How about the anti-Muslim violence in Iraq ? or Syria or Greater Iraq

  4. Avatar

    Mahmud

    June 17, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraakatuh

    May Allah aid them. The Muslims have a legitimate right to defend themselves. If a Muslim takes a gun to the violent Budhhist mob, no one can blame him. Self defense is the right of every human.

  5. Pingback: Anti-Muslim Violence Escalates in Sri Lanka | The Kaftan Writer

  6. Avatar

    Ram Dev

    June 18, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    Muslim people destroyed Bhamian Buddha statue and because they say statues are against Islam. So Sri Lankans dont want Muslims in Sri Lanka.

    • Avatar

      Waheeb

      June 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      There are no Buddhists in Afghanistan, almost all converted to Islam centuries ago. If there were, it is very possible they would have been left alone.

  7. Avatar

    Stan

    June 22, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Muslims does NOT matter ANYMORE. They are cancer to the society and needs to be wiped out. Great Job! by Buddhists!!!!

  8. Pingback: Anti-Muslim Violence Escalates in Sri Lanka | Forum for Peaceful Coexistence, Sri Lanka

  9. Avatar

    gopithomas

    July 2, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    looks like there is too much violence whereever Muslims are

  10. Pingback: Sri Lanka Elections : The Muslim Vote | Navigating on Balance

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#Current Affairs

Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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