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A sincere plea to the peace-loving and tolerant majority of Sri Lankans

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 8 March 2018 00:00

The violence that we are seeing now is a result of frustrations that have been built-up over time tipping over. All that was required was a trigger to bring the economically disenfranchised Sinhala youth onto the roads. These youths are frustrated because they simply don’t have economic opportunities. And they have been continually let down by successive corrupt and inept governments.

For some time now, extremists on the Sinhala side have exploited social media to portray Sri Lankan Muslims as a conniving and deceitful group whose main aim is to turn Sri Lanka into an Arabesque state. The Muslims have not helped their cause as we have become a disconnected community. The situation has been exacerbated by the transformation in Muslim attire and a shift in how we interact with the other races especially during the last decade.

Therefore, today’s Muslims tend to stand-out from the masses and given their relatively healthier economic positions coupled with an increased propensity to spend has resulted in a type of social jealousy that fuels the disenfranchised youth highlighted earlier.

My view is that Islam is a personal affair between the creator and the created and not necessarily something that has to be portrayed externally. It is unfortunate that some Muslims today seem to value the external portrayal of their faith over the Quranic emphasis on monotheism, prayer, righteousness, piety, equity and coexistent living which should be demonstrated by action and not merely by words or appearance.

The recent riots are potentially a prelude of what is to come and is a result of the deep social divide that is a result of economically dissatisfied Sinhala youth who expend their pent-up frustrations on a very visible Muslim community who have been negatively portrayed in social media circles.

The solution potentially lies with the vast majority of the peace-loving and tolerant Sinhalese community taking a proactive approach to protect Muslims and their interests. This can be done by showing their solidarity with the Muslim community and by working hand-in-hand with the police and armed forces to clamp down when rioting occurs.

The Muslim community also needs to rethink their ‘visual’ approach to the religion. And the Muslims have to accept that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese Buddhist country and that we are minority that must respect the norms of the majority.

The Sinhalese and the Muslims should essentially work together to depoliticise the mechanisms at play where the primary objective is to spread discord amongst the communities to drive political advantages. The Government should also work with the social media organisations to clamp down on the nefarious and racist social media campaigns whose primary objective is to exploit the current social divides.

I sincerely request all communities to stay away from emotive, divisive rhetoric and actions of violence. Let’s work together to prevent the recurrence of a July ’83 and the ensuing sectarian conflict that set back the country many years of progress!

Sharmil Ghouse

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