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Aftermath of Aluthgama Incident

| by A Special Correspondent 

( July 4, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Aluthgama incident has greatly decreased the popularity of BBS among Sinhalese people. It could be argued that BBS has some support from Singhalese people prior to Aluthgama incident and yet, this barbaric incident has angered millions of Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka and abroad. More importantly the president of BBS abhorred this barbaric incident and declared that he would consider resigning from the post of Presidency of BBS. Moreover, Hundreds of journalists, Academics and monks condemned this heinous act of violence. It is reported that this incident has shattered the good name and reputation of this government as well. Defense Secretary was indeed, compelled tell public that he no association with BBS. Moreover, many demonstrations of BBS were cancelled by police order and government finally realized BBS is taking it into the path of political suicide. Some sectors in government realized that government would lose the support of the majority of Sinhalese people if it continuously goes behind BBS. 

No doubt the days of Aluthgama anti-Muslim violent attacks are some of darkest days in Sri Lankan Muslim history in this country. The psychological scares of this racist attacks on Muslims would remain for many decades in the minds and hearts of Muslims. It would be an unforgettable incident in the lives of those who have directly affected with these incidents. Yet, as a minority community we should learn some lessons from these incidents. Muslim community should be proactive aftermath of this incident. We should think how to avoid such incident taking place in future. We should educate our community how to prevent incidents like this. Of course, it was not a fault of Muslim community that they encountered such horrific incidents rather it was a crime committed by BBS against unarmed Muslims. We should self-evaluate our communal relationship with Sinhalese and Tamil communities in this country. As a second minority in this country we should set some good examples to win over the hearts and minds of Sinhalese people once again. This is not an apologetic approach rather a pragmatic approach to this burning issue of communal violence between these communities. To curtail and stop the spread of these types of anti-Muslim violence, we should take some probative steps. We should advise Muslim youths to avoid unnecessary confrontations with Sinhalese people in our day to day interaction and communications. It was reported that Aluthgama violence started with some pity arguments between a Sinhalese driver and a Muslim man. These types of pity confrontations must be avoided at all levels in our shops, work places, offices and streets. To that end we should educate our youths and our people. 

We have been living with Sinhalese people for more 1000 years in Sri Lanka. We know their mentality, characters and attitudes and most of them are good people. History would testify that they are good people. We are living scattered in many villages. For the last one thousand years we lived among them without any major communal violence against us except some isolated incidents. It is only after formation of BBS a form of racism is institutionalized against Muslims in Sri Lanka. It is predicated that this anti-Muslim virus would die out soon. Yet, it seems that this virus is spreading faster than expected. It is our collective responsibility to curtail this virus from spreading. It is a testing time for Muslim leaderships. The quality and astuteness of Muslim leadership would be gauged and judged by how they encounter this radical BBS anti-Muslim campaign. We should not engage in any activities that anger the feeling of the Singhalese people who support us. 

We know well 99% percentages of Sinhalese are good people and they do not subscribe to the views of BB. They do not have any connection with BBS or they are not yet convinced with BBS racist ideologies. If Muslim youths behave same like that of BBS mobs there would not be any difference between us and them. There would not be any difference inhuman characters and barbarism of their mobs and our youths. Moreover, if we behave like that we would earn anger and wrath of Sinhalese who sympathize with us. Moreover, we would lose support from our sympathizers from Sinhalese community and it would be like communal suicidal. What Prophetic traditions tell us about this social interaction should open our eyes in this regard. Prophet made all his communications and contacts with those people who were supporters or sympathizers to his call. Prophet trusted many non-Muslim Makkans during his Makkan times and during Median Time he made truces with many Judo-Christian tribes and he never cut off his ties from humanity although they rejected him. Instead he inspired them, influenced them and invited them with wisdom and with his good manners. We need such revolutionary mechanism in our interaction with Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka. There are lots of good people among those communities. Consider for Instance, UNP Kaluthara MP was beaten up by mobs for trying to help one Muslim family and he spoke out his ordeal with mob in parliament. Hundreds of journalists spoke in support of Muslims and hundreds of Buddhist monks spoke in support of us. We should appreciate and acknowledge support and kindness of these people. We should be always thankful to them. 

It was reported that many Sinhalese people have offered help and support for Muslims even during this anti-Muslim violence. Some of them gave shelter and protection for some Muslims in that night. I will narrate some of heroic incidents and stories that tell us the level of kindness and compassions that some Sinhalese people have shown on Muslims during these violent attacks. I got these stories from some reliable sources. 

It was reported that Muslims in a nearby village of Mulliayamallai were so scared on that violent night and Muslims of that village went to nearby forest for protection in expectation that they would be attacked by those marching mobs. The local chief Buddhist monk was told that Muslims were hiding in the forest in fear that mobs would attack them. It is reported that he alerted his local Sinhalese people by ringing his temple bell. Most of villagers gathered into front of his temple and the chief monk told them that they should protect these Muslim people. They chased out the mobs telling them that Sinhalese and Muslims are living here in peace and harmony. we do not have any trouble with them. The chief monk chased out the Sinhalese mobs away and asked Muslims who were hiding in the forest to come their homes. He comforted and consoled them. It was reported that the Chief Monk had developed a close interaction between Muslim communities of that village. 

This close communal relationship increased following an incident that happened for some Sinhalese Fishermen on the Sea. Some Sinhalese and Muslim fishermen went to sea one day for fishing and that day sea was very rough. Unfortunately some of these Sinhalese fishermen were caught on rough sea wave. Muslim fishermen managed to rescue them from their sinking fishing boat. This incident was reported to the chief monk of that village. The chief monk should have been greatly inspired with kindness of those Muslim fishermen who put their life in danger to save their follow Sinhalese fishermen. In return as gesture of gratitude and thankfulness he has asked his village people to protect Muslims. (This story was narrated by Uthaz Mansoor in his website please listen to it for further details) 

This was a real humanism and all human beings are from one family of humanity: We all have same human instincts and feelings. In time of danger it is a human instinct to save life regardless of people’s race and religion. I was told by some Tamil friends that during the 1983 Tamil-Sinhalese ethic riots there were some stories like these. Many good Sinhalese people gave protection and shelter for Tamils during 1983 riot. This is the nature of human instincts to help follow human beings in time danger for life. Even animals do provide such helping hand and protection in time of danger.
We are first and foremost human beings. We should think like that broadly when we live in multicultural environments. This incident tells us how Muslims could win the hearts of Non-Muslim through our behaviors and good characters. A good behavior of a few Muslim fishermen paved the way to save the entire village on that dangerous night. It is through our characters and manners we could conquer the minds and hearts of the majority of Sinhalese people.

One more incident was reported by Usthaz Mansour on the authority of Ravaya Newspaper that two Muslims girl with scarf on their heads, were traveling on an intercity bus from Colombo to Galle on that fateful day. When the bus was passing though Panadura Sinhalese people on the bus realized the grave danger waiting for these Muslim girls. They asked them to remove scarfs from their heads to save them from these Sinhalese mobs. When the buss passed through Aluthgama this bus was stopped by these mobs but Singhalese people on Bus said the mobs there is no Muslim on the bus and they managed rescued those two girls form those mobs. No doubt 99% of Sinhalese are kind and helpful and compassionate. They do not like to harming even a snake on the street how you could expect them harm human beings. It is because of some external forces and some internal political factors BBS and its supporters are dancing. Yet, it does not have grass root support at all. It is our duty that we should stop them from spoiling minds of millions of Sinhalese youths.

What steps we should take to curtail BBS spoiling the majority of Sinhalese with its venom. We should take some multi-dimensional steps. We should organize inter-communal committees at levels in all our towns and village with support of Sinhalese who support us and who show sympathy towards us. In Mawenella Muslims have managed to establish some Sinhalese-Muslim Business community to look after interest each community. This will give a close interaction and even protection as well. In Hemmathagama we have Buddhist Muslim association that was initiated by local Buddhist monk. We should have such committee in each and every village between Muslims and Sinhalese as a protective mechanism. This will be more effective in time of communal riots and because those Singhalese leaders would not allow outsiders to come attack Muslims in their local areas. I assumed that Muslims in Aluthgama area did not have such committee comprising both communities. In Gampola town it was Prime Minister’s timely action prevented another riot last month. In Mawanella too some politicians worked very closely with Muslims to prevent BBS holding a demonstration. What we need a close interaction and engagement with Sinhalese leaders, monks and politicians. 

(To be continued inshallah)

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