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Politics of Muslim community in Sri Lanka

Politics should not be seen in any communal lines in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a multicultural and multi-racial country. Naturally, political leadership and government civil servants must provide their duties impartially. 

by Dr SLM Rifai

Since Sri Lanka gained independence from British Empire in 1948, politics has been identified in this country in relation with religion, race, and language. Political identity of Sri Lankan people is mixed up with religion, race and language. Sri Lankans still find it difficult to differentiate between the wider political interest of this nation and their community interest. Sometime, religious, cultural and racial interest of each community has been given preference over national interest of this county. As a result of this mix up between these general and special interests of Sri Lanka and its different communities, this country has suffered immensely.

Who will give them home?
We have failed to create a national identity among all Sri Lankan communities. As result of this, scepticism among Sri Lankan communities grew, and communities do not trust one another. As a result of this political dichotomy, we have not been able to take this country forward in development and progress. This mistrust created 30 years of war. This political dichotomy has paved the way for destruction of human and natural resources. we are not united on our national identity or on general interest of this nation. Each community wants to have a lion share of the cake. Sri Lankans are not ready to share and care.

This is not a healthy development at all. Each community considers its own interest and welfare over the national interest of this nation. Politicians also give preference for their community interest over the national interest. Politicians must work impartially. They must represent all communities without any discrimination. Yet, unfortunately, politicians do not work like that very oftenin Sri Lanka.Recent communal riots in many parts of Sri Lanka justifies this description of Sri Lankan politics. It is reported that many politicians directly or indirectly involved in these attacks on minority communities. This political racismis a dangerous trend in Sri Lankan politics. All this could take this beautiful Island into another man-made disaster

Politics should not be seen in any communal lines in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a multicultural and multi-racial country. Naturally, political leadership and government civil servants must provide their duties impartially. Sri Lankan president represents all communities. Sri Lankan MPs must represent all communities in their constituencies. A Tamil, or Muslim or otherwise a SinhaleseMP must serve all communities without discrimination in his or her constituency. This is what democracy dictates in this modern world. Yet, today, politics does not work like this in Sri Lanka. Tamil public do not trust Sinhalese politicians, Sinhalese public do not trust Tamil politicians, Muslim public do not trust Tamil politicians and other way around as well. This communal politics does not fit to Sri Lanka any longer in this modern world.

Historically speaking, the inter-community relation between Muslims and Sinhalese has been cordial in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese and Muslims got on well in Sri Lanka from pre-colonial times. Sinhalese kings trusted Muslim community leaders than their own people for some cultural and political reasons. Even in post-colonial periods, Sinhalese masses trusted Muslim politicians across the country. Many Muslim MPs were elected into parliament by Sinhalese votes. For instance, In Balangoda, late Abu Salih was elected into Sri Lankan parliamentprimarily by Sinhalese votes. Similarly, in Harispatuwa constituency ACS Hameed won general elections mainly with Sinhalese votes. Likewise, M.H. Mohammed won general election many times with Sinhalese votesin Colombo.

Sinhalese people did not see politics in any communal line. All what they wanted was a good service from politicians. They did not mix up politics with religion. In fact, they trusted Muslim politicians those days. That good will is gone from Muslim politicians today.With the creation of Muslim congress, Sinhalese public lost their trust and confidence in Muslim political leadership. Moreover, communal politics intensified when Muslim politicians created this political party. Tamil politicians too created communal politics long before Muslims created it. All this communal party politics has become a curse for Sri Lanka. Above all, this created some kinds of scepticism and mistrust among all communities. It has done more harm to Sri Lanka than any good.

This presidential election too reflects this communal politics and mistrust. Unfortunately, people do not trust politicians today. People have lost confidence in them. As result of this, minority communities have turned into JVP or NPP hoping that this newly formed political alliance will create a new politics in Sri Lanka. The main national political parties have greatly lost its credibility among public. Public no longer trust these two main political parties as they had been in the past. It is expected that this election is going be a three-way contest between RP, GR and AKD. Yet, it would be a daunting task for AKD to win this election unless he gets second preference.

There is no doubt NPP is promoting ideal politics in Sri Lanka. It promotes democratic traditions away from any kinds of communal politics. It promises equal rights to all communities. It denounces all communal violence. Yet, Tamil and Muslim political parties want to support two main political parties in this election. They are not ready to vote for JVP. They read the ground realities of Sri Lankan politics. They know well that the majority of Sinhalese will not vote for NPP so, what is the point in voting for NPP in this election. The logic of their argument is that they predict that NPP will not get enough votes in this election. For that reason, they think that they would be wasting their votes if they vote for NPP in this election. They no longer ready to be with losing side in this election. They do not want to be with idealistic politics rather they would like to support a wining party. They would like to be pragmatic in their politics. This means that they do not care about idealistic politics of NPP rather they want to be in winning side in order to get some personal gains for them and for their communities. yet, NPP stands for some political principles and political values. They want to create a political legacy in this country.

Political parties of minority communities are caught up in this idealistic and realistic politics. They are caught up between idealism and pragmatism in Sri Lankan politics. Yet, small groups such as NFGG have joined with NPP to create a new political precedent in Sri Lanka. I hope sooner or later minority political parties will have to join with NPP to make a political change in Sri Lanka. People of this country are no longer ready to be cheated by main political parties. Both UNP and SLFP have ruled this nation for 70 years and they have delivered very little. This time, UNP has manufactured an innovative manifesto and yet, how much of it will be delivered after the election win is questionable? CB scam has greatly damaged the credibility of UNP in this country and yet, Sajith has won the hearts of millions of people with his honest financial dealings. Comparatively his financial dealings are clean and tidy. People trust him very much unlike many other politicians in Sri Lanka. Sajith looks sound in his political rhetoric.

I think all minority political parties should support any political party that promotes the national unity among all communities. What we badly need is peace and community harmony among all communities in Sri Lanka. We must create a sense of national Sri Lankan identity. All communities should evolve around the concept of Sri Lankan national identity. Each Sri Lankan community has got something to offer to this nation. Tamils could help this nation with their intellectual heritage and knowledge to enrich this nation. Muslims could enrich this nation with their business skills. Sinhalese could enrich this nation with their rich human potentiality. Likewise, all other minorities could enrich this nation with their talents and skills. Politicians must know how to utilise this human potentiality in different communities. Muslim politicians must stop communal politics in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans must not divide politics in any communal or racial lines. We could learn a lot from countries like Singapore and Malaysia to enhance the inter-community relationship in Sri Lanka.

Muslim community must create a new political culture in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Muslim politicians must not play politics with communal sentiment. They must put the national interest of this nation above their personal interest. They must put the national welfare of this nation above their own personal interest. They must put the country first if they want to win the hearts and minds of Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Do not think you represent your community alone rather you must represent the country. You must serve all communities. Do not go for your selfish political motives at the expense of the national interest and national welfare. Politics is a social contact between people and their representatives. Muslims ought to respect their contract and deal. They must set some examples in politics and they must work for the welfare of this nation.

Let's stand for unity and prosperous together 
Political engagement is a rewarding good deed in Islam. But, Muslim politicians must do it as a religious duty. From Prophet Suleiman to our beloved prophet Muhammad had been politicians in very sense. Politics and the religion of Islam is deeply interconnected and inter-related. Classical Muslim scholars elaborated on duties and responsibilities of righteous politicians. Yet, Islamic history failed to develop democratic methods and methodologies. Islam encourages democratic traditions. Yet, political theories and pollical practices did not grew in Islam as they have in western political tradition. In Sri Lanka we have 22 Muslim MPs and yet, political efficiency has down among Muslim politicians. They have failed to appreciate nature of politics in Sri Lanka and they have narrow political vision and mission. But they should have inclusive political practices to serve all communities.

I think that qualified people must come forward to do politics in Sri Lanka from all communities. Unfortunately, quality of politics has gone down in Sri Lanka recent time. Many MPs cannot articulate debates and discussion in parliament. Political parties must nominate able and talented people. In Islam, it is haram to any Muslim to seek post and position if he or she does not have qualifications and talents to fulfil his or her responsibility. I do not know why and how ineptitude people come into politics in the Muslim world today. From Middle East to Sri Lanka, we notice a lot of ineptitude Muslims are eager to enter politics. Politics is trust and responsibility. They will be questioned about it on the Day of Judgment. So, they must do their public service with commitment and responsibilities.

Voting is a religious duty in Islam. Muslims ought to vote for honest politicians. They are not allowed to vote for dishonest politicians at all. Voting is a witnessing and endorsement. Muslims should not recommend or certify any unqualified person for any post. In this sense, voting for any fraudulent or corrupt political leader is not allowed at all. Muslims must keep in mind before they go to polling booths in this election.

There is nothing wrong in seeking post and position if they have qualifications, knowledge, skills and talents.Honest and devoted Muslim politicians can earn immense reward and divine blessing with their public service for humanity if they have skills, abilities and knowledge to fulfil their public duties. There is no harm for able and talented people to seek posts and position. Public service is one of best deeds in Islam. But there are some conditions attached to those who seek public posts in Islam. Islam prohibits unqualified people from seeking posts in any public office. Unfortunately, there is not any systemic mechanism among Sri Lankan Muslim community to send some brilliant minds into Sri Lankan parliament. In the past, Sri Lankan Muslim community produced some brilliant political leaders and yet, the quality of political leadership among Muslim community has gone down.

In the name of democracy, we no longer could send incompetent people into Sri Lankan parliament. It is high time for Election commission to regulate the qualities and the qualifications of MPs in Sri Lankan parliament. It is the responsibility of main political party to nominate qualified people. Some candidates use their money and wealth to secure nominations to stand for elections in Sri Lanka. political corruption starts from this point.

I highly appreciate NPP/ JVP for their best nomination system for candidates. They have some strict rules and protocols to nominate any one for any candidacy in election. They abide by principles and rules of law in their nomination. No one could secure a nomination for any election from a back-door politics in JVP. As of today, JVP/NPP is the only political party that has got political will to introduce some disciplines and principles in politics. Yet, Sri Lankans are not ready to vote for them in large numbers. Muslims politicians must learn the arts of politics from JVP and their political principles. Politics of JVP is identical with Islamic political values. Therefore, Muslims politicians must support JVP instead of other political parties.

JVP stands for justice and equality. They do not promote racial hatred and discrimination. They work for the welfare of all communities. They help weak and poor in our country. They nominate highly talented and educated people into politics. They do not cheat in politics.They do not live on public money. They do not loot public funds. They do not favour their friends and relatives in politics. These are some good political values that Muslim politicians ought to learn from JVP. It is high time for Muslim politicians to change their political attitudes.

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