Rajeewa Jayaweera in a Comment that responds toa QUERY from Michael O’Leary addressed to Ameer Ali
Michael, If one contributes to the absurd theory, [that] only those who returned from Saudi Arabia make up the radicalized elements in the Muslim community in SL; there is no sensible and meaningful answer to O” Leary’s question.
If however, one can look beyond the theory of “Peace-loving Muslim Community,” it would be easier to understand. Those who went to Saudi Arabia were mostly from the impoverished segment of Muslim society. They worked as housemaids, laborers, etc. and had nil to minimal educational qualifications. Many returned radicalized in a manner of speaking. Women who covered their heads when they left returned covering their faces. Those who did not adhere strictly to praying five times a day earlier would not dream of missing a single prayer session after their return. Watching movies, even musicals became taboo after their return.
Matters were compounded by the unending chain of Islamic preachers and Imams who together with ultra-conservative community elders enforced societal rule very similar to Sharia Law in Muslim majority areas such as Kattankudiya.
Attached are two visuals. Do you believe they have been taken in Sri Lanka with a Muslim population less than 10% of the total population? Can you imagine this is in Sri Lanka which you left some years ago? Kattankudiya has a population of 60,000 almost exclusively of the Muslim faith.
The leader of the Easter Sunday bombers Zaharan was from Kattankudiya. Even though he was the leader, some of his followers were well educated young men also exposed to western culture. We have remained mostly silent of Zaharan’s financiers. That is the group I am most concerned about. Even terrorists willing to blow themselves up need funds and organization to achieve their objectives. Ex-House Maids, laborers, etc. do not have that kind of money. It comes from the affluent members of the Muslim community besides foreign funding purportedly sent to build mosques and madrassas. Even though the Muslim community has been concentrating on higher education as of late, coming from a closed society, they remain well entrenched in their dogmatic ultra-conservative mindset. For example, a person attaining high academic qualifications appreciating tolerance, equality, etc. commonly found in more open societies is remote as their mindset does not permit such luxuries. That is where Ameer Ali’s theory kicks in. They see what happens in Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, etc. (even if Saudi Arabia is responsible for Yemen!) Muslims as a community, may they be in SL or elsewhere, think of themselves as one global community and not as nationals of countries. Their loyalties will be first and foremost to the Quran and Mecca. That is the reason why Muslims throughout the world, both the so called moderates as well as radicals, young and old, erupted in anger over a few cartoons in Denmark some years ago (including our own Muslims after Friday Jumma prayer).
It also validates my theory; the recent act of terrorism was not the work of one or two hundred radicalized young men as community elders will have us believe. Community elders and leaders are involved, especially in financing the work of the terrorists one way or the other.
A NOTE: I think Rajeewa [whom I have never met] has hit the nail on the head. Such individuals as Shihara Farook, are in a minority working against the grain. One of the testing fields (literally) in this regard are those occasions when Sri Lanka play Pakistan at cricket. Around the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo North most local muslims cheer lustily for Pakistan. About ten years ago I once asked a Muslim tuk-tuk driver in wellawatte how many of his community would back Sri Lanka in such contests. He laughed and said “about 50%, while indicating that he supported Sri Lanka.
It is my guess that the proportions vary according to locality. In some Muslim-majority localities its is probable that over 90 percent cheer Pakistan.
So, cricket is an indirect litmus test.
We have had several talented Muslim men serving Sri Lanka cricket over the years: Makkin Sally, ACM Lafir, Abu Fuard, Uvais Karnain, Jehan Mubarak, Mahroof, Suraj Mohamed, Dilshan and Maharoof (still in service as a coach). There are a few Muslim youngsters knocking at the door. These personnel are from the relatively cosmopolitan south-west. I doubt if much cricket in played in Kattankudiya.
Alas, cricket is not the weapon that one can deploy against the deep hold of Islamic spiritualism and within that phenomenon the politicized currents of Wahhabism. The profound pieties of Sufism may be one answer but that is perhaps an outsider’s dream — the Shiite radicals seem to hate the Sufi evn more violently than they hate us infidels.