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Reply to Dr Ameer Ali’s biased criticism of Islamism in Srilanka.

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The primary purpose of this short review of Dr Ameer Ali’s subjective article (titled POINT OF VIEW: An aggressive brand of state religion vs. others) in Lakbima News paper (20/05/12) - which was also republished here - is to clarify some misperceptions about basic teaching of Islam. It is unfortunate today that many Muslim and Non-Muslim academics with their western educational training write about Islam and Muslim communities subjectively without proper Islamic educational background and trainings. These so called academics in Muslim names have learned about Islamic teachings and doctrines through the writings of western anti-Islamic scholarship. Consequently, these people’s writings and mentality reflect bias western prejudice against pure Islamic teachings and spiritual development of Muslim community. These people see Islam and its teaching through mere materialistic and secularist perception and consequently Islamic revivalism and activism is seen as a threat for their materialistic philosophy of life.

Ameer Ali vaguely hypothesises that rise of Islamism have contributed to the rise of Militancy among Buddhism. He asks (Are the Muslims also contributing to the rise of militancy among Buddhists?) While materialistic secularists see the rise of Islamic renaissance as a threat to their world view, the majority of Muslim people see such Islamic renaissance as a pure submission and return to the divine commands and prophetic traditions. After all, Islam and Islamism is pure submission to divine will as enshrined in the texts of Holy Quran and Traditions. What Tabligh Jamath does is nothing to do with evangelical works rather they make connection between people and their Lord: Almighty Allah: They invite people to mosques to pray five times and they make religious awareness. They guide people to spiritual enhancements. Do they engage in any evangelical work as Christian missionaries do among innocent Buddhists? Why is this bias attack on Innocent Tabligh jamathe people? They have nothing to do with militancy or politics. They are mere spiritual and religious group whose aim is protect humanity for the punishment of Hellfire? I do not know how Dr Ameer Ali misread the vision and mission of this spiritual group so wrongly?

Moreover, he argues that Muslims people have been alienated from main stream Srilanka due to the influence Tabligh Jamath and Salafi groups in recent times. His contention is that (Muslims are fast losing their national identity without realising it). What does this mean? What is a Srilankan National Identity? It is a fact that Sirlanka is a multicultural and multi-religious country and each community while preserving its own religious identity shares a common national identity as Srilankans born and brought up in Srilanka. Muslims like all other community have been loyal citizens of this Island and indeed, they have showed their patriotism and nationalistic feeling in times of hardship and difficulties since the time of colonization until recent times. Srilankan Muslims love Srilanka as other communities do and our roots are deeply rooted in Srilankan sail as others. Our nationalistic patriotism does mean that we have to loose our cultural and religious identity to show our loyalty to this country. What does Dr Ameer Ali expect from Muslim community to protect their national Identity in Srilanka? Do we have to sacrifice our religious identity and assimilate into non-Islamic way of life to show our national identity in Srilanka? It seems that Dr Ameer Ali willingly or unwittingly calls for such cultural suicide of Srilankan Muslim community.

He argues that ( The attire of Muslim men and women who have embraced the teachings of the Jamaat and Salafism for example is foreign to the country in which they live and so are the names and architecture of some of their institutions and building structures. The manner in which some Islamic religious practices are observed, quite contrary to the teachings of the original sources, disregard the sensitivities of other communities…… Why should Muslim schools have a religiously determined school calendar separate from other national schools? These issues, some of them may sound trivial, are obviously isolating the Muslim community). What types of religious practices of Muslim people are quite contrary to the original sources of Islam? And who are those people who disregard to the sensitivities of other communities. These are some of ambitious questions Dr Ameer Ali should clarify these questions. It is basic teachings of the Holy Quran that we should not scold deities of other religious faiths at all. If some groups act against this basic teaching it is our duty to condemn such behaviours. Yet, Muslims have been getting on well with other religious people for many centuries.

Islamic code of dress for women is clearly stipulated in the Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions? It is an Islamic way of life and it is a fundamental human right of Muslim people and what is wrong in showing this Islamic identity in Srilanka? Does this contradict national Srilankan Identity? What is wrong in showing Islamic cultural identity in our Muslim architectures and buildings? Do not we have equal rights like other religious people? Is Islamic religious manifestation alien to Srilanka? We have been preserving our religious identity for many centuries in this country without harming any community? Why should we bow down to some extreme elements now? Of course, We Muslims have a lot of economic, political and social grievances in Srilanka. But this does not mean that we should achieve these at the expenses of our religious identity. Dr Ameer Ali is so concern about losing some lands in Easter province yet, he forgets to note that losing our religious and cultural identity is more dangerous than losing our lands. We know well what happened in former soviet block Muslim countries under soviet rule. Islamic identities and heritages were eradicated and Millions of people lost their religious and cultural identity. Millions of Muslims in those countries came to know their true religious identity only after those former soviet blocks were disintegrated from Russia. Exposing our own religious and cultural identity is not only a religious duty it protect us form total cultural annihilation.

Manifestation of Islamic identical residual, customs and traditions in Srilanka is not a new social phenomenon. We have been an identical religious group for more than 1400 years and our religious exposure does not pose any threat to the Srilankan integrity and national identity rather we enrich Srilankan national identity with our cultural and religious heritage and traditions. What more is that we have a collective responsibility as Muslims to guide and show humanity right path in order to save them from the punishments of Hellfire. Rather than showing them right path unfortunately we engage in mere materialistic arguments without proper understanding of our religion.

Dr RIFAI Naleemi.

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