All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama President M.I.M. Rizvi Mufthi’s speech in Riyadh on Friday 4 May 2012 on the attack on the Dambulla Mosque has shocked the island’s Muslim community. For a moment I asked myself whether he has been dispatched by the mob leader Innamaluwa Sumangala Thera for canvassing in favour of demolishing the mosque.
In his speech, published in the Jeddah based “arabnews” and reproduced in Sri Lankan dailies-Daily Mirror and Ceylon Today- on 7 May 2012, Rizvi Mufthi has called for resolving the Dambulla issue, imposed on the Muslim community by violence, amicably through tolerance and COMPROMISE.
Justifying this call he said the Line Mosque in Kandy was demolished for society development projects and the Nimal Road Mosque at Bambalapitiya was demolished, and built far away, to accommodate the highway that was constructed in the neighborhood.
This was misleading. Muslims in Kandy point out that no Mosque in Kandy, including Line Mosque, was ever demolished or shifted.
Even in the case of Nimal Road Mosque the owners of the land said that it was not built far away. Instead the new mosque was built few yards away from the site where the old mosque was located. They explained that the old mosque was located few yards from the railway line. In the subsequent years the old mosque was expanded to conduct Ahadiya classes. However the mosque paved the way for the marine drive and the present mosque was built few yards behind, leaving space for the construction of Marine Drive. The beauty of this is that this was done peacefully and not on the instigation of unruly mobs.
In suggesting for a peaceful solution Rizvi Mufthi had spoken on the need for “compromise” which suggests the demolition of the Dambulla mosque. If this is what he implied then it is simply rewarding of hooliganism. What he has failed to highlight is that the call for the demolition of Dambulla Mosque was not made by the Sinhalese in Dambulla or the mainstream Sinhalese community in the country which feels embarrassed by saffron vandalism.
While the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe still remains silent the UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa said in public that this has nothing to do with Buddhism. Meanwhile numerous Sinhalese columnists dismissed the attack on the Dambulla mosque as a despicable act and one columnist even went to the extent of describing the mob as “mad men of Dambulla”.
This vandalism is suspected to be the work of a small minority of ultra nationalists who managed to get into influential positions in the government. Ever since the military defeat of the LTTE these ultra nationalists unleashed a vicious campaign community against Islam and Muslims inciting the majority.
It began using ten Sinhala language and nine English language websites. They also produced a documentary on Daftar Jailani, Kuragala, accusing Muslims of grabbing this land which they claim belong exclusively to Sinhalese
In view of the threat to communal harmony I highlighted this in an article in Sunday Times in September 2011.As usual Muslim politicians, theologians and all others slept. Then a mob taken from outside destroyed a Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura. Here too Buddhist monks led the mob. And now comes the move to demolish the Dambulla mosque. Even in this case though the mob leader was a local monk the mob was brought in from outside the area.
What these unruly elements do not realize is that this destructive anti Muslim campaign has all the potentials to tear apart the country which has just emerged from a three decade of savage ethnic carnage.
It was in this context one needs to view Rizvi Mufthi’s call for compromise.
Long before Muslim politicians and theologians came to the scene, the spontaneous response of the entire Muslim community to the vandalism at Dambulla Mosque has been” peaceful and dignified”. Their only slogan was” communal harmony”.
However compromise in this case, as claimed by Rizvi Mufthi, means rewarding lawlessness as Prime Minister D.M.Jayaratne’s office had done when it ordered the demolition of the mosque within 24 hours after the mob attack. It would also set an extremely dangerous precedence. Any dispute between communities, not with mobs, need to be solved in a civilized manner within the framework of the laws of the land and the entire Muslim community insisted on this with one voice.
This is a burning issue which is to be sorted out within six months as decided by a committee of Sinhalese government officers. No Muslim was involved in taking this decision .Under the circumstances, it would have been appropriate for Mufthi Rizvi to place facts before the audience, rather than suggesting solution which, it appears, would be at the expense of the rights of Muslims.
It appears Mufthi Rizvi has overstepped his limits. As the president of All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema, not a Vatican with a Pope, his job is to guide the community according to religious principles. However here he has entered the corrupt, criminalized and commercialized field of politics. This is a dangerous and already people are talking of the need to clearly earmark the role of the Jamiyyathul Ulema as a religious, and not a political, organization.
There is also a growing feeling among the Muslims that Jamiyyathul Ulema should consult the community before taking any decision on behalf of the community.
Rizvi Mufthi owes an explanation to the community.