Sri Lankan Islamophobia: Encroaching the Mainstream?


In this Daily News article penned by one Shenali Waduge on Muslims in Sri Lanka and why Buddhists should be scared of their ‘encroachment’, she displays a high level of confusion, connecting disparate events in the Muslim world (fabricating where it suits her), taking them out of context and then applying them to Sri Lanka.

Particularly absurd is her apparently iron clad statistical theory of Muslim’s 4 phased strategic and collective effort to ‘take over’ the locality, wherever they are, and install an Islamic ‘theocracy’ whatever that may mean.

Ms. Waduge, I WISH the Muslim community was as united as you appear to think it is. Even if you appear to think that such unity is always used for nefarious aims. I WISH our leaders were half as focused on the problems affecting the community as you appear to allude. At least you seem to have more faith in their selflessness that I.

While she appears to think that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States are synonymous with Muslims everywhere in the world, as if they are the ideal representation of what Sharia law and collective Muslim life is like, when it suits her, she likes to equate all of us with ‘extremist terrorists’, taking an about turn, since most of these ‘extremists’ are extremely anti-Saud. I wish she’d make up her mind.

She also doesn’t seem to have heard of a little event they call the Arab Spring where millions of Muslims stood up to depose tyrannical rulers, oppressing them since their so-called independence from the West. There’s a lot of dissent against existing rule in Gulf States too, but this writer doesn’t seem too interested in specifics, sweeping generalizations are her forte.

Around 1400 people have liked it on Facebook. And at least two of them are people I actually know. This is almost as hard to stomach as the fact that this bit of rubbish journalism was actually published in the Daily News. Which, while not exactly a journalistic stalwart, is significant in its position as the closest thing we have to a state sanctioned English language newspaper; are we to assume that this anti-Muslim vitriol is also state sanctioned? Or at the very least published with the assurance that no one up there is going to seriously mind?

The Daily News is legitimizing this garbage by publishing it. Is this is a glimpse of the next wave of erosion in Sri Lanka’s print media, heralding the advent of anti-Muslim sentiment from the underground world of pithy Facebook groups and into the edges of the mainstream? Stuff like this is dangerous, when you have a climate of growing social unrest. People susceptible to hate are not going to verify things that confirm their bias, especially when it’s published in a leading newspaper.

Conspiracy theories that gain a widespread following don’t just pop out of nowhere. If anti-Muslim sentiment finds an ever broadening audience it’s because it actually perceives what it takes to be a very real indication of ‘Muslim supremacy’ happening in society. But this can be based on misinformation and bias.

I was chatting to Indi about this, and he talks about this a little in his post as well. He thinks Muslims have increasingly appeared to distance themselves from the rest of Sri Lanka. Case in point the niqab or the veil.

While I sympathize with his argument; I do think that without the veil’s modern connotations (a misconceived notion that it symbolizes gender abuse, repression and Islamic extremism) it would have been much easier for people to accept it as a personal choice of consenting individuals in society. Indi to his credit, doesn’t think this warrants racism against Muslims.

Halal food does not mean that some secret chemical compound is inserted into all items certified Halal in some underground plant in the Empty Quarter (although admittedly this would make for excellent dystopic fiction). Halal just applies to the way food is prepared, according to certain standards of religious guidelines which include hygene and ethics.

Paying to obtain the Halal certificate is a decision purely based on choice and the profit motive. No one is compelling anyone to eat Halal. There’s plenty of non-Halal choice out there. No one is shoving Halal meat down feebly protesting throats.

Quite the contrary to what Ms. Waduge states, non-Muslims have full legal rights in Sharia courts by Islamic law. In fact, just consider that in the UK, non-Muslims are also turning to Sharia courts to settle some disputes in certain cases. If anything, it is a parallel system of law, and does not contradict the integrity of the country’s main legal system in any way.

In Sri Lanka, Sharia courts are merely a legal support structure for the Muslim community. There are no widespread plans to convert everyone to Islam and forcibly make them accept sharia law. And neither is here any such thing happening in France, England or anywhere else with a minority Muslim population.

To dissect the full scale of half truths, convolutions, blatant fabrications and outright lies in Ms Waduge’s article would take reams of text, and the question arises if it is actually worth refuting, as most of what she says in my eyes reeks of hate-speech and blatant fabrication, hardly the sign of a person looking openly for honest feedback. But if anything, it’s a good place to go for to get a gist of the prevalent misconceptions that are driving this new wave of Sri Lankan Islamophobia.

  1. This is a very bad trend, after 30 years of war we came to this? …lets hope all these religious fanatics doesn’t get to sway the moderate public opinion, instead of coming out of the mess we seem to go deeper!

  2. Deva said:

    Why don’t you have a look at your article “The Dark Side of Vesak” – you attack the practices of the Buddhists in a national newspaper, yet seem to go off the deep end when Muslims are questioned? Where are your articles on “The Dark Side of Eid Ul Adha”?

    • Whacko said:

      ‘The Dark Side of Vesak’ was written purely from an economic perspective and what highly costly vesak celebrations could mean to the country.

      I myself participated in organizing a dansala as I have also mentioned in the post. It had no hate speech against Buddhism or Buddhists, it wasn’t even calling for the non-celebration of Vesak (quite the contrary).

      Just because a Muslim wrote it is no reason at all to call it ‘racist’. And FYI, if any non Muslim has any legitimate concern about Islam or Muslim states I am more than glad to listen and do hope they write about it in a rational manner. Discussion is good.

  3. A Friend said:

    I hope you don’t take offence at this comment, brother.

    While I find the current trend of militant anti-islam around Sri Lanka very dangerous to the future of everyone in this country, I do have a few issues with how Muslims in this country operate.

    You are not very open to criticism of your religion. How many real Muslim atheists are there? Compare with ex-Buddhists and ex-Christians and this is a very small percentage of total Muslims.

    Muslims should make an attempt to openly discuss their religion and call out those within their ranks that are being fundo.

    And with regard to the niqab: nothing about that veil is logical. It’s based on the false pretence that a woman’s face (awra?) should not be seen by non-mahram males. You cannot function with ancient beliefs like this in a modern, pluralistic society. Hence the burqa bans of Europe.

    For the record, I don’t think banning anything fixes anything. But veils should be strongly discouraged from within the community, because it secludes a woman from society.

  4. Great article. Thank you. We need people like you who can write about this issues and try to bring about a peaceful and constructive outcome out of the cause reacted by elements in all sides in Sri Lanka

  5. Thanks for giving perspective to that article, which was very one-sided. Writing like that gets me worried. And fueling sentiments like what she has writing has me even me worried.

  6. Fathima F said:

    To A Friend

    Dear friend. 

    You suggest that our niqab and our veil is old fashioned. You also say it should be discouraged as it makes us secluded from society. 

    I hope Allah grants you wisdom to understand that it is our choice that we remain veiled and covered. Just because I’m covered has not reduced any of my privileges nor has it made me backward. Or Secluded. I feel more confident outside than I ever used to before I started wearing the hijab. 

    It is definitely not old fashioned. If you would see the covered ladies they are much more presentable than their counterparts. 

    What matters end of the day is that it is their choice. And they do it for Allah. For the heaven they believe in. 

    Muslims aren’t forced to adhere to things unless they accept and believe its right to do so. 

    Just like this blogger was stating.. In these times of social unrest a journalist of her repute should not be bashing any religion. She could report on matters of greater importance like what we the women folk are going through in this sex craving vulgar society that doesn’t leave a 45 year old woman or even an 80 year old woman to be in peace. 

    • A Friend said:

      But why should she penalize herself by covering up?

      Because a man cannot control his lust?

      • Sarah said:

        Many people are unaware that the right to wear niqab is the right of that individual alone. the terms in which a women chooses to clothe herself cannot be dictated by society, her family and friends and certainly not you. it is a divine obligation that the women chooses to undertake to please God and thus this should not be obstructed by anyone. just as you have the right to wear jeans, she has the right to wear a niqab. and also to let you know, the word Hijab has two sides of the same coin. just as the women is obliged to be covered in modest attire, the men also have to control their lust and lower their gazes. this does not penalize anyone in society, except perhaps people like you who are ignorant of the merits of wearing either a Hijab or a Niqab.

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