Civil society activists call for end to extremism | Sunday Observer

Civil society activists call for end to extremism

19 May, 2019
An anti terrorism rally in Colombo
An anti terrorism rally in Colombo

A few weeks after the Easter Sunday brutal terrorist attack, the country is set on fire again with the organised terrorism launched by Sinhala-Buddhist extremists under the guidance of opportunistic political authorities. This time it’s against ordinary Muslim civilians. The police was severely criticised for failing to prevent such savage attacks targeting the unarmed civilians even when the emergency law had been enforced in the country. The country which was slowly recovering after the trauma of the Easter Sunday terror returned the country to anarchy. In this backdrop, the civil society activists and organisations have finally awakened their voices and there were a few press conferences, peace rallies and demonstrations organised by many civil society organisations and political parties against all types of violence and extremism and demanding that the government ensures peace and security is restored in the country.

Last Thursday, a press conference was held at the Sri Lanka Foundation, organised by the Muslim Council together with Muslim civil society of Sri Lanka with the participation of Highways and Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development, Minister Kabir Hashim, former Ministers, Imthiaz Bakeer Marker, Ferial Ashroff and Lawyer, Ali Sabry. Representing the Muslim civil society in Sri Lanka they said that they are ready to make key changes to ensure their lifestyle tallies with the Sri Lankan common man. “Although there have been unfortunate and unacceptable violence unleashed towards ordinary unarmed Muslim civilians in the country by organised racist extremists, the greatest distress felt by the Muslims were during the tragic terrorist attack that happened on Easter Sunday.” We as Muslims, all should go for self-criticism and we are ready to do that and we are not scared. This is our country; every Muslim is not a terrorist. This should be understood by the Sinhala-Buddhist majority of the country. Any kind of extremism is harmful for the coexistence of the society. We should not create space for opportunists to create another war in the country based on racism,” said Minister, Hashim.

Former Minister, Imthiaz Bakeer Marker said that, due to the ISIS attacks the most damage was to the Muslim community all around the world. In any society, there are people who spread prejudice, extremist ideas in the name of religion or nationality. In that sense, there are some who spread such anti-social extremism in the Muslim as well as in Sinhala communities. However, they are not the majority. The role of the State should be to act against extremism.

Muslim civil society representatives further added that legal amendments have also been proposed including the Madrasa Act which will regulate madrasas in Sri Lanka and any foreign culture which is not suitable for the common Sri Lankan man will be eliminated as the coexistence of the nation is very important.

Together with Rise Up Sri Lanka, Interfaith Colombo, Image Consultancy, Sarvodhaya and a few other independent civil activists organized a peace rally on Galle Face on May 15 under the theme ‘1983? Never Again’. Speaking to the Sunday Observer, one of the chief organisers and founding member of Rise Up Sri Lanka, Vraie Cally said that although citizen’s movements were completely paralyzed for the past few weeks after the Easter Sunday tragedy, now it is high time to come forward and demand the elected leadership to be accountable to people and urge the tri-forces to expedite actions to prevent violence. Although people were still reluctant to step out of their homes and Colombo was still desolate, there was a decent number of people at the rally holding placards with peace-enhancing slogans. That sight alone was encouraging.

The owner of Hameedia’s Fauzul Hameed, was also one of the participants of the rally.

“As a Muslim I think this initiative should have come from our end. However, I wanted to support the effort of like-minded, none- Muslims who decided to break the silence and come forward and demand the re-establishing of the peaceful life we used to live a month ago. Authorities must take action to re-establish the life of the common man in this country. The majority of the Muslims are totally against radical Islamic extremism and they never wanted to safeguard any individual with extreme ideologies. Ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims want to live a peaceful and a meaningful life without causinbg harm to anyone.

‘52% Force’ Sathyagrahaya and ‘Api Minissu’ Sathyagrahaya were held on May 16 at the Vihara Maha Devi Park under the theme ‘No more bloodshed! Let’s defeat all extremism’. Although all of these ‘Sathyagraha’ and peace rallies have been organised within a very limited time as well as with limited publicity due to the ban of social media, the participation of people were quite impressive in almost every rally and that was very encouraging. Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Geethika Dharmasinghe, a member of the ‘52% Force’. A women’s movement committed to building a new political culture founded on Justice, Accountability and Equality asked that if the primary responsibility of the State is to provide protection to its citizens, what is the use of a Government, an opposition and security institutions which carelessly reneged on this main responsibility? She further said mass media indirectly imposed terror on the daily lives of the majority of Muslims instead of dousing the flames. She further added that by irresponsibly presenting the weapons discovered by the security forces, they created fear in society and caused division in society. Renowned for her courage and determination to tell the truth Sandya Ekneligoda was also present at a few of the ‘Sathyagrahas’ held during last week. She said that no one needs another civil war in this country. There’s no need for any more war victims. “It is clear that some politicians wanted to create tension between different ethnic groups for mere petty political purposes. We as responsible citizens and shouldn’t allow them to do that. We all should stand tall against any sort of extremism,” she said.