Dear Suresh

There's a small debate going on on Facebook with my friend and myself about needs of communities in these trying times in Sri Lanka. I have a lot to unpack here and Facebook is unwieldy for that. So I turned to my blog to help :).

The original conversation may be found here (screenshots at the end). Below is my response

Again, thank you for engaging. I don't mind the multiple messages in case you are wondering :). On a more serious note, I'll just address your replies piece by piece:

You have written many words, but all those speaks a single idea. single attitude. Basically you are trying to say “Dude, don’t point your fingers at me(or us). We are not terrorist. We are proud of our religion. Stupid people so called “muslims” has done this”, right?


I never mentioned this at all. In fact, I personally believe that at some point we muslims need to come to terms with the fact that Islam is being interpreted in a way that can be used as a weapon. By people holding doctorates in Islamic Study. That's a serious issue. And we need to relook at islamic education to and interpretation to minimize chances of radicalization. If you think I'm thinking of this only now,here's a Twitter thread where I try to put some of these feelings into words.

So to clarify, the actual key ideas I was trying to put across is:

  1. The country is pointing fingers in the wrong direction.
  2. Our pillars of democracy: law, judicial, journalism, and governance, are all crumbling and it's a primary reason we ended up actually getting hit by attacks.
  3. In the face of this, I find it unfair to expect minorities to do what the authorities and country leadership should be doing in the first place.
  4. That your words matter and fear can't be justification to posting inflammatory content

Sinhalese are not against ALL Muslims. NOOOOO!!!!!. But all the terrorists involved with this crisis are muslims. This is the point here.

Noted. Entirely true for the current crisis.

Many swards were found from many mosques. Sinhalese do not go to your(means again muslim’s) mosques?? How come no one knew about those swards in mosques??

The swords are scary. How come no one knew about them?

  1. Because there are laws stating there has to be due cause (or extenuating circumstances like emergency) to do physical inspections. So I can't just go into a mosque and ask them to open private rooms and look for knives.
  2. Because there weren't that many places with them. According to the official report, 3 mosques had an issue. Your fear is not unfair, but stating "many" mosques is exactly the kind of hyperbole we need to avoid.

But you are the one who should force your religion leaders to stop this nonsense.

I agree that our religious leaders have to answer the questions in a coherent way where the story doesn't change everyday. If people are involved in crime, then say it. I'm not fond of our representatives by the way. I don't vote for them and they are disorganised in many ways. But I can do more as a citizen to be more active and engaged with them. No shame in admitting that.

How can you say that only handful of people are involved with this??

About the "handful of people", I never said that. I did say target the individual, not the groups. I'll stick by it. The day you start targeting people by group, you end up starting a war. We don't want a war. We don't want violence.

A question about the swords though. Why are the swords being treated as an act of terrorists? I blame the media for this sensationalization, but I'd expect intelligent people to understand this as "mosques searched, evidence found pointing to criminal activity being carried out". Being in a gang is not equal to terrorism. And it's dangerous to keep stating that every criminal is a terrorist if they are muslims.

Maybe they'll all end up being connected though. And if so, then, like I said, there's a lot of answering to be done. However, don't forget the basic rule of law in a time like this. Conspiracy theories, and speculation are NOT evidence. It is not proof. And one is innocent until proven guilty. Not defending anyone's actions by the way. I am defending the rule of law.

If we take conspiracy theories that we want to believe and start treating it like fact (remember infertility pethi?), then we've already lost.

What I am trying to say is many muslims that are really good, kind-hearted and they are even have good qualities than some Sinhalese. I appreciate it. Honestly.

Thank you for saying this. It's very kind of you.

But the issue here is they tries to protect ALL the muslims even who are breaking the law and trying to justify their act.

I'm going to assume you mean "they try to protect All the muslims who are breaking the law".

I would expect anyone to protect a person not breaking the law. So let's ignore that part. And let's talk about "[even those] who are breaking the law" part.

Who's trying to protect them? Muslims as a whole? Individuals? I sure am not trying to protect anyone breaking the law. So it's SOME muslims for sure. Who are these? Do you have numbers? Or is just a feeling? Is it a politician? Two politicians? Hyperbole doesn't help. I can assure you though, it's not the whole group.

But I want to clarify something. Defending someone until they are proven guilty by facts IS NOT DEFENDING breaking the law. It's defending basic justice in a country that says it believes in a functioning democracy.

I will ask you a simple question. If all muslims are so cooperative, why all of your religion leaders/ mawulawi’s can get together and invite security forces to check all the muslim mosques for the benefit of national security??

We are cooperative? Mate, we can't get our muslim leaders to give a shared statement or message even to us. We can't even decide what date we all start fasting together. I'm not sure where you got the idea that we are a single solid group. Muslims are like any religious group. United by label. Divided on everything else. I'll address the searching of the mosque later.

Do not forget the grief of the people who lost their loving children, families..

That's uncalled for. What happened that day haunts me. Please don't even suggest that I might forget the grief of those people.

I clearly say, majority of the muslims are really good. But now we are in a difficult stage to find which one is the good apple and the bad apple is. Unfortunately, we do not see ENOUGH support of muslims(as a union) fighting against it...

Thank you again for stating that the majority of mulsims are good. I get that it's difficult to find the bad apples. We will continue to support as we have done from even before the attacks.

The idea of "enough" support though is unfair. When international intelligence warnings are not taken seriously, it's hard to say how much action will be enough. I can tell you something a lot of muslims are doing privately. Many of us are reviewing our beliefs and renewing efforts in how we bring up the next generation to learn that an unkind Islam is not our Islam.

instead they try to protect themselves.

Protecting oneself is not mutually exclusive from supporting. But I'll explain why this is so difficult later.

I will however, remind you that you may never have to go through what it's like to live as a minority. If I had a copy of a published book profiling Osama Bin Laden for example, I'd be terrified of being arrested for it even though it is harmless. I don't believe you would need to experience the same fear.

So yes, we try to protect ourselves. And if you don't like that, help change it by not continuing to post things that make us feel like you want muslims to be seen in a bad way. We are being isolated by this behaviour and we are going to have to turn to ourselves for protection.

Unlike sinhalese, muslims have a good network, good unity. But personally I do not see any unity in muslims(as a union) against terrorism. They just keep their mouth shut.

Actually the one thing we are pretty darn united against terrorism. In fact you will keep hearing us say "these people are not us". ISIS has killed more muslims than any other ethnicity. We really do keep shouting that we stand against them and hate them. But apparently that's not enough.

at least I would say they should invite security forces to all the mosques and proof their honesty.. like you welcome a customer to your shop... that is called unity.. that is called "Sanhidiyawa"... that is call honesty... Imagine if they do that.. then sinhalese have many reason to believe that not all muslims are terrorists.

I agree it would be great for us to make such a statement. In fact I'm trying to find someone to contact to tell them that this is a message we should pass. If that happens, I can hope that it satisfies people.

At the same time, I find the language interesting. "Then sinhalese have many reason to believe that not all muslims are terrorists".

So if we do that, then people will still have some reason to believe that not all muslims are terrorists?

It's a fact, an undeniable truth, that not all muslims are terrorists. Why is that reason alone never enough? Why do minorities in every corner of the world at every point in history have to keep proving their right to exist without being treated as guilty by default?

Once again, you are from a privileged majority background Suresh. What you say will carry far more weight than what I say at times. You've asked many things from me and collectively the muslims. Are you ready to take requests from me?

  • Would you stand up and tell people to stop demonising all muslims and boycotting them and isolating them?
  • Will you stand up to protect that lady if it turned out the mask was just for health?
  • Would you take down a post once it's proven to be fake and damaging? You are contributing to the problem by participating.

You don't even need to stand up to others. But don't keep posting and sharing derogatory content. Sri Lanka can't magically bring people together with threats and false information.

You can't state "not all muslims are bad, but they need to prove all muslims are not terrorists" and pretend that that statement is not racist. It is.

Whatever you said, now train is gone. people have broken their trust. that is way we are fighting against Burka

I agree that there's a broken trust link here. It'll take time to rebuild. As for the fight against the Burka, go ahead. It's your right. But it is not your right or anyone else's to use false information to destroy fundamental rights. How is that going to make anyone trust each other? We need to help fix our judicial and law enforcement systems. Not make it worse.

we ask for one law...

Most of Sri Lanka does. One that recognizes no one's superiority over the other and ensures it is applied equally.

I admit that Sinhalese are really pissed off and they start blaming all the muslims. The reason for that is we do not see much cooperative from muslim leaders as well as Sinhalese leaders. innocent people have no other option than blaming all the muslims although it is not be best way to solve this issue.

I'm glad you admit that this is not the best way to solve this issue. I'm going further though. It makes it worse! If you give into fear and blame all muslims and use unverified or outright false propaganda or intentionally boycott things, you create fear for one group of people just because they believe in a common thing. That's just one step away from being the same as terrorism.

Muslims should be humble enough to/ flexible enough to at least not to wear burka in common places to support national security in this crisis?

Yea they should. It still feels like you are stating that we aren't doing this despite nothing to prove that it's a common issue. One person walking on the road doesn't make it a widespread problem no matter how many memes with pictures from other countries one posts. In fact, that's spreading hate.

[continued from above]. do you admit that or not? If the answer is no, then it is better to stop this conversation.

Like I said, yes they should. I don't agree with the fact that burkas do anything to national security when you are worried about bombs, but the ban is a law, and following it is absolute. I may not agree with it, but the law is the law and no one is above it. If you dislike me disagreeing with the effectiveness of the ban, I hope you'll engage in a debate on that. I'm open to it.

Now government has banned to broadcast any news about swords found from mosques

I don't believe in media blackouts. Our government has a troubling past with being unable to control narratives and they either block social media or block journalists. I don't appreciate the sensationlization of the media but blocking the topic isn't the answer.

day by day people developing their anger against muslims, because they think those laws coming form muslim leaders. that is the truth.

Don't you see how unfair this is for all the muslims trying to get through their lives just as much as everyone else is doing? Assuming that the laws are coming from muslim leaders still doesn't justify anything. Should Sri Lankans all be critized every time one of our political leaders makes a dumb move we don't agree with? If not, then why does anyone think it's ok to apply this to Muslims.

I'll end with this. We are all human. We all want to live. When threatened, any well functioning human will make a choice to protect themselves.

I know you want to hear all muslims denounce certain actions and say the things you want them to say and do the things you want them to do. It's not easy when there's this feeling of us being threatened. Because for us, it's not enough to just denounce things that are wrong. If there's even one thing that the majority group of the country wants us to denounce, and we don't denounce it, it'll immediately be labelled as not enough.

When news comes out packaged to paint all muslims in a bad way we have to spend time defending ourselves first. And then when people join in with cruel memes, we have to go defend ourselves again.

When people get into a frenzy over an image someone posts and someone else goes around posting fake stuff to accompany that, we have to defend ourselves.

When other people don't bother questioning things critically, we have to find the answers.

When people lie once we have to spend all the time in the world proving the lie doesn't exist which is really hard. And then if someone repeats that lie, we have to do it again, and again, and again.

I'll pledge right here and right now though to find ways to be more active in understanding what happens in our muslim leadership circles and being more vocal against things that are wrong. From policies to religious education. But remember that will only be one piece of the puzzle to help bring people together again. Trust is a two way street.

You want people to come together under a common cause? Stop isolating them. Stop sharing things that threaten them. If something is pointed out as being fake, be sensitive enough to remove your posts. Know the power of your words. Talk to them directly. Otherwise we'll all end up in our little communities never trusting each other and the terrorists would have won.

- Adnan

Posted on May 10 2019 by Adnan Issadeen