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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2963

Ugly head of Muslim fanaticism surfaces in Eastern Sri Lanka

By Munza Mushtaq – Reporting for Asian Tribune

Colombo, 11 October, ( Ramazan, the Holiest month in the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims the world over has been marred after a degrading statement made by a Muslim living in Eastern Sri Lanka re-emerged to haunt thousands of Muslims after 25 years.

Almost 25 years ago, Abdul Rauff Moulavi, leader of a Muslim group in Batticaloa's Kathankudy village uttered a statement which was considered 'un-Islamic' and therefore a fatwa was issued against him by the All Ceylon Jammiyyathul Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians) declaring him 'Murdhah' (no more a Muslim).

Kathankudy, a densely-populated Muslim town is home to over 40,000 followers of Islam, of whom more than 75% belong to Sufism, often identified as traditional or mainstream followers of Islam. The balance population consists of Wahabis also known as Salafis, often identified as a sect holding very extreme views of Islam. They are known to attack Sufi traditions, condemning those who recite prayers with songs, destroying mosques if they do not conform to the austere
regimen of Wahabism and ridiculing Muslims who celebrate Prophet Mohammad's birthday. However its adherents comprise just 10% of the world's more than one billion Muslims.

In November 2004, tensions also ran high between the two groups after an orthodox mosque was bombed and eighteen persons were injured. However frantic efforts made by theologians in the country and politicians, the situation were brought under control. Following a statement of withdrawal by Abdul Rauff Moulavi, who many years ago made an 'un-Islamic' statement, the Council of Muslim Theologians lifted the Fatwa imposed on him, thereby accepting him once again as a Muslim.

The latest upsurge in the sectarian violence that engulfed Kathankudy beginning this month (October) almost two years later, has seen more than 30 houses and several vehicles damaged and some motorbikes charred with law-enforcement authorities having no choice but to impose curfew in a move to maintain law and order.

Last week's tensions resurfaced after Abdul Rauff Moulavi held a 'Mowlood' last month. However the move had reportedly angered the Wahabi group who had lambasted the Moulavi and had insisted that the Mowlood was haram (not permitted in Islam) and therefore he cannot have such, after which this group had launched a series of attacks and have also demanded that all Muslims observe hartal.

"Most of the Muslims closed their shops in fear of the Wahabi group. Although they comprise only a handful in comparison to the traditional Sufi group, they are afraid of this group who mainly consists of youth who had also threatened to burn down any shops which ignored their call to observe the hartal," sources from Kathankudy said

We also reliably learn that when several Muslim politicians had met with representatives of the Wahabi group, they had admonished outright attempts made by politicians who tried to quell tensions and bring calm between the two groups. "You do your politics', don't poke your fingers into our business," is what the group had told the politicians.

Meanwhile, in a bid to prevent further escalation of violence in the area and also to bring about a settlement between the two groups, a delegation representing the Council of Muslim Theologians was dispatched to Kathankudy,

"The irony of the situation is that although this group is a very small one, in comparison to the other, they are controlling the entire village," sources said.

It is learnt that the Wahabis group is backed by the Kathankudy Jemmiyyathul Ulama and the Islamic Centre in Kathankudy.

Meanwhile, reports reaching said that a situation of calm and normalcy was beginning to prevail in the area since late last week. "The Council of Muslim Theologians has taken over the responsibility to bring about an amicable settlement to the crisis, and the people have placed their faith in the council," ex-Minister M.L.A.M. Hisbullah told the “Asian Tribune.”

- Asian Tribune -

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