“Following discussions with several Muslim political figures in Gampola this morning including Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, Parliamentarian M.L.A.M. Hezbullah, Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana, and Former UNP Parliamentarian A.R.M. Abdul Cader as well as religious leaders we were able to come to this agreement,” Wijesinghe added.
“They agreed to relocate this mosque to a more suitable place that will not cause any conflict between any of the parties involved,” he said.
The Prime Minister also assured them that he will provide them with the necessary facilities to facilitate the relocation of the mosque.
He added that there is no set date for this relocation to take place but the mosque has been sealed and will be permanently closed.
by Sareena Hussain
Muslims unhappy over Dambulla incident
Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana has said the attack on the Masjidul Khaira in Dambulla was the work of professional extremists.
A group of over 1000 protestors led by Buddhist monks gathered at the mosque on Friday (20) preventing the obligatory Jummah prayers. Protestors threw stones and chanted slogans claiming the area is sacred to Buddhism and therefore cannot tolerate the mosque’s religious activities.
Mowlana said “there are unseen hands at work and the public is aware of this. I feel that we have to join hands and eliminate these extremists. This was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister and the President is taking action and may participate in the meeting scheduled for tomorrow (23) to see that an impartial solution is found.”
Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs A.L.M. Hizbullah condemned the attack and said “if there is any dispute, it must be discussed and seen to. Surrounding the mosque and staging a protest only disturbs the harmony in this country that has been restored after a 30 year war.”
“We can always have a dialogue and sort out any issues. I will be personally visiting the mosque in Dambulla. I have arranged to speak to the Chief Minister. I have made arrangements with the police to have a meeting between the divisional secretariat and the relevant officials. We will see to it that we reach an understanding between the two parties and that the mosque is not demolished,” Hizbullah added.
According to Hizbullah, the Masjidul Khaira is over 50 years old. “I have prayed at this mosque as early as 1985 when I was still in university. There have been no issues in the past. Only recently have there been problems when the number of people coming into the mosque on Fridays for Jummah prayers increased,” Hizbullah said.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress parliamentarian Hasen Ali also condemned the act, stating the perpetrators belonged to an extremist group. “The saddest part is that this incident had occurred before the presence of the security forces who are supposed to uphold law and order in this country. They have become spectators,” Ali said.
“This is the first time that Muslims were prevented from engaging in their obligatory Friday prayers. They say that the area has been declared a sacred area for Buddhists. Everything is sacred, including mosques. You can bring down liquor stores, but why would you bring down a place of worship?” Ali queried.
“The government cannot come out with any stale reasons. They must find a solution. From their attitude it becomes evident how this country has suffered on ethnic lines. These incidents will further polarize the ethnic population in this country,” Ali added.
“There is concrete evidence. The police are aware of the culprits. Action must be taken against them. Similar incidents have taken place in Mahiyangana and Anuradhapura, as well as smaller incidents around the country that have not been reported. These must be put to a stop,” Ali said.
UNP parliamentarian Kabir Hashim said “this is infringing on the religious freedom of the Muslim community. This will create an issue for the goodwill of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people. If the mosque was built illegally, discussions could have been held to seek a solution, instead of staging a violent protest.”
“Having been built in 1963, such a protest should have taken place then and not now. The government should remember the support of Muslim countries for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. An immediate and independent inquiry should be conducted over the Dambulla incident,” Hashim said.
Muslim ministers and theologians under flak
Senior Muslim ministers and theologians came under flak during a meeting they had together in Colombo to discuss the Dambulla Mosque issue on Saturday.
The All-Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema (ACJU) convened a conference to represent matters to the government at their Headquarters at Orabi Pasha Mawatha, Maradana on Saturday (21).
During this time an unidentified group stormed the room in which the members were congregated and started hurling insults on all Muslim ministers and MPs and even shouting anti-government slogans, blaming the ACJU Leader Moulavi Rizvi Mufthi for going to Geneva to help the Sri Lankan cause.
No amount of appeals made by the Ulema prevented the unruly elements from abusing even former Minister A.R. Munsoor and Ministers Rishad Bathiudeen and all government members. When the members were coming down the stairs, the disruptors almost manhandled them.
However, amidst the rumpus and disturbances eminent Attorney-at-Law M. Faisz Musthpha, PC, was able to help the Ulema and Muslim politicians draft a memorandum to be presented to the government.
Ministers A.H.M. Fowzie, Rauff Hakeem, Rishath Badiutheen, Deputy Minister Basheer Dawood, Parliamentarians Unais Farook, M.S.M. Thowfeek, Faizer Cassim, A.H.M. Azwer, ex-MP Najeeb Majeed, N.M Ameen, President of Muslim Media Forum and a large number of the Ulema attended this meeting in order to seek a solution to the problem faced.
Meanwhile, UPFA national list MP A.H.M. Azwer said in a statement that the group was really inciting the Muslims against the others, adding, this incident has been reported to the security authorities.
By Imaad Majeed